Farmers from the Mkuranga region in Tanzania traditionally earn their income from rice and cassava production. Since 2004, women from the region have formed groups to collaborate on organic vegetable production and processing activities.
A 2-year project was initiated in the villages of Sotele and Kitomondo in Mkuranga District using participatory approaches to transfer organic vegetable farming technologies. First, 60 women farmers were randomly selected, 30 from each village and trained in organic vegetable production though the use of on-farm demonstration plots. The women learned techniques for seed-bed preparation, sowing, transplanting, plant protection and soil replenishing using natural and locally available materials. Neemcake was used as a pesticide and marigold and desmodium as repellents; farmyard crop residues and crop rotation helped to improve soil fertility.
The women produced okra, sweet pepper, and Amaranthus (African spinach). With the support of the project, their average yields increased significantly from 1,225kg per hectare to 11,550kg per hectare. The average area under vegetable production per household increased from 300m2 to 10,000m2, indicating that women benefitted from the production and sale of organic vegetables. Indeed, their income from vegetable sales in Sotele and Kitomondo villages increased from TSh250,000 (US$126) to TSh3,365,000 (US$1,528). Although the marketing system was not well organised, the women were able to sell their produce to schools and teachers, at village markets and to neighbouring villagers, motivating the women to continue growing organic vegetables.