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Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro: Diversity of Stakeholder Reflections

On September 18th, we brought together a range of stakeholders including farmers, project advisors, an extension officer from Morogoro Municipality, an official from the Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA), to discuss and reflect on their experiences, the challenges they confront and the opportunities they see for urban and peri-urban agriculture in the Tanzanian cities of Dar-es-Salaam and Morogoro, from the perspective of urban sustainability and improving human wellbeing. The range of issues they raised pointed to the everyday politics and difficulties encountered in the development process. But it also created a platform for sharing, prioritising and finding solutions.

Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture in Morogoro

Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture (UPA) in Morogoro mostly involved practicing vegetable, fruit and livestock farming, in groups or as individuals, for both self-consumption and sale. The vegetables grown include cabbage, green pepper, tomatoes, okra, onions, ngogwe, and a range of green leafy vegetables; fruits include cucumber and watermelon, and livestock include poultry and pigs.

Several farmers noted that UPA brought many benefits, including the income generated from produce, employment opportunities and food security. One farmer-member of the Kiloka group explained how since engaging with the NGO Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA) their urban farming practice has been transformed. “(TAHA) gave us an education about planting in terraces, better seeds and drip irrigation to mention a few. Since then, I have seen the impact of the education we received. Apart from the increase in yields and income, TAHA has also helped us to improve our visibility […]”.

While UPA has been discussed for its potential in fostering urban biodiversity, maintaining air quality, providing food and nutritional security to urbanites and improving the social quality of city spaces, farmers and other stakeholders raised some of the limitations and challenges too.

An Officer from the NGO TAHA shares his suggestions (left). The Municipal Agricultural Extension Officer from Morogoro Municipality (right) sharing his suggestions.

Access to land

Limited access to land forced many farmers in Morogoro to cultivate vegetables on illegal lands, such as riverbanks. Farmers who rent land too face several challenges such as landowners’ reluctance regarding the use of chemical fertilisers. One farmer noted that “[…] we normally use industrial fertilisers as directed by officials from TAHA. Since we follow all the instructions well, crops become very nourished and healthy. When landowners notice that our crops have nourished beyond their expectations, they complain that the fertilisers we use cause soil infertility. Therefore, they would either raise land rent or refuse to extend the contract”. If farmers choose to cultivate crops that require industrial fertilisers, the landowner raises the price from 50,000 TShs (21 USD) to 300,000 TShs. (128 USD), in turn making land rental unaffordable to most farmers, forcing them to cultivate on illegal lands. Farmers are often also forced to cultivate hazardous land near the river, drawing from its heavily polluted water source for irrigation purposes. The Agriculture Extension Officer explained: “[…] the water from Morogoro river is not a safe water source, not safe at all. There are many chemical deposits there. Vegetables from Morogoro like the ones produced from the Fungafunga area pose health problems as cyanide, aluminium, and mica are plenty […]”. The lack of governmental support in the allocation of land for agriculture was identified as a major concern, with farmers’ lack of tenure security greatly impacting their livelihoods.

Limited knowledge of UPA practices

In addition to tenure insecurity, the improper use of inputs such as industrial fertilisers and poor knowledge regarding disease and pest prevention emerged as a cause for concern. Farmers sometimes harvest vegetables only two days after the application of pesticides, leaving concerns about contamination with pesticide residues, and an array of human health problems, such an itching, allergies, diarrhoea, kidney and liver problems. One farmer proposed the following: “[…] these practices are widely known, and I have witnessed women using residue containers for storage. I would therefore like to urge the local government to take initiatives on this matter because it is serious and has detrimental effects on human health. Local government officials could use extension officers as well as other farmers who have received education and awareness on how to handle the residues to teach those who have not […]”.

A majority of farmers in Morogoro use tobacco dust from factories as manure because it is cheap and easy to access. One trailer may be sold at TShs. 40,000-50,000 (17-21 USD) at wholesale. Although some farmers did use chicken or cattle manure, transportation to the farms was a challenge, as was limited knowledge on its use, or misconceptions about its suitability on particular land types. Not using manure, however, does result in lowering the quantity and quality of their produce. One farmer added, “[…] we need help on the types of soil from scholars from SUA. We farmers would think that one just needs to find vacant land and have access to water as prerequisites to start farming. You might find people growing vegetables on soil that has gravel or at the riverbanks where the soil is not too good and so vegetables may not grow well”.

The farmers attributed their lack of UPA knowledge was to poor governmental support. They complained that agricultural extension officers were not visiting their farms, speculating that this lack of attention and appreciation is because agriculture is considered an inferior activity, performed by the uneducated. One farmer stated: “[…] we encounter many challenges because we are not properly trained as farmers and cultivators. This is mainly because extension officers hardly visit us; we just do our activities and consider ourselves experienced because of having farmed for many years, but we are aware that we might be farming below standards. The government has little support for us, farming is perceived as an activity for the uneducated, but I personally and others whom I represent, it is rewarding. Farming is just like any other business; for me, it is part of my livelihood. Anyone can do it, not just those with lower levels of education”.

The agricultural extension officer offered his own perspective. People like him are often responsible for more than one ward, and also expected to coordinate the government’s poverty alleviation programmes. Officers have limited facilities and resources such as transportation and therefore struggle to reach farmers living in far-to-reach wards. He too concurred that the agriculture sector was not given priority at the municipality level nor the ministry level.

Farmers (left) preparing their plots for open space cultivation. One of the farmers (right) shares his experiences relating to UPA activities

Researcher Perspectives: Moving ahead

The voices of the farmers and extension officers seemed to suggest that rather than choosing UPA, farmers were cultivating due to lack of options, to make ends meet. Urban farmers are desperate to utilise every available opportunity in terms of land (open spaces) and water sources, regardless of their quality. As one of our project advisors noted: “[…] what I see from UPA is desperation from farmers, consumers and urban authorities. The desperation of urban farmers lies upon getting income but uninformed about farming processes […] farmers would cultivate or keep livestock in any piece of land available and use any source of water available to them for irrigation regardless where it is from. Urban authorities, on the other hand, are challenged by how to manage UPA sustainably, uncontrolled use of agricultural inputs-pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers, etc, alongside. failure to implement laws to regulate and guide safe UPA practices. Local authorities recognise the importance of UPA but are challenged to managing sustainability and uncontrolled use of inputs”.

Project Advisors presenting their inputs from the project

Clearly there is need for greater clarity on “the concept of sustainable UPA. It is important to emphasize the balance between UPA and the environment, and the need for honesty in terms of farming practices. To change mindsets and cultural norms, we need the support of the media, and policymakers”.

Co-researchers responding to the comments and suggestions from the Project Advisors

Reflecting on these diverse perspectives highlighted the need to work on the idea of sustainable UPA, its capacity to increase farmers’ incomes, secure livelihoods and food security, while at the same time addressing environmental challenges to soil health, water quality and the spread of disease. To ensure both sustainability and wellbeing, there is need not just for the training of farmers, and knowledge exchanges, but more such dialogues that bridge the gap and enable conversation amongst stakeholders – farmers, researchers, experts, and policymakers. Using the vernacular language can help democratise participation and bring in more voices, especially of women, the disabled and other marginalised groups. Finally, it is important to recognize that laws and policies are often contradictory. It is essential to resolve these tensions and give farmers a clear message on the development of sustainable UPA.

This blog post was written based on a report produced during the stakeholders’ workshop held at the Carbon Monitoring Centre, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania.

Authors: Betty Mntambo, Charles Pryor and Nitya Rao

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