Agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy in Tanzania and many of the groups we work with, including many schools, include some degree of farming to help support their students.
Although in theory there are networks of agriculture extension officers to help such projects, often in practice they are too far away to be of any use. Therefore, we were very pleased to learn of the PlantVillage Nuru app which seeks to help farmers improve their practice. In February 2021 we had an online training session for our local reps and others interested in how to use this free app to detect Fall Army Worm (a pest for maize) and Cassava diseases. As maize and cassava are the main staple crops grown in their areas this is particularly important.
Since then Herry Kasunga, a volunteer and GIS specialist at Hope for Girls and Women Tanzania, the NGO run by our local rep for Mara, Rhobi Samwelly, has been out training their Digital Champions to use the app.
Here you can see the Digital Champion for Burunga village, Agness Marinya checking her crops with the app. She says, “It is an easy way to monitor crops and give you feedbacks on how crops grow, and I will provide training to other farmers in my village.
June 2022 Update!
In much of rural Tanzania, people are subsistence farmers depending on their crop of maize and cassava for food, and if the harvest is good to sell and buy essentials like school uniform.
But Climate change has led to a reduction in rainfall in many places. Subsistence farmers find it increasingly difficult to grow enough food to feed their families (let alone surplus to pay for things such as medicine and other essentials). Climate change also leads to problems such as rainfall timing, drought, increase of crop attacking diseases and insects, increased heat and winds speed, all of which are causing poor agricultural production. To maintain food needs, farmers are expanding the farms and mostly are going to virgin land by encroachment and so causing deforestation.
PlantVillage helps farmers through their triple A model (Algorithmic, Agricultural, and Advice) that they developed, to the yield and profitability. Through providing solutions to farmers by leveraging advances in AI, mobile phones, and more, they help farmers improve their knowledge and crops.
Together, we have created a Dream Team of 10 incredible field officers and extension agents in Kigoma, and 1 in Mara. They work directly in the smallholder farmers’ fields. Their roles are to detect, advise and deliver ssolution to the farmers on the pests and diseases in their crops.
Removing pests can increase yields by well over 100% and so have a huge impact on farmers and their families.
Earlier this month we hosted a webinar with PlantVillage and you can access the recording here. We hope over the next few months and years to expand this partnership into other areas of Tanzania and into other projects such as biochar and tree planting so watch this space!