Turning point: from tobacco to tomatoes

Oct 24, 2016

After serving as a labourer on a tobacco farm for 3 years; and being frustrated because he had nothing to show for his sweat, Mwaisanila Husen of Nsekwa Village in Mlele district, Katavi region decided to call it quits and start growing tomatoes on his own. He discovered that tomato growing was 9 times more profitable than tobacco, and to top it all up -- a lot less labour intensive. “I was earning TZS 150,000 the whole year when I was employed at the tobacco farm, which was not enough for my needs. I now earn TZS 650,000 from tomatoes in just 3 months”, Mwaisanila explained. Considering that water-logging pauses a challenge during the rainy season, Mwaisanila is able to grow tomatoes 6 months of the year, during which he earns a total of TZS 1,300,000 which is almost 9 times what he was previously making.

This is only the second year to venture into tomato growing, yet he claims that he has already managed to procure iron sheets and a plot of land which will allow him to build a modern house. He plans to procure bricks after this season’s harvest. Besides this achievement, Mwaisanila has taught 6 other growers whose gardens are just adjacent to his.

The switch from tobacco to tomatoes is as a result of support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) partnership project titled ‘Mainstreaming Sustainable Forest Management’ (SFM) into the Miombo Woodlands of western Tanzania. The main objective of this project is to enable miombo-dependent communities to adopt productive practices that are favourable to biodiversity conservation, reduce carbon emissions from land use change and improve livelihoods.

One of the main focus of the project is to ensure that communities are less dependent on tobacco growing, which is the main contributor to deforestation and degradation in the regions of Katavi and Tabora. Crop diversification is one of the strategies used to combat this. By the use of this strategy, the project promotes horticultural and other high-value crops such as sunflower as an alternative to tobacco growing. Members of the Nsekwa Village have expressed that the strategy is indeed beneficial to the environment and is also contributing to economies of scale.

Before becoming a tomato farmer, in 2014 Mwaisanila attended a training workshop that was organized by the project in Urambo District. At the end of the workshop, participants bought fertilizer that were supplied by YARA. They also bought other inputs from agro-dealers who also participated in the workshop. From this training, Mwaisanila was able to grow tomatoes before the rainy season began. From the yield, he made TZS 350,000 in the first year, and since then, he now grows tomatoes twice a year. This would not have been achieved without the support from the UNDP/GEF partnership project.

The project has also supplied Mwaisanila with fertilizers and fungicides in the as an incentive. Jointly with his protégés, they have resolved to start growing tomatoes throughout the year in an effort to realize more income. Moving forward, the plan is to shift to an area that is not water-logged during the rainy season.