The story of the Tanzanian smallholder
Two-thirds of the Tanzanian population depends on farming for most of their income. Conventional agricultural practices have been widely promoted and many smallholders tried to adapt to increase yields and minimize the workload. Accordingly, the agrochemical industry grew quickly. In 2017, 4.5 million litres of pesticides were imported. This includes pesticides (like glyphosate) which are banned in the EU and/or US.
Unfortunately, we see that conventional agriculture has a significant, negative impact on the Tanzanian population, including Tanzanian smallholders and the environment.
- Malpractice: Handling and storing chemicals requires knowledge and material, which many smallholders lack. Resulting malpractices' include overdosing chemicals, no use of personal protective material and inappropriate storing of chemicals leading to deaths (a child dying from drinking pesticides is not uncommon!) and non-communicable diseases caused by pesticide exposure.
- Insufficient finance: A conventional farm requires a lot of agrochemical inputs, these inputs cost money. In case of a bad season or more urgent matters to finance, smallholders do not have the funds to acquire these inputs. Many farmlands are left unfertile and farmers need to clear new land to farm leading to deforestation and land degradation.
- Public health: In Tanzania, soils, water and food are exposed to intolerable levels of pesticides. Tanzanian citizens, conventional farmers or not, are subjected to adverse health effects due to the inappropriate use of pesticides and fertilizers.
- The environment: Conventional agriculture significantly impacts the environment. Just to name a few: soil and water pollution, dry and eroded soils, loss of flora and fauna species, and increased greenhouse gas emissions.
The conventional farm
Bare soils and agro-chemicals kill (micro-)organisms in soils. Top soils have been washed away by the rain, soil nutrients are depleted and not regenerated. We can only produce using fertilizers.
Our mission is to put nature and pleasure back into agriculture within a sustainable financial system.
How do we do this?
Lima offers a vertical integrated smallholder production system supported by market access with rational, affordable timely pre-finance. This transformative agricultural system can move smallholders from subsistence to enjoyable, commercial but sustainable agriculture. Smallholders’ income increases with crop certification premiums, production diversification, increase in yield, a decrease in inputs and labour cost, etc. By linking them to a carbon credit scheme, we can additionally increase their income to help smallholders invest in their farms.
Technical solutions offered are zero tillage, multi-crop approach, agroforestry, permanent soil cover, continuous increase of organic matter in soils, composting, biochar, anti-erosion and water retention, bee-keeping and vermicompost. Our carbon-negative production system is generated by soil CO2 retention, tree planting, inputs produce at the farm level, etc. Our transformative agriculture is supported by the result of smallholder practices and scientific research.
Our village work
In every village or even sub-village we start to work, we hold meetings whereby we ask people from the village to select their representative. Lima trains these representatives or, as we like to call them, Village Coordinators (VCs) on topics like best-practice organic farming, how to train farmers, administration and finance. Twice a year we hold large VC meetings to bring up the discussion; how is it going in the villages? Are there any problems or suggestions on how we work? Our management staff regularly visits the villages and the VCs individually to ensure VCs conduct their work properly.
Some VCs get promoted to management staff as they proof their skills and motivation.
Lima's field system was developed over 20+ years and it is still being polished to perfection every day. We have our challenges but our system works and we are proud to work with our farmers.
Some references we used for this page.
N. Calista, Martin D. Haikael, Matemu O. Athanasia, Kassim Neema, Kimiywe Judith : Does Pesticide exposure contribute to the growing burden of non-communicable diseases in Tanzania. 2022
Joost Lahr, Ralph Buij, Franciska Katagira, Harold van der Valk : Pesticides in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). 2016