Climate crisis: How your support is helping women farmers in Tanzania

Nafika grows maize, leaf vegetables, onions and tomatoes on her farm in Mgwase village

For subsistence farmers, it’s a real disaster when the rains don’t come – but a new CARE project funded by UK aid is bringing back hope to the women farmers of northern Tanzania.

During a rainy season, we are confident we will get our crops. But now we have minimal rains and it is difficult for us to know if we will harvest.

Nafika Rajabu Omary (above), aged 50, is a farmer in Mgwase village, Tanzania. She says that over recent years there has been a significant reduction in rainfall, and that her crop yield reduces by as much as nine-tenths during times of drought. This has had a huge impact on her family’s livelihood and health. She says:

“When the drought wasn’t so bad, we could have three meals per day, but when there’s drought we can only afford one or two meals a day, and we only eat ugali [made from cassava]. I wish my children could eat a variety of food, including more nutritious food like banana and beans.”

Before the drought started getting bad, I had money, but now money is a problem. Food is a problem. A lot has changed.

Afidha, a farmer in Tanzania, drying cassava on her farm
Afidha drying cassava to use for the ugali (porridge) she cooks for her children

Afidha Said (above), aged 40, is another farmer in Mgwase village who struggles to provide for her four children, especially now that her husband has passed away. She says she has noticed periods of drought intensifying over recent years, and it has not returned to normal for many years:

It’s continued, and when the rain does come, the water runs off and the river cannot hold water for a long time – which has made tomato farming a problem. In previous years, I could get five or six buckets of tomatoes a week, but now it’s just two.

The hard times Afidha’s family has fallen on has impacted their diet and they can now only eat ugali made from cassava flour twice a day. To ease the burden, Afidha sent her 18-year-old daughter to work as a housegirl for another family that lives a long way away, but she worries her daughter is being exploited. She says:

She is 800 km away, and cannot afford the fare to come home. I don’t know when I’ll see her again.

Afidha says the drought has affected the whole village:

We are all struggling. Some women go to the forest to collect firewood to sell in the market. Others go to the market to do petty business. Others are cracking stones and helping construction workers.

To make extra income for her family, Afidha works as a labourer on other people’s farms twice a week; and she spends 12 hours twice a week cleaning toilets in the market in local towns, Same and Hedaru. “I don’t like it,” she says.

Nafika has also been forced to look for extra cash elsewhere, working as a labourer on other people’s farms and cracking rocks into small pieces to sell to construction workers. Pointing to a mountain a few kilometres down the dirt road, she says:

There is a big group of us who crack stones together, in a clearing below the mountain. We do it from 6am until midday, and sell the pieces to men with trucks who are doing construction work.

How UK aid will Help Her Live, Learn and Earn

Nafika and Afida are just two of the 2,460 small-scale farmers who will be taking part in a new CARE project funded through UK aid match (where the UK government matched donations made by CARE supporters to our Help Her Live, Learn and Earn campaign).

Nafika, Afida and the other farmers (most of them women) will receive training and support to improve their farming and increase their resilience to the climate emergency. This will directly impact on the livelihoods and food security of more than 13,000 people in the six project villages, with thousands more benefiting from the sharing of new approaches to farming and marketing that the farmers will learn during the project.

Nafika is looking forward to taking part in the Farmers Field Business School training. She says:

I am expecting to learn how to preserve rainwater on the farm so that we can increase productivity and income.

She has also already started receiving weather forecasts from the government, another feature of the Help Her Live, Learn and Earn project which aims to help farmers plan ahead. She says: “Before we got these forecasts, we would only farm during the long rains, but now I know there will be short rains next week, I can prepare and plant seeds.”

I am so happy and excited to learn from this project. Hopefully the education we receive will help us move forward. I hope I won’t have to go cracking stones or labouring on other people’s farms anymore!

Afidha is also excited about the prospects ahead. She says: “It will give us direction, and motivate and teach us how to farm so that we can increase our yield during drought.”

We’re going to learn how to use water effectively and how to take care of the farm. I expect we’ll learn techniques like terracing our land. And then my yield will increase! The project will teach us how to store water so we’ll grow more. And then we’ll get more in the market.

Nafika and Afidha are also joining the CARE-run Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). Nafika says she hopes this will help her with some financial skills like buying shares and saving,while Afidha says she will be able to borrow money for school fees for her three other children. In Tanzania, education at government schools is free, but there are other fees to be paid, to buy things like uniform, stationary supplies and lunch.

Afidha hopes that her daughter can come home, and that she will no longer have to clean the market toilets. She also hopes that in the future, her children can be educated and get professional jobs. She says:

I am a farmer and the drought has messed with my life. Educated people have wider understanding. I want my children to do different things.

Interviews and story by Emily Wight, CARE International UK

This two-year project in Tanzania is funded by the UK government through UK aid match, where donations by the UK public to CARE’s Help Her Live, Learn and Earn campaign were doubled by the UK government, with the matched funds going towards the project in Tanzania.

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