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Posted on Monday, 30 November 2015 11:49

Mulching in Morogoro

By Charlie Hamilton

Photos© Noor KhamisFounded in 2011, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT) is an educational and outreach programme based in Morogoro, a town of some 350,000 people at the base of the Uluguru Mountains around 150km west of dar es Salaam.

 

Run by agronomist Janet Maro and her husband Alex Wostry, the organisation teaches smallholder farmers a mix of good farming practices and ecological farming techniques that do not rely on synthetic fertilisers.

More than 1,000 farmers have attended SAT's courses, which cover topics such as land preparation, organic pest control, composting and natural fertiliser manufacture, and mulching. SAT also provides education on saving, applying for loans and small-business management.

Although SAT is equipped with classrooms, Maro says students respond better to hands-on learning, with many classes taking place at the programme's 50ha model farm. "The principles of the programme are to inspire sustainable farming that can allow the local community to support themselves. We want to contribute positively to the situation of farmers around Morogoro," she says.

Adaptation to changing weather patterns is also a SAT priority. "Climate change is a very real issue," Maro adds. "And we have found that farmers who practise our agroecological methods have managed the change in rainfall patterns better than those who use traditional methods [...].

Conventional farmers are not told about it, but mulching retains moisture in the soil, which is very important where rainfall can be irregular. Instead, they are just taught about planting, adding synthetic inputs like fertiliser and then harvesting."

In Towelo, around 7km from Morogoro and some 500m up the side of a mountain, Zena Adam, 43, is one of the villagers who has benefited from SAT training. Surveying the lush, terraced slopes of her Swiss chard fields, the mother of two confides that neighbouring farmers sometimes ask her what her secret is.

"The things I learned during the programme have changed the whole way I farm. It has transformed the amount of produce I can grow," Adam says. "It was backbreaking work to terrace the land and it took me three months to complete, but I did it all myself."



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