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'Mvua za kwanza' - the first rain


In early 2013 I worked with the launch of the findings of an agricultural research project in Tanzania, RIPAT. Having grown up among farmers in rural Denmark this was particularly interesting to me. Down to earth, basic stuff. I learnt one interesting thing during the preparations which I had to go back and share with my dad in Denmark:

When Nyerere said 'mvua za kwanza' on the radio back in the 1970ties, it was a message to the Tanzanians: 'The first rain' - implicitly telling them: 'Go out and dig'.

Nyerere knew.

Now, during the preparation of the launch a Danish researcher was explaining to me the fine importance of why you have to have your soil prepared before the first rain starts as it must benefit from the nitrogen flush. Part of the research project had shown that using a cheap hoe, typically used in Zambia, which is stronger than the regular hoe used in Tanzania, has increased impact for farmers in Tanzania. He, however, had never heard of 'mvua ya kwanza' - that input came from an mzee, the seasoned Tanzanian journalist Jenerali Ulimwengu.

Suddenly everything made sense. I took notes:

Why is it so important that you dig your soil right at the first rain?

Case is that a farmer may loose out on the impact of fertility of the soil the more days he or she delays. Facts also show that the farmers who usually miss out digging their own soil during the first rains are the poorest because either they lack tools or may have to dig others' land first before their own.

When I worked with South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda I learnt to ask about the shift of seasons. Persons with access to a piece of land and seeds do not sit for a workshop, and miss out on the opportunity to dig.

#agriculture #africa #tanzania #ripat #hoe #nyerere #mvuakwanza

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