Taking up the Challenge


John *)

At the beginning this week we visited John, who, after graduating from his training for conservation agriculture at Kilimo Timilifu in Mchinga, has moved to one of the villages in the coastal part of Tanzania to start from scratch. After a one hour drive on a dirt road we arrived at the village. We were lucky that there was hardly any rain in the last days, else our journey had been a glissade.

Dirt Road
Road from Mchinga to Kijiweni – through the coastal hill land.

John and his family welcomed us joyfully and he showed us his farm. We found everything neat and tidy. There are several cashew trees on his field and he had planted sunflowers and peanuts in this season. This way he made the most use of the little land that he has. Cashew, sunflower and peanuts are in demand and when the harvest turns out well, it will bring him and his family some good income.

John's Farm
John’s farm: sunflowers with peanuts in between, in the background a cashew tree.

To give John a good start, Kilimo Timilifu has made available a house and 1 acre of land. This helps him and his family tremendously, but in the long run it is not enough land to run a good agri business, because John lives here with his wife and their nine children.

“John”, I asked him, “half a year ago you have moved to this place together with your family. What are the challenges you encounter?”

Sunflower with Bee
Sunflower from John’s farm – without bees no harvest

“Last year November,” he replied, “when we arrived here, we could not yet start conservational agriculture on our field, because we could not buy grass for covering it. The farmers here had already burnt it. And the soil here is sandy and less fertile, so we decided to grow sunflowers and sow peanuts in between. Peanuts grow well on this soil. The sunflowers might grow better next year when we are able to fertilize the field with manure. In addition there was not enough rain in November and December, factors which influenced our harvest for the worse.”

“This, consequently, means other challenges for us, like, for example, it becomes hard for us to pay for our children’s school expenses.”

One of his older daughters has finished a computer training and she’d love to open a stationary with typing and printing services – “But,” he said, “there is no capital to start it.”

John is a hard working man. He plans to gradually extend his farm and also establish a vegetable garden. But here the soil for a garden is bad. He has found a piece of land, though – it is 60 km away and the last part of the way he has to walk on foot.

Cashew Tree
Cashew tree on John’s farm

“Why, after all, have you come here, where there are so many difficulties?” I wanted to know.

“People here,” he replied, “need help in two ways. First, the farmers here work with traditional methods, plant traditional crops on bad soil and there is not enough rain. Consequently their harvests also are not suffiicient. By consistently applying conservational farming methods on my own farm I want to motivate the farmers here in the village to change their methods, so that in the end their harvests become better, too. That is, to improve the soil through covering and by the use of menure, a way of farming they do not know yet. Already now they come and visit me and we talk about the new way. I hope, one day they apply it to their own fields.”

“Yes, and secondly, I wish that the people here, most of which do not believe in Jesus at all, will one day also turn to him in faith. My family and I live a Christian lifestyle, and for sure, they will observe us – and ask questions.”

He then began to sing the song “Mungu ni pendo…” (God is Love) and we all joined in. The windows do not have glass here and the song could be heard in the neighbourhood.

I admire John’s and his wife’s courage and I am sure, one day things will start to change for the better.

A task that cannot be managed without the support of the family

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