In 1984 the Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere, visited Shinyana and was shocked to see that decades of deforestation and inappropriate land use, including damage from livestock, had turned the area into the ‘Desert of Tanzania.’ In response he launched the Shinyanga Soil Conservation Programme (HASHI). HASHI ran demonstration sites to teach farmers how to plant woodlots that yield firewood and building timber as well as fruit trees to provide fodder for livestock. The project also supplies equipment such as long knives, wheelbarrows, and watering cans to smallholders.
An important part of the programme is encouraging the use of ngitili, a local word for an enclosed area of forest traditionally reserved to produce fodder for livestock during the dry season. Input from the World Agroforestry Centre encouraged the project to introduce a range of agroforestry technologies to build ngitili, including the planting of woodlots and fodder banks and the use of nitrogen-fixing trees to increase fertility and crop yields.
Deoscory Msoma is a smallholder who benefited from HASHI in 1993 reported, “The HASHI project transformed my life…The profits from my woodlots and orchards meant I could buy extra land, pay school fees for my children and renovate our house.” His family can now afford proper medical care and he’s been able to buy fertilisers. Where he used to produce 7 sacks of rice from 1 half-acre field; now he produces 20 sacks from the same area. He also benefits from the sale of firewood and building timber. For example, in 2010 he prepared an order of timber for the local army barracks worth Ksh600,000 (US$420).
Now, approximately 60% of the ngitili, are privately owned, and the other 40% are managed by village governments, schools, community-based organisations, churches and mosques. Approximately 90% of livestock farmers and 50% of crop growers now have their own ngitili covering around 500,000 hectares.
The economic impacts are significant: farmers or village members with an ngitili derive a monthly benefit of $14 per person; ngitili products (such as firewood, timber and medicinal plants) offer additional annual income of $1,190 per household; and the ngitili benefit women in particular, who spend an average of 6 fewer hours per household per day searching for firewood. The higher-quality fodder also has increased milk production from 3 litres per day to more than 10 litres per day. In 2002, the HASHI project was awarded the prestigious United Nations Equator Prize for tackling poverty through conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity. Although the HASHI project came to an end in 2004, adoption has continued to increase thanks to the tangible benefits which ngitili and woodlots can yield.