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Challenging Climate Change in Tanzania

8th Oct 2015

"The weather has really mixed us up.  We can no longer predict rainy seasons and  therefore cannot tell  when to plant the seeds - so climate change is a big challenge for us."   

Asia Pascale, Rice Farmer, Tanzania. 

Tanzania has seen climate change result in reduced and unpredictable rainfall.  

The Shinyanga region, in north Tanzania is dry and flat, and is one of the country's poorer regions. The agricultural sector accounts for around 75% of the economy but with only one rainy season and increasingly erratic weather, planting is difficult. Earlier this year about 40 people were killed, and hundreds left homeless, when floods hit the area.

Oxfam's project in Shinyanga - funded by the Scottish Government - has worked with producers to improve all stages of rice production and to find new markets. The aim was to improve the lives of rice producers with a focus on supporting and training women, allowing them to earn more money and raise their status within their communities.

Monica Simon, 44, is one of over 1600 Tanzanian farmers supported as part of the project.

Monica said: "Rains are not predictable here. It might rain in November, and not again until January, so somewhere in between, you find there's no water and that is when the problem arises."

Monica is now using new agricultural techniques to increase her rice crop. This has provided her extended family with two meals a day and the increased income allows the children to attend school.

She said: "I am now able to yield three times more than what I used to in the early years when I depended much on rain.

"I have been able to see benefits: first of all I now have my own house which I built and where I live with my family, instead of renting; secondly I bought a solar panel that allows me to charge the phones in my village.

"Because of these efforts, I have become a respectable woman in my community."

Asia Pascale, 54, lives in Bulugala village in northern Tanzania.  As the breadwinner for her family of ten dependents, Asia was not yielding enough rice to feed her own family let alone earn an income.

Asia said: "The weather has really mixed us up. We can no longer predict rainy seasons and therefore cannot tell when to plant the seeds - so climate change is a big challenge for us."

However, with Oxfam's help Asia has increased her rice crop. She took part in exchange meetings with farmers from other districts, training workshops and a mentoring programme. As a result, Asia has increased her rice crop ten-fold and has been able to diversify her income to ensure that a year with no rains will not devastate her finances. She now has a herd of cattle she rents to other farmers, a tea shop, a women's traditional clothing business and a new chicken rearing project. 

She laughed as she proudly told Oxfam: "Who would expect a lone female parent to have such a large rice crop! Before Oxfam provided this training, I literally had nothing, but now I can see change in my life."

Haji Kihwele, Rice Value Chain Adviser for Oxfam in Tanzania, said: "People in richer countries are not seeing the effect of climate change, but here in Tanzania small holder farmers are suffering.

"Oxfam is working to reduce the shock of climate change for smallholder farmers, by constructing irrigation infrastructure like charcoal dams and by helping farmers to construct their own small scale irrigation schemes.

"What we need to hear from leaders in the climate talks in Paris is that richer countries will put more money into poor countries to help them cope with the disaster of climate change."

Find out more about the crucial climate talks in Paris here

Join Scotland's Climate March in Edinburgh on Saturday, November 28 - more details here.