Rice production in United Republic of Tanzania is increasingly becoming important to the national economy. It is among the major sources of employment and income for many farming households. Rice is mainly produced by small-scale farmers. While Tanzania meets 98% of its own rice demand, rice productivity in the country is low. This is mainly aggravated by the impacts of climate change, inadequate use of improved technologies, low levels of involvement of the private sector in the rice value chain, poor irrigation infrastructure, limited involvement of youth in agriculture and limited knowledge among small-scale farmers on executing good agricultural practices.
Rice production in Tanzania is practiced in both lowland and upland areas with 29.4 million hectares having potential for irrigated rice. However, only 461,326 hectares of this land is currently under production.
Thanks to the Government of Venezuela, FAO implemented the Partnership for Sustainable Rice System Development in Africa project, which facilitated the introduction of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) as a means of addressing current constraints. SRI changes the agronomy, water and nutrient management of rice, increasing its productivity. SRI techniques encourage the use of wider spacing between seedlings, thereby using fewer seeds and less water. The project is being implemented in three districts namely Kilombero, Kilosa and Mvomero in Morogoro region covering five irrigation schemes.
Godfrey Joseph Pascal is one of 150 youths trained in System of Rice Intensification (SRI) by FAO and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. Tanzania’s rice productivity is lower than in most of its neighbouring countries and is one of the lowest in the world. Rice production in the country is increasingly becoming a major source of food, employment and income for many farming households, making it an important component of the economy. However, the country still relies on rice imports.
Godfrey is from Kilosa District, one of the three districts in Morogoro Region of Tanzania, where SRI is being rolled out as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Rice System Development in Africa. This project intends to increase the country’s rise production and productivity by twofold.
Prior to the SRI training, Godfrey had never received any formal education in agriculture and was following his parents lead in traditional subsistence farming.
“I was very glad I was selected for the training. I know there were many youths in my district who were also craving the opportunity,” he says.
According to Godfrey, the training at Mkindo Farmers Training Institute was a revelation. The programme introduced him to modern ways of farming that promote greater productivity and production. Godfrey was introduced to SRI, a farming methodology that increases rice yields while using less water, smaller farming areas and reduced seed inputs.
Determined to apply the new skills and good agricultural practices he acquired in the training, Godfrey went home to transform his 1.5 acre farm. “I learned about selecting the best seeds, about proper spacing and timely weeding and the use of fertilizer for maximum results,” he says with confidence.
His previous yields were in the range of 8 to 20 bags of rice. However, after adapting his farm to the SRI method, he was able to get 52 bags. Godfrey sold his increased harvest for a total of USD 2 500 (TSh 5,200,000). The difference in outcome was huge and shocked almost everyone around him – including his relatives.
“They couldn’t believe that this was the result of a training. They associated it with witchcraft. Some of the neighbours were my own relatives. They accused me of stealing rice from their farms at night!” Godfrey says, as he recalls the ordeal.
Finally Godfrey convinced the people in his community that these were the outcomes of a new way of working and that they should try it on their farms as well.
Tatu Kachenje, Officer in the Kilosa District’s Agriculture, Irrigation and Cooperative, states, “We convinced them to try SRI in their farms too. Slowly, some started to change to their way of working. Now over eighty percent of farmers in the Ilonga village where Godfrey comes from practice SRI. He has become a key agent of change in his community.”
Kilosa’s District Authorities were impressed by Godfrey’s efforts and facilitated his participation in the Morogoro Regional Nane Nane (Farmers’ Day) exhibitions. He won the 2017 Best Farmer Award for the Kilosa District and the entire Morogoro Region and was consequently presented with a monetary award of approximately USD 650 (TSh. 1.5 million) and a ten-acre piece of land.
He used the money he got from the award, along with the earnings from his first bumper harvest, to buy more land to expand his farming activities and build a new house. “I’ve managed to pay for my children’s school fees and buy health insurance coverage for my family. I’ve also built a new house that is now rented by a tenant. Another house is in its final stages of construction,” he says, flashing a wide smile.
The SRI project is funded by the Government of Venezuela through the South-South Cooperation. The project aims to increase sustainable production and productivity of rice by promoting the adoption of best practices and developing agro-business models along the rice value chain.