Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture has launched a project to help farmers manage dwindling water supplies and avoid conflicts.
The project, “Strengthening the capacity for climate change adaptation,” works with farmers in Kiroka village in the Morogoro area, showing them how to improve upstream water resources by using a variety of agro-forestry and water-harvesting techniques.
Professor Henry Mahoo, lead researcher and expert on soil and water management with the university, told OOSKAnews that the project will help farmers cope with the effects of climate change and equip them with tools to boost crop production.
According to Mahoo, water resources in the village have declined as a result of climate change, affecting the livelihoods of maize and paddy farmers and triggering conflicts among them.
“We have trained farmers to adopt various water retention techniques so that their highland fields and lowland irrigation systems are not affected,” he said.
He said water conflicts are common throughout the country because farmers are still using conventional methods that require a lot of water.
A baseline survey conducted by the university last year indicated that a majority of farmers were aware of the effects of climate change and were already implementing adaptation measures.
According to Mahoo, production of maize and bananas in the highlands has declined because most people are still digging on the steep slopes, using flat cultivation methods that are not suitable for the area since most of the soil is washed away by flooding.
To address soil erosion, Mahoo said, the university has introduced the so-called Fanya Chini -- contour bunds where farmers dig a trench to store soil on the downward slope and use it to strengthen ridges.
“We started by training farmers on how to align the contours by using local tools, and on the contour bunds the farmers themselves suggested pineapple seedlings to strengthen the bunds, so we provided them with seedlings,” he explained.
Local government leader Robert Selasela told OOSKAnews that most farmers who took part in the training had found it useful.
“We encourage farmers, especially those in the highlands, to conserve water sources by planting trees, because failure to do so [means] everybody will suffer,” he said.
Mohamed Ali, a maize and paddy farmer in Kiroka village, said he has been using multiple interventions to prevent soil erosion and retain water.
“These techniques have helped me to slow down the flow of water and retain soil fertility, which is critical for my crops,” he said.
Ali said he has also managed boost his rice yields using the so-called System of Rice Intensification, which allows him to flood his fields only once or twice per year.
“I find this method very useful,” he said. “It has solved the problem I had with my neighbor, who has always accused me of misusing the village water.”