MTUMWA Omar, a house wife with six children, was surprised when she was told that she can produce relatively enough or surplus of vegetables from her very small land beside her house.
“How can I produce in a small piece of land measuring about only ten metres?” The reply from experts was that she would be enabled to utilize the small land.
Thanks to the ‘VIUNGO project’ encouraging use of the available small land at home ‘Kitchen Garden.’ With the growing land scarcity in Zanzibar and arguably inability of farming on a big land as it requires big investment, a kitchen garden, which is a kind of ‘Greenhouse’ crop production, may be a solution.
Green house which is already a growing reality throughout the world mainly in Europe and the US, is still developing at snail’s pace in many developing countries due to high costs of establishing it. But under VIUNGO project, kitchen garden launched last year is now picking-up in Zanzibar with many households expecting to benefit by producing vegetables and fruits for home consumption and income for the extra.
This campaign to encourage people grow and consume fruits and vegetables, creates a favourable opportunity for further development of the ‘Kitchen Garden’ as a means of sustainable crop production intensification to make best use of available land and water resources at households.
According to the Chief Project Manager–Zanzibar, Ms Amina Ussi Khamis, the VIUNGO project works to strengthen home food and nutrition security by promoting sustainable crop production, which aims at producing more from small areas of land at home while conserving resources, reducing negative impacts on the environment and enhancing natural capital and the flow of ecosystem services.
She said “VIUNGO project means ‘Zanzibar Value Web, Horticulture, and Income Growth project’, and it also integrates agricultural, gender, financial inclusion and nutritional development efforts to improve smallholder farmers’ productivity and profitability within the horticultural value chain in Zanzibar (Unguja and Pemba).”
Ms Khamis mentioned that the project is financed by European Union (EU) for a period of four years (from 2020) with a budget of more than 5.0 million euros, and is implemented by Peoples Development Forum (PDF) in collaborations with Community Forest Pemba (CFP) and Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) in Zanzibar.
The overall objective of the project is to unlock the potential of the horticulture value chain, increase the value and volume of highquality products to markets, and promote inclusive economic growth in Zanzibar. Horticulture is one of the fastest growing subsectors in Tanzania and is dominated by smallholder farmers, offering opportunities to bolster the country’s national economy while directly and immediately improving the incomes of a broad segment of the populace.
Zanzibar is a unique zone within this national context and the VIUNGO project is designed to overcome the specific local challenges of this sub region, such as its limited land base, by leveraging its special advantages. The advantages include a long-established spice growing tradition and relative proximity to high-end markets and major seaports.
The project will also focus on improving horticultural product and smallholder farmers’ income. “This will be through introduction of Climate Smart Horticulture and Good agricultural practices to help in increase production and productivity of quality horticultural products,” she said.
Also enhance improvements in food and nutrition security for smallholder farmers and their families, and that through establishment of permaculture kitchen gardens, and also value addition and local enterprise development with a focus on fair trade partnerships and women’s economic empowerment.
The Project is implemented in nine districts of Zanzibar (four in Pemba and five in Unguja) focusing mainly in vegetable, fruits and spice sub-sectors. The VIUNGO Project aims at reaching 57,974 direct beneficiaries that comprises with horticulture farmers, processors, agro-dealers, and smallholder horticultural traders), whereas among these beneficiaries at least 55 percent are women, 33 percent youth and 12 percent are men.
She said at the end of project period, the expected results include: 80 percent farmer beneficiaries increase horticulture productivity; 70 percent of food security increase; 35 percent increase in the value of domestic trade; 20 percent increase on the value of international horticulture trade; and 70 percent livelihood beneficiaries increase their horticulture income.
Ms Siti Bakar from the Community Forest Pemba (CFP) says the project will help many households to consume fresh vegetables as advised by the World Health Organization (WHO) to boost immunity and beat diseases including the devastating COVID-19.
“We are just beginning the project by training the beneficiaries in phases. Many are happy for the project because of hope to change their livelihood at home,” she said.
Despite global call for consumption of horticulture produce in developing countries, the consumption of a diverse range of fruits and vegetables is still below the daily intake of 400 g per capita recommended by WHO. Ms Bakar said the CFP believes the best way of adapting climate change is to engage community members into different initiatives related into conservation and other climate change activities income generating activities as using the small land at home to grow crops.
TAMWA-Zanzibar Director Dr Mzuri Issa says that the farming project will help women boot their income and improve their health, “I urge the beneficiaries to take the project serious. We need to be in better place and this is opportunity for us.” The Registrar of NonGovernmental Organizations in Zanzibar, Mr Ahmed Khalid Abdalla says the government is happy with the project, urging farmers and other people to seize the VIUNGO project opportunity.
During his visit to the demonstration farm established to train the ‘beneficiaries’ of the project in Ole, Chakehake District, South Pemba Region, Mr Abdalla said the project aim to change the lives of farmers by boosting the economy as well as food security in homes.
“We are very happy with this project as it is a project to help the government uplift our farmers through these farming methods,” he said adding that president Hussein Ali Mwinyi had also promised to boost farming in the country.
The government has also been assisting the growers through providing them with in-puts, especially quality seeds as well as advanced technology and training to enable the growers undertake new type of farming without problem.
The now flourishing horticulture industry in Zanzibar has helped the Isles to reduce its annual imports of vegetable and fruits from the previous 80 per cent figure down to around 50 per cent in the period of five years, since other the alternative farming were introduced there.