As the Tanzanian population continues to grow and the rains become less dependable due to climate change, Tanzanian communities have become increasingly susceptible to malnutrition, childhood stunting and hunger. Widespread poverty in rural and urban areas alike threaten food security, or the the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Global Service Corps (GSC) believes that cultures can come together, share ideas and work side-by-side to improve access to nutritious food in vulnerable communities. That's why GSC developed the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program in Tanzania.
Since 2001, GSC has worked to empower Tanzanian families to establish greater food security through the creation of organic household gardens, locally appropriate crops, rain water harvesting systems and more. With the guidance of GSC's staff of local professionals, volunteer participants lead community trainings about small-scale farming techniques to food insecure communities. After building home gardens with smallholder Tanzanian farmers, GSC volunteers and staff ensure the sustainability of the gardens through periodic check-ins and refresher workshops.
GSC's community development work in sustainable agriculture has been recognized by international NGOs such as the USDA and Africare, and is currently supported through grant funding by the USAID and Fintrac. This support allows volunteers to gain hands-on experience with grant-supported international development projects.PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
- A week-long cultural orientation and technical training that includes basic Swahili language lessons, culture and safety guidelines and training in keyhole gardening, bio-intensive agriculture, hafirs (rainwater harvesting systems), seed nurseries and more
- Firsthand service-learning experience leading sustainable agriculture community workshops with GSC's staff of local professionals
- Opportunities to work with vulnerable populations including women's groups, youth, Maasai people and people of other indigenous cultures
- Insight into international development issues and solutions for both rural and urban areas
- A true cultural immersion experience while working, learning and living alongside local Tanzanians
For more information, continue reading below:
The Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security Service-Learning Program is geared toward those interested in agriculture and food security, environmental science, natural resources, ecology, international development, public health or related fields. However, prior agricultural experience is not required. Volunteers from all backgrounds are invited to participate in this program. You must simply have a desire to give something back to the community, and a willingness to work hard and get dirty! The Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security Program requires a two-week minimum commitment but can be extended to three months or more and may, for longer stays include other programmatic modules by participating in the Integrated Service-Learning Program.
During your first week in Tanzania, you and your fellow volunteer participants will attend cultural orientation at the GSC office, which includes basic Swahili lessons, information on safety, culture, and the history of Tanzania, as well as guest lectures on gender issues, home-based care, and living with HIV. During this time you will also receive technical training in bio-intensive agriculture at GSC's demonstration plot on the office grounds. At the conclusion of the week you will find yourself prepared with the knowledge and tools needed to assist in conducting workshops in the community alongside GSC’s team of experts! It is not practical to be proficient in all of the food security innovations after the one-week orientation, so participants will continue to receive in-the-field training throughout the duration of their program.
In collaboration with Fintrac and USAID, Global Service Corps has received funding and support to expand its work to rural and urban communities in the northern region of Tanzania. As a volunteer participant, you will have the opportunity to work in rural and urban settings in order to gain greater insight into local food security issues and international development. Women's groups, farmers, youth, people affected by HIV/AIDS, Maasai and other indigenous cultures are amongst those populations served.
There are a variety of rural and urban trainings in the Sustainable Agriculture Program (see below). Trainings on bio-intensive agriculture, keyhole garden construction, and building rainwater catchment storage “hafirs” are just some aspects of what GSC is doing in an effort to reach its goal of increasing food security and improving the nutrition and health of Tanzania’s most vulnerable populations. During your service-learning placement, your participation in these various activities will depend on the in-country scheduling logistics and the needs of the community. In addition to training new community groups, GSC volunteers and staff members also conduct follow-up workshops with groups previously trained to ensure ongoing support in the communities GSC serves. Occasionally, HIV/AIDS Prevention and Nutrition Education Program volunteers work alongside the Sustainable Agriculture team to educate community groups about the importance of good nutrition. During your first week of orientation, you will be given a more specific overview of your day-to-day schedule.
Training in Bio-Intensive Agriculture
Assisting experienced GSC staff members, you will train farmers in bio-intensive agriculture (BIA), which is a method of small-scale organic farming that involves using double-dug beds, composting, intensive planting, and companion planting to increase crop yields.
Keyhole Gardens offer Tanzanian families a method of sustaining vegetable gardens in unfavorable conditions. Keyhole Gardens are built using recycled materials that help to maintain soil moisture and improve soil health by providing onsite composting. Training families how to construct and care for these gardens increases the fresh produce that is available to communities in both rural and urban settings.
Seed nurseries provide families with a place to germinate and grow seedlings before transplanting them int a Keyhole Garden or double-dug bed. Seed nurseries require less water and provide conditions that are favorable to young seedlings. By starting seeds off right, the plants mature into healthy vegetable crops that produce higher yields.
Training families with limited space and resources on how to build sack gardens provides them with a sustainable means of growing vegetables and improving their diets.
Building Rainwater Catchments, "Hafirs"
In many areas of Tanzania, water shortage is a serious problem. Without water, it is impossible to grow home gardens and keep livestock alive. Building a hafir, a 12 m3 water storage trench lined with plastic or clay, can collect enough rain water to maintain a garden or sustain livestock through the dry season.
The following food security technologies have been used successfully in some of our past trainings. When appropriate, and with adequate funding these methods may again be utilized in the future:
Training in Poultry Vaccinations
year in Tanzania, Newcastle Disease kills 70% of the chicken
population, which has an especially significant impact on poor
households that rely on chickens for food and income generation. By
vaccinating poultry against this life threatening disease, chickens will
live longer thereby being able to produce more eggs and grow larger for
Improved Grain Storage
Grain store training helps rural communities alter their traditional grain stores and reduce the current average losses, which exceed 40% from field to table. Training the local community on improved grain storage techniques and tools allows them to reduce the field-to-table losses.
Food Drying Trainings
Typical on-farm losses from field to table exceed 50% due to the lack of food preservation knowledge and methods. These trainings include alternative low-cost drying structures, education about appropriate drying methods, and sessions on how to reconstitute the dried foods for preparation and use in cooking.
You will no doubt have a rewarding experience helping increase the food security of families in rural and urban areas. Working closely with local communities in remote villages will also give you the opportunity to truly experience the hospitality of this amazing country and to see parts of Tanzania rarely visited by the average tourist!
Click Here to view an illustrated account of a day in the life of Sustainable Agriculture volunteers!
Click Here to see GSC's presentation on food security at the 2014 USAID Joint Nutrition Initative!