By Samson Ngoba
Farmers are KOMAZA’s most valuable partners and play a fundamental role in our operations. It is therefore paramount that KOMAZA supports them all along right from recruitment, planting, maintenance and even up to the harvesting of the trees. This will ensure that the farmers reap maximum benefits from the various services offered by our programme. According to some farmers, this is difficult due to several challenges that they face along the way. The challenges most commonly raised are land disputes, the work involved in land preparation, water shortages, and animals damaging the trees. KOMAZA recognizes these challenges as inherent to working in the difficult dryland environment and partners with farmers to overcome these issues together.
Most of the land that KOMAZA farmers reside on is communal land belonging to clans. To mitigate any disputes, KOMAZA involves the village elders and chiefs when signing the MOU between the recruited farmers and KOMAZA. Occasionally, disagreements occur and result in innovative solutions; for example, the farmers may end up relocating the trees to a new plot of land. This was a challenge shared by Martha Fundi, a KOMAZA farmer from Mstara wa Tsatsu. Once relocated, the trees can achieve a healthy existence and production longevity.
For the last two planting seasons KOMAZA has been oversubscribed by farmers who want to plant tree farms. However, land preparation is a labour intensive process and this requires the farmer to commit ample time to have the farm ready for planting before the onset of rains. According to Katoi Kamando Ndoro, this deadline can be difficult to achieve as farmers must sometimes divert tree farm preparation efforts in order to engage in other income generating activities to support their families. KOMAZA aims to lessen the workload immediately before the rains by recruiting farmers months ahead of time, providing the tools and training needed to correctly prepare the land, and encouraging farmers to form groups to assist with land preparation activities.
Water is life. KOMAZA’s model is designed to turn dryland into a value-producing asset. Since KOMAZA farmers live in semi-arid areas where the water supply system is poorly developed, and fetching water can consume much time and energy due to the long distances travelled to obtain this commodity. This can mean that must depend on the unreliable rains to water their trees, according to KOMAZA farmer Gladys Fagio. KOMAZA supports farmers by providing a water-retaining polymer imported from South Africa to capture water at the roots of the trees and slowly release the hydration when rains are late, as well as water barrels to ensure sufficient water supply for young seedlings at the time of planting.
Most KOMAZA farmers are entrepreneurial and rear animals to supplement their incomes. Due to the large tracts of arid land available, the animals are free range grazed. All KOMAZA farmers construct fences out of dead branches or brush, yet as with any naturally-constructed fence, regular repair is required to maintain its security. As KOMAZA farmer Irine Mwadime observes, if the repairs are delayed, the trees may be exposed to damage by animals. By training farmers on fence-construction and including fence maintenance checks in our regular monitoring and evaluation, KOMAZA works with the farmers to ensure the trees are protected and secure.