Hello again. In my last post I wrote about how me and my colleague Kefar trained activists to use mobile phones to collect data. After three weeks I was asked to stay behind and find out how climate change is affecting farmers.
We drive to Nduguti village in northern Tanzania, home to just under 2,000 residents most of whom are small-scale farmers. We are going to meet Cecilia Elias, 46, a farmer.
Cecilia welcomes me to sit with her under a large tree near her farm. The shade is lovely. We chat about life in the village compared to the city, farming and climate change.
Cecilia has been married for 20 years. She is a mother of five children. Together with her husband, she grows rice, maize and millet. They also own six cows, six goats and three chickens.
On a typical day, Cecilia starts the day at 5am to do her household activities, and goes to the farm at 9.30am where she works until 5pm. At lunchtime, Cecilia is joined by her family for lunch by the farm. Rice and tea is served. You almost immediately smell the beautiful aroma of freshly harvested rice.
Income from farming helps Cecilia send her children to school and get food for her home. However, there is one problem: she says that due to unpredictable rainfall, “it has been hard of late to plan properly.” Her yield has varied over the years ranging from 20 bags to 45 bags of rice a year.
This year she has prepared a 2.5 acre farm for planting rice seeds. The rains have started pouring in but she is not sure whether to plant the crop now or wait a bit longer and risk a dry spell. “I don’t know if it is going to hold,” she says. She is taking a chance by planting some of her rice seeds. “I’m not even sure if I will yield anything. I once planted some crops but the rains stopped so all of the rice dried in the farm,” she says.
Most residents of Nduguti village depend on seasonal farming which relies on rainfall. “When the rainy season ends we don’t have other means of getting water for irrigation,” she says.
Following a good yield, Cecilia gets between 30 and 45 bags of rice. She keeps 15 bags of rice for food for the year, and sells about 30 bags for around 60,000 Tanzanian shillings (about £20) per 100kg bag.
Cecilia has been a farmer since her childhood but worries that she will not be able to make a living for much longer. She says: “I need to think of an alternative.”
Oxfam has been working in this area with partner RUDI to help small-scale farmers deal with the shocks of climate change. Farmers have been encouraged to plant drought-resistant crops such as millet and cassava. Some farmers have been trained to diversify their income. Cecilia has also been trained to use the system of rise intensification, which is a rice farming technique that helps farmers yield more produce.
Thank you for reading. I would love to hear your comments – particularly on how you feel climate change is affecting you.