Farmers in Zanzibar practiced poor agricultural practices. They were used to low productivity and failure was common. According to government statistics, for many years, Zanzibar was importing over 80% of fresh food from Tanzania mainland, including horticultural products. However, 2015 was a turning point, the Tanzanian Horticultural Association (TAHA) began to promote horticultural production in collaboration with the government of Zanzibar, FFD and the Milele Zanzibar Foundation. Today imports have declined from 80% to 40% and now most farmers in the region have a success story to tell.
Dr. Omar Mohamed Suleiman and his family of 4 children were among the poorest farmers in the region when it comes to agricultural practices. At that time, he was a Medical Doctor at Mnazimmoja Referral Hospital, and doubling as a farmer to provide enough for his family. He was producing tomato mixed with cucumbers in the family 1-acre farm, using traditional methods of farming which resulted to poor and low yields.
“I did my best trying to produce more with traditional farming methods, but it did not work as the environment keep changing. It was my desire to become successful in crop production, but failure in my early days while seeing others’ successes made me realize that changes in my farming methods were inevitable.”- says Dr Omari Mohamed
Dr Omari joined TAHA in 2017 with the need to change to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). However, the association have a lot to offer besides agricultural practices in Horticultural based on proper technological changes which results to high yields, market demanded quality and increased income.
“I knew very little about TAHA but my first step in joining TAHA was an eye opener to success, then I realized that growing a successful crop means you must also grow in all aspects of your farming system. Without TAHA, I would have not realized the potential that is within horticulture farming. TAHA trained me on how to plan and set goals, crop management, connected me to input suppliers, and linked me with potential markets including tourist hotels", said Dr. Omari.
In one year, Dr. Omari has managed to get six times more income. Now his children attend a better school and can pay for college.
“TAHA has changed my way of thinking and gave me hope that, through knowledge and hardworking everything is possible. Now I wish to send my child to study horticulture as I have seen its impact in changing someone’s life within a short period of time”, quipped Dr. Omari.
In Zanzibar many farmers are engaging in horticultural farming with the hope of achieving their dreams in life. Nevertheless, more support from the Government of Zanzibar, NGOs, and other development partners is still needed.