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A system of rice intensification has changed my life

“When my husband left in 1991, my life was very difficult. I didn’t have enough income to sustain my family needs. I was farming and owned seven acres of land but the yield was little such that I did not get enough income out of it.” Says Pili Gabriel (49), a mother of four, from Ngaya village, in Northern Tanzania.

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Pili working at her rice farm. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

In 2012, Oxfam working with a partner RUDI – Rural Urban Development Initiatives trained Pili on modern rice production techniques, mostly referred to as system of rice intensification. The training emphasized on the use of improved seeds with high yield, proper plant spacing, proper farm management particularly weeding and application of fertilizers.

Pili utilized the knowledge in her farming activities and as a result she has increased her rice yield three-fold. With more income generated, Pili has bought more land – now owns 16 acres of land and has built two houses, one that she is leasing and in the finishing stages of a second one. She also owns a herd of cattle.

Pili-standing-by-her-second-house
As a result of more sales, Pili is in the finishing stages of constructing her second house. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

However, climate change continues to pose serious challenges to small-scale farmers like Pili. “It got really hot in 2014. Rains stopped and most of our crops were destroyed.” Pili was expecting to yield over 60 bags of rice but only got 10 bags in the eight acres farm she had planted. “All my development plans for that year were shattered. It was a big loss.” She recalls.

Oxfam is working in partnership with local government authorities to reduce the shock of climate change for small-scale farmers, by constructing irrigation infrastructures like charcoal dams. Farmers like Pili are also trained to construct their own small-scale irrigation dams to harvest rainwater for use during critical drought periods.

Earlier this year Pili was supported to construct her irrigation dam which has the capacity to store over 500,000 liters of water when full, which is sufficient to water all her farms. “I’ll now be sure to have enough water even when the rains stop. I’m no longer worried.” Pili expects to yield over 100 bags of rice this year which she plans to sell and start building a third house.

Pili-standing-by-her-irrigation-dam
This irrigation dam will help Pili store enough water to irrigate her farms even when drought strikes. Photo: Bill Marwa / Oxfam

“With more income generated, I can now solve a lot of my family problems including making sure my 8 grandchildren have school equipment. I also keep some of the rice for food to eat throughout the year.”

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Pili employs casual laborers who are paid on a cash for work basis. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Haji Kihwele, a rice value chain adviser for Oxfam in Tanzania said, “The rice value chain project aims to increase income and quality of life for smallholder farmers, particularly women in Tanzania with a focus on improving their rice production, boost their power in markets through collective action hence ensure they have better access to markets and they sell food produce in fair prices.“

The project, funded by the Scottish government is implemented in 3 regions of Shinyanga, Geita and Simiyu in Northern Tanzania.

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Written by Bill Marwa

Bill is a digital media coordinator with Oxfam in Tanzania, based in Dar es salaam. He also tweets @billmarwa.

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