Madanji Awe holds a recently-picked maize stalk which he has stripped clean of cobs. He places the long, yellowy-green stalk into a forage chopper and pulls the cord to start the motor. After a few attempts, the machine roars to life and shreds the stalk into bite-sized animal feed.
Mr. Awe grows maize, beans, cowpeas, vegetables and bananas. But he is most proud of his seven young, zero-grazed dairy cows.
He used to let his cows graze freely, but they did not put on weight or produce much milk, especially during the dry season. But with the forage chopper, he is much better able to integrate his animals with his crops. He can better feed them and collect their manure to fertilize his fields.
Mr. Awe lives with his wife and four children on a farm measuring just under a hectare near Seloto, a village outside Babati, 170 kilometres southwest of Arusha.
The 49-year-old teacher says, “The machines are expensive, but hopefully the government will subsidize the cost. It would help us produce livestock feed during the dry season.”
Mr. Awe looks after the three forage choppers that were placed on his farm as part of a project called Research In Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation, or Africa RISING. The project is part of a donor-funded initiative in three districts of central and northern Tanzania that encourages farmers to adopt mixed farming and improved seeds.
Mr. Awe says, “This machine saves me time and labour. Plus there is no post-harvest loss.”
Farmers who keep both animals and crops use the forage choppers to turn dry, harvested maize stalks into animal fodder to feed their livestock during the dry season.
Gregory Sikumba is with the International Livestock Research Institute. He says that research in Babati district showed that farmers didn’t have enough feed for their livestock. But now that the farmers have access to the forage choppers, this situation is likely to improve.
Monica Pascal lives in the neighbouring village of Galapo. She too practices mixed farming. She raises chickens and uses their droppings to fertilize the tomatoes, eggplants and amaranth that she grows on her quarter of a hectare plot.
Mrs. Pascal works with a group of 70 farmers. She trains them to intercrop vegetables and fruits and use manure to maximize yields on their small parcels of land.
Mrs. Pascal says: “I didn’t know much about nutrition. I was planting local seeds, but now I’m planting improved seed varieties and teaching other farmers how to improve the health of their families.”
Inviolate Dominick is an extension officer at the World Vegetable Centre in Tanzania, one of the partners in the project. Ms. Dominick explains, “We selected Mrs. Pascal as a farmer-trainer due to her leadership and communication skills. Farmers come to her plot to learn.”
She says that small-scale farmers in the project area are now better equipped to improve their families’ food security and nutrition, as well as generate income.
Mr. Awe is pleased that his farm is making a better profit. He uses the extra money to supplement what he earns teaching agricultural science at a local secondary school.
He says: “I am paid [only] a small amount as a teacher, so I need to make money as a farmer. I practice zero-grazing instead of allowing my cattle to graze in the open because I want them to be free from disease and not easily injured.”
Published online @ Barza Wire