Help Her Live, Learn and Earn: Growing food in Tanzania

Chausiku, a subsistence farmer in Tanzania, faces the challenge of growing crops despite persistent drought

Chausiku remembers how good the harvest used to be before drought started to affect her crops.

Chausiku, aged 53 and married with six children, is a subsistence farmer in Ruvujiungeni village in the Same (pronounced Sam-ey) district of northern Tanzania. She is one of the women farmers who will be helped by 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).

Chausiku used to harvest 10 bags of maize, 4-5 bags of lablab (a local bean) and as many as 70 bags of onion per year. She sells the onion and lablab, while the maize she keeps to feed her family. She says:

In a good year, I could get 2 million Tanzanian shillings (equivalent of £660) from the onions I grew, after deducting the cost of production.

However, from 2014 the drought made things worse and in 2015, she harvested just two bags of maize, one bag of lablab and 30 bags of onions – earning her no more than 8000 Tanzanian shillings per year.

The reduction in income had a very real impact on Chausiku and her family. She used to get a loan from the local CARE-supported Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) to pay for her daughter’s school fees. But because of the impact of the drought on her income, over the past four years the loan has only been able to stretch to the basic need of feeding her family three times a day, says Chausiku:

I used to be able to send my daughter to school with money from the VSLA, but I now need that money to cover the basic need of feeding my family.

This means that her youngest daughter, who is now 17, hasn’t been able to continue her education since passing Form 4 when she was 13 years old. Chausiku says:

My daughter helps me with farming a bit, but mostly she is just sitting and waiting, hoping that we can eventually afford to send her back to school.

Not only has this area endured years of drought. What made things even worse was the flood that battered Ruvujiungeni village in June last year (2018), destroying all of Chausiku’s crops.

Since then, Chausiku has joined a farmers’ collective that keeps chickens, enabling them to sell eggs (for which she can get 300 TZS, equivalent of 10p, per egg) and sometimes a whole chicken. She has also been forced to think creatively about other ways to get money, such as foraging for leafy vegetables like spinach and selling them.

But overall this gives her very little. She says:

I have much less income than before because of the drought and the flood. Luckily, selling eggs means I can just about pay back the loan.

Chausiku is looking forward to participating in CARE’s Help Her Live, Learn and Earn project, which will run a Farmers’ Field Business School, training her and her neighbours in farming techniques that will withstand drought and floods. The village also has an old, disused irrigation canal that the project will renovate. Chausiku says:

Because of this, I’ll be able to continue farming, as the canal can collect water which I can use for crops in times of drought.

Chausiku hopes to start growing maize, onions and lablab again, and to get enough money to send her daughter back to school. She says:

Because of the Farmer’s Field Business School, we will be taught new agricultural techniques to help our crops be resistant to drought and flooding. The new canal will also really help. I really hope that soon, I will be able to afford to send my daughter back to school.

Help Her Live, Learn and Earn

This two-year project will support 2,460 small-scale farmers and their families by giving them the training they need to improve their farming and increase their resilience to climate change. This will directly impact on the livelihood and food security of more than 13,000 people in the 6 project villages, with thousands more benefiting from the sharing of new approaches to farming and marketing that the farmers will learn during the project.

The project is still in its early stages but farmers like Chausiku have now been selected for training and they will be sending us regular updates about their progress.

The Help Her Live, Learn and Earn campaign raised over £540,000 in donations from the UK public to support CARE's work around the world with women and girls. The UK government has doubled this amount, with the matched funds going towards the project in Tanzania.

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