In Tanzania, two big problems that farmers face today are irregular rainfall and mono-cropping. In the past, there were two or more rainy seasons each year, March through May and October to December.

Now farmers do not know when the rains will come or if they will continue once they have started. This makes it very difficult for them to know when to plant, and it is very risky when they do commit to planting their seeds into the soil. Many farmers have also grown accustomed to only planting one type of crop (maize or cassava) in their fields, and this mono-cropping is doubly problematic because it depletes the fertility of the soil and because a good maize crop is so dependent on consistent rainfall.

These problems are particularly prevalent in northern Tanzania where World Renew and its partner organization, the Sengerema Informal Sector Association (SISA), are implementing a land rights and food security project with funding from the Foods Resource Bank (FRB). To combat the irregular rainfall and soil infertility, SISA has introduced new, drought-tolerant crops, including sunflowers and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes to the farmers in Sengerema and encouraged them to practice crop rotation.

The farmers that have received the sunflower seed and training in how to grow it have quickly embraced the new crop and are seeing great potential for improving their food security.

Antimini Masalu from Tabaruka village is one of the farmers who received training from SISA and is now growing sunflowers on his two-acre farm. Antimini is married and has six children—two sons and four daughters. They are growing the crop together and are very excited about the developing results. “I am the first farmer to grow sunflowers in Tabaruku. It is a new crop for the area,”

The women have been able to pay their children’s school fees, and many have bought goats and cows or built new homes with the income they earned from processing the oil. 

Antimini says. “I learned about the benefits of growing sunflowers from a training provided by SISA. I grew cotton as a cash crop for many years, but it’s problematic because the seeds are expensive, it is vulnerable to pests, and the cotton market is very unstable. When SISA encouraged me to try growing sunflowers as well as cotton, I decided to take a chance on trying something new. I learned that sunflowers have many benefits, including the value of its seeds for producing oil and the fact that the market for it is very strong.”

Now as Antimini stands beside his tall sunflower plants and waits for harvest day to arrive, he is excited about the future and what the sunflower crop means for him.

“My plan is to grow even more sunflowers in my fields in the next few years since I am seeing that it is such a good crop,” he says. ”I am very happy with how it has produced. Growing sunflowers is not difficult work, and I expect that it will bring many benefits to the lives of everyone in my family for this year and the years to come. “The training we received really built up the farming skills in our local community.

It has helped us recognize that God is indeed the provider of all things here on earth, especially in agriculture,” Antimini said. “I thank God for His blessings, and also thank SISA, World Renew, and FRB for bringing these trainings to us.”

One reason that Antimini can be confident about the income he will earn from his sunflowers is due to another part of SISA’s program—training in adding value through food processing. The village of Nyampande lies a few minutes down the highway from Tabaruka.

There, the Umiku group is operating a sunflower-oil press. A couple of years ago, this group of 26 farmers (22 women and four men) was trained by SISA in sunflower-seed processing. The product is a refined oil that can then be sold in the market. With some financial assistance from the Tanzanian government’s agriculture department (DASIP), the Umiku group purchased an oil press. They then rented a building along the highway where they process the oil in their mill. This machine is the largest oil processing mill in all of Sengerema and Geita, an area with a population of more than a million, 85% of which are farmers.

Many farmers come to the mill every day to sell their sunflowers or get their crop processed into oil to use at home. The seeds go in the hopper at the top of the press, the oil is extracted, the sediment is removed, and refined oil comes out the bottom spigot. The group either sends the oil back with the farmer who brought it or sells it at their roadside stand. Now for the first time, a locally grown, freshly pressed sunflower oil is available in the market in the District of Sengerema. The only oil that was available before this was cotton oil, which is much less nutritious.

The group can process 200 liters of oil per day, and the machine can be used throughout the year since farmers can store their sunflower crop and bring it to the mill when the price is good, instead of having to sell it at harvest time.

The Umiku group, especially the women members, have benefited from working with sunflowers and sunflower oil. The women have been able to pay their children’s school fees, and many women have bought goats and cows or built new homes with the income they earned from processing the oil. They also realize the value of using cleaner, more nutritious sunflower oil in their homes. One group member, Melania Kisumo, says, “I can see the health benefits developing among the families in the village as more people switch from cotton oil to sunflower oil. The children are looking healthier. I suffer from TB, but I feel better now that I am using sunflower oil in my house. I feel healthier and stronger. I am very happy with this project and the sunflower oil.”

As you would expect in such a large region,
 there is a very high demand for using the oil press among the sunflower farmers in the area. The Umiku group’s goal now is to buy their own property to construct a bigger building that they would own, and to buy a bigger machine so that they can keep up with the demand and benefit more sunflower farmers in Sengerema.

Please lift up this group and farmers like Antimini in your prayers as they find new ways to feed their families and improve food security and health in Tanzania.

Pray that they would see God’s provision for them with rain, new knowledge, and healthier households.

Chris Enns

Program Consultant
World Renew Tanzania