I know we were altogether in spirit yesterday, remembering Maria Agnese, and thinking about ways that we could honor her and carry on her amazing work. Below is a posting made to Dadamac yesterday on her beloved project in Tanzania, the answer to a heartfelt wish I had sent into the universe to know more about her work there. Sometimes our prayers are answered! I have replied to her partner, Ramadhan, regarding an article on Maria Agnese's work, written by a volunteer who has observed the project.
Plz read below this exciting recounting, and hopefully we can discuss and collaborate on ways to help and serve this amazing endeavor.
With love and blessings always, Janet
Green Revolution in Tanzania: Farming the eco-friendly way with nature’s providence
By John Bohemsky
The developed nations and the developing nations are locking horns in Copenhagen and Cancun, trying to gain the maximum out of these international gatherings for their own cause, albeit in the name of climate change and global warming. There have been drafts made and redrafts drawn; yet no concrete steps have been taken thus far to come to a consensus for a world that is secure, prosperous and equitable. The G20 summits and meetings on climate change have all become a platform for a global political arm twisting and spectacle. Is there a solution? Is there a way out?
It is common sense that water is essential and critical source of any agricultural activity. Tanzanians, whether involved in agriculture or not, would agree that water scarcity in Tanzania has reached its peak. According to a recent newspaper article, Tanzania is suffering from what is commonly referred to as water stress. According to the Water and Irrigation ministry, the amount of water available for use per head per year is projected to fall from the current 2,150 cubic meters to 1,950 cubic meters by the year 2015 and further to 1,500 cubic meters by 2025.
Tanzania, and most of East Africa, has a wealth of water resources but many parts of the country are still faced with water shortage, thus disturbing the equation between demand and availability per person. There have been numerous factors noted for the shortage of water in some parts of the country including frequent drought, environmental degradation, contamination of water sources, and of course the high cost of investing in the construction of water infrastructure.
There is an urgent need to educate the general public about the causes of water shortage and finding alternative methods to find sources of water especially in the agriculture sector to come up with a long term plan for water security.
One farm, in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, is doing exactly that. Acknowledging the fact that the future will face acute water shortages it is finding alternative methods to irrigate its crops by harvesting rainwater. An idea it believes will solve all its water needs, thus coming up with other supportive plans for a long term solution.
Maranye Agro Processing and Social Business Limited started with a mission to produce and sell high quality organic foods and lead in organic farm industry in Tanzania. A concept conceptualized by Ramadhani Juma Chatta and his business partner, Maria Agnes Giraudo, an Italian national. Ramadhan had been involved in many business entrepreneurship before but never in the agriculture sector. It all began when he visited farm lands in Zimbabwe where small scale farms were yielding high growth rate and were following modern and eco-friendly sustainable methods of irrigation. He wanted to do the same in Tanzania. When Maria showed interest in doing business in Tanzania he was quick to pass on the idea of getting into agriculture.
Getting the right land to start their agriculture business didn’t come easy. They had to approach the district commission for procurement. Since the district commission did not have any land for leasing, they were asked to approach the village communities. So they had to go village by village looking for an appropriate piece of land. After days of search they found one in the village of Mlegele in the district of Kisaraew about 50 kilometres from Dar es Salaam. Initially the village provided only 50 acres of land.. While trying to strike a deal with the villagers it was learnt that the village did not have any source of fresh water for almost four years. The only well they had had gone dry and Ramadhan decided to resurrect the well to help the community. Once the bore well was repaired and started pumping water, the villagers were convinced of the social nature of Maranye, and thus an additional 50 acres of land was bought.
The idea behind Maranye is to offer training to the farming community in Tanzania to find a balance with life and mother Earth by harvesting rain water in ways that don’t’ threaten the fragile eco system and creating clean burning biogas that provides an alternative to burning fossil fuel and cutting down trees for firewood. According to Ramadhan farming is not only a business but a way of life. And thus he insists on adopting an eco conscious way of life and wants everyone to adopt this method.
He has been harvesting rain water in his farm and has already reaped the benefits of it in abundance. Since cultivating his land he has already harvested maize, peanuts and other beans successfully without the need to bore a well. His only regret is that he doesn’t have a bigger capacity to store rain water. At the moment he has cultivated more than 76000 pineapples. He considers himself fortunate because the region has been receiving rains on a daily basis recently. He has also experimented with many a different crop to prove that the land is fertile to cultivate any type of crop so long as there is water.
The area where the farm is located does not have any rivers flowing nearby and there is no other source of water. But the area gets good rainfall – almost 1000-1800 millimetres of rain per year and thus an ideal place to harvest rainwater. They dug up two ponds and soon the ponds started to fill up and overflow. That’s when they realized that they needed to dig up bigger ponds and also realized that rainwater harvesting was their solution to solve their water problems. All they need now is to increase their capacity to catch this rain water and also increase the capacity to store them.
Being eco-conscious they want to contribute as much as possible to protect the environment. So they have managed to build a bio-gas production unit and the process is underway. The idea is to teach the villages how to produce bio-gas so they can be part of this eco-friendly process. There are also plans to make charcoal from grass so people can avoid cutting down precious trees.
Ramadhan and his team want to make this as a centre of agriculture learning. They want to involve the community in the production and give them the sense of ownership by sharing with them whatever is being harvested.
“Climate change and global warming is a big problem we are facing in this world and we are very much conscious of it. We want to encourage others in agriculture production by adopting green eco-friendly method and encourage them not to cut down trees but help plant more trees. This is going to be our major tasks”, says Ramadhan.
In a recently organized community development program, on the 16th of December, 2010, Ramadhan and his team distributed each participant a quarter kilogram of green grams as a seed contribution to the community to help them start their own cultivation in a small way. They also used this opportunity to educate the community about rain water harvesting. It seems that the seed of eco-friendly farming is sown and Tanzanians are ready to reap its rewards.
Thanks you so much, for the idea of people living close to each other, and being connected. That is the human relationship. Maria taught us, by doing, how much that relationship counts.
My name is Ramadhan, the co-founder of the Organic Agriculture company Maria owns in Africa. Maybe one of its kind in Africa ever established, and the eco-friendly environment Maria has contributed to the EARTH.
The attached is an observation made by John Bohemsky, a volunteer from India, who visited the Organic Farm being created by Maria. I spent my day on 26 March 2011, alone, meeting new people in the agriculture field and environmental destruction areas.
I met with a farm manager from a big farm in our district, I visited the places where young men engage themselves in destruction of trees, by making charcoal, and we had a lot of sharing. All promised to visit the organic farm established by Maria in Masanganya Village. What about you?
Make a wish to visit this marvelous project.
Dear Ramadhan, Pam, John, and All,
I was thinking of our dear Maria Agnese every minute yesterday, and mourning her passing but also celebrating her incredible life and spirit. The thought occurred to me to ask about her work in TZ, so that we might all share that and find ways to be helpful towards its development and completion.
You surely read my mind, and I believe a higher power to be at work in answering this request and prayer. Thanks immensely to Ramadhan for this inspiring posting, and I hope to pass this along to other forums, as well as collaborate with others here on advancing these exciting and visionary activities and ideas!
With deepest sympathies for the loss of our dear friend, and greatest hopes that we can work together to realize her--and your-- dreams! Blessings and infinite appreciation, Janet