Rehema’s story: “I want this farm to be cultivated”

Rehema, a farmer in the Same district of Tanzania, with one of her children

For an income, when farming stops, we do stone cracking to save ourselves.

Rehema is a farmer by trade but drought has forced her to turn to other means in order to make ends meet. She often spends five hours a day, sat outside on the ground, cracking rocks into smaller stones using a rudimentary hammer. For this hard work, she receives about 7,000 Tanzanian shillings (about £2.50).

The drought has affected me a lot because income is low.

Rehema also prepares the food for her four children. They often eat just twice a day, usually consisting of ugali, a dish traditionally made from maize flour cooked with boiling water. Rehema knows what she feeds her children at the moment is not enough. If the family had more money, she could afford more nutritious foods such as bananas and beans.

If you farm well and get a good harvest, you would advance yourself and life would be good. But if you plant and get one sack, you say that is just for food. One cannot say that one sack can take you through the whole year.

Rehema breaking stones in her yard

The drought which is affecting her farming is having a knock-on effect on her family life. Their lack of income means they cannot afford school fees or new uniforms for their children. Rehema says:

When a child goes to school with suitable clothes, people will say yes, my child is looking good while going to school. But where a child goes with bad shoes, or their clothes are torn, it hurts the parent at heart.

Rehema also feels the burden of being the woman in the household and having to take responsibility for her children:

My responsibility is to take care of the children and also to get myself an income because you cannot leave that to just the husband.

“Women take care of the family. Men have become a burden, they love leisure but in taking care of family issues men have become reluctant.”

Rehema feeding one of her livestock

While Rehema and her husband share the decision making in her household, she is the one who is active and directs how the farming is done. Yet when it comes to selling the produce at market, it’s the men who take the dominant role. Rehema says:

The husband leads because it is said that man is the head of the family. I will work on the farm but during the selling period, he will be the one to go and sell.

This means that her husband will be the one in charge of the money and sometimes he returns home with less than he should:

He might go and come back and give you a half and the other half is used for his interests.

On one occasion when this happened, her husband spent money that needed to be used on paying the children’s school fees.

There was a time a few years ago when farming was more profitable for Rehema. She grew maize and fiwi ngwasha (a type of cereal) as business crops, and kept goats. The family even planned to extend their property, and got as far as laying a foundation – but the work stopped there. Today, Rehema is really worried about their future:

What will happen next year is something that really gives me a headache at the moment.

Rehema with cooking dishes in her household compound

Rehema says that if the planned CARE project goes ahead in her village, things will get better. Improving the irrigation channels will mean reliable access to water for her crops. Rehema will be able to go back to spending most of her time farming, instead of cracking rocks.

She also hopes to have more say over the family’s income, because the project will provide training to help women have more control over financial decision-making, and will train male ‘gender champions’ to challenge male attitudes and promote gender equality.