Tanzanian women farmers taking the lead banner image

Tanzanian women farmers taking the lead

t-story-19.jpgWomen farmers in rural Tanzania gain fruitful results in influencing traditionally male-oriented structures of resource ownership.

While community level awareness raising campaigns and trainings are leaving their print in upsetting gender imbalances, women farmers are also mobilizing to pinpoint and embark on income generating ventures that they can claim ownership on.

One of those women farmers is Merisiana Nade. Merisiana is 41 years old and a mother of four children. She is a member of Tumaini Farmer Field School from Kilimatembo village, Karatu District, Tanzania. The Tumaini Farmer Field School has 21 female members and nine male members. Before joining the group in 2010, Merisiana spent most of her time at home working on the farm, but unable to claim control over the returns to any significant extent. 

She heard about CPAR's Farmers First initiative at a community meeting and decided to join a Farmer Field School group that was learning the value of growing papaya. During the meetings Merisiana raised the concern that her husband would not allow her to plant papaya because the papaya trees would take up space used for cash crops. This salient point led to a wider discussion over resource ownership and gender imbalances. Soon afterwards, a training workshop was conducted specifically for women, focusing on taking a critical look at gender challenges and developing leadership skills among women farmers. Successfully completing the training, Merisiana soon found herself elected as the Chairperson of her Farmer Field School group.

By participating in training on papaya production and management, Merisana became equipped with the knowledge that papaya production does not necessarily entail a negative impact on cash crop production. She was then able to negotiate with her husband, and ultimately, to move ahead with papaya prodution. She noted: “Now I have enough leadership skills to negotiate with my husband about land use and discuss the plan for our maize field. He now understands why I need to be able to plant papayas with the other crops.”

Merisiana invited her husband to the Farmer Field School meetings and her husband realized that his wife and other women were gaining knowledge and skills on papaya production while also gaining important knowledge on sexual and reproductive health topics.

Today Merisiana and her family are intercropping papaya with their maize and pigeon pea crops. “You see, if it was not for Farmer Field School training on gender and leadership, I would not have the confidence to discuss land use with my husband. Now, my kids have access to nutritious fruit and my income has been improved by selling papaya.” said Merisiana.

She invited other women from her village to visit her farm to see how she is successfully managing her papaya production initiative, and is actively distributing papaya seeds and planting materials to them so that they may duplicate the effort.

“Although women in my village do not control land, I believe that with more knowledge on gender issues and leadership skills, women will be able to negotiate the use of their land in order to accommodate their needs and their family’s needs and priorities.” concludes Merisiana.