Farming in Tanzania: Otavina’s story

Otavina is 64 years old. She lives in Kikombwe village in Tanzania.

As widowed mother of seven children (three boys and four girls), Otavina has struggled to provide food for her family.

“Life was so difficult after he died. I continued with farming, and I tried to cook things to sell, so I could get enough food for the children…We do not have enough. Sometimes the plants die before harvest. Because you cannot grow anything, you have no food in your home. So you look for other odd jobs. But if you take on other work, then you have no time to farm.”

In Tanzania, nearly half of the population lives below the poverty line. Stunting – a sign of chronic malnutrition – affects more than one third of children under five years of age. Despite growing 70% of the food needed to feed their country, women farmers find it incredibly difficult to provide nutritious food for their families. They work 15 hour days in the field and lack the income and resources to provide nutritious meals.

“I was growing maize and beans. It is not enough to sell, as there isn’t even enough to eat. Sometimes they all get destroyed due to lack of fertilizers. Then, we have nothing to eat, and nothing to sell. We only managed to get two meals a day. I would often get very hungry, but would try to not let the children know there was not enough food. In your head, you are not ok. Even now, I sometimes think: Will I even make it? When will I ever have enough? When will life be better?”

CARE’s Growing is Learning project supports women farmers like Otavina to improve their crop yields, learn how to improve their family’s nutrition and increase their income from new markets. Farmers learn new skills to improve their existing crop yields, such as organic fertilizer production and seed multiplication.

“There was a village meeting to tell us about this project. There, we decided who will be taking part, with names proposed and a vote to choose. I listened to the plans. They told us about soy, that we will be assisted to farm soy bean, and if we can make enough we will sell it in the market…I learned a lot! If you eat soy you get good fats. It is better than beans and protein.”

This project supports women farmers to enter the profitable soy market by training them in production and supporting women to link into the local markets to sell their supply and earn an income. Soy is a highly suitable crop for the region due to its nutritious benefits, resilience and soil enhancing qualities. Household nutrition will also be improved through awareness sessions and cooking demonstrations.

Otavina looks forward to sharing the harvest with the other women in the community. “Each group is just learning and then we will grow individually.”

“I face many challenges as a woman. Since my husband passed away it was difficult for me to progress. The women’s group is good.”

CARE works with farmers around the world.

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