Using technology to aid farming in rural Tanzania

Farmer training in Serengeti

On 26th April 2021, we commenced agri-technology farmer training in Matare, Serengeti. This is an exciting way of supporting the local community with their work, whilst also engaging the attendees in education and conversation around gender based violence. Hope for Girls and Women, Tanzania, collaborated with PlantNuru, Kenya, to provide the training which explored the use of digital technology to help farmers protect their crops.

We had 20 farmers and 7 community leaders involved in the two day session.  The official opening of the training was delivered by Serengeti’s District Executive Director.  The District Agricultural Officer and District Community Development Officer were also in attendance.

Farmers participate in training

Day one covered the types of disease that can be found in cassava and Maize and how to differentiate between diseases and their impact to crops.

We looked at the approaches that can be used to mitigate the infection of these crops, providing a solution on how to plant cassava and maize when you want to increase your production and possible ways of planting cassava for seed.

Day two included a practical session on how to record crop type data by using PlantVillage app. We visited a maize and cassava farm where disease identification exercises were carried out. Attendees were shown how they can use the  PlantVillage app for detection of diseases and Pests. Farmers can seek advice from extension officers who are close by as well as from other users, using the app.

This is an innovative new stepping stone for farmers to benefit from agri-technology, which will help the production of their crops.

Twenty farmers were given smart phones at the end of the session.  As well as the PlantVillage app, their phones were installed with maps.me and the ODK form to support the reporting of GBV/FGM cases. All farmers signed the contract for receiving their phones to commit themselves on how to use their phones for the targeted work.

Farmer receive their smart phones

We had very positive feedback from the farmers involved in the session who welcomed this opportunity to enhance their output and support their local community, including vulnerable girls and women.

The PlantVillage app can be downloaded on the GooglePlay and Apple App Store.

We will bring you further updates on this important collaboration between Hope for Girls and Women and PlantNuru, as well as with the wider community, over the coming months.

Detecting pests in Maize and Cassava with the PlantNuru app

Agriculture is the backbone of the rural economy in Tanzania and the families of the girls at risk are farmers.

Although in theory there are networks of agriculture extension officers to help them, often in practice they are too far away to be of any use. Therefore, we were very pleased to learn of the PlantVillage Nuru app which seeks to help farmers improve their practice.  In February 2021 TDT  had an online training session for people interested in how to use this free app to detect Fall Army Worm (a pest for maize) and Cassava diseases which was attended by our volunteer and GIS specialist Herry Kasunga. 

Since then he has been out training our Digital Champions to use the app. As maize and cassava are the main staple crops grown in their areas this is particularly important.

Here you can see the Digital Champion for Burunga village, Agness Marinya checking her crops with the app.  She says, “It is an easy way to monitor crops and give you feedbacks on how crops grow, and I will provide training to other farmers in my village.

“With better agriculture people are less likely to need to cut their daughters and sell them for cows.  I have 3 children all girls. I am so proud of my work as a Digital Champion in Burunga, because there have been so much changes in my village.

“Now the number of girls who are cut is reduced. We all need to raise our voices to say no so our children can live free from FGM.”

The slides from our training session are here, and the recording here.  You can also view and download the slides Herry used for training the digital champions below.

Please watch this space for further updates on how this helpful app is being used in Tanzania. 

How mapping is helping Tanzanian villages source water

At the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team global conference on Friday December 4 2020, Herry Kasunga talked about the Water Source mapping project that he has been coordinating with the Hope for Girls and Women digital champions.

This is an extremely important project as the majority of people in Mara, as in the rest of Tanzania, are dependent on rainwater for household water, sanitation and to grow their food.

It is also estimated that 40% of village water sources are degraded or non-functional. The shots below show some of the water points used by the digital champions:

In addition, climate change further threatens water access and means droughts and average temperature rises are likely, coupled with intense flooding events with significant damage to infrastructure and livelihoods, meaning mapping will become even more important.

Herry’s presentation slides can be viewed and downloaded here.

Bringing Hope to ending FGM, via film

Earlier in 2020 we were joined by Liz and Alex as they concluded their round the world trip. They came to Hope to share their skills by producing a film that would reflect the determination, energy and compassion of the team and the work delivered here. Watch the film here:

The film is about an amazing Tanzanian woman, Rhobi Samwelly, and the organization she founded that is rescuing young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in the Serengeti district of Tanzania. It highlights the stories of girls who have fled FGM, as well as the staff and community leaders involved in this effort. We learn about Rhobi’s story and what led her to create the nonprofit, Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. The organization manages two safe houses among many other initiatives and programs, such as school and community education, and community mapping. In this film, we sought to highlight the individuals involved in this effort to rescue the girls, and to show the audience all the amazing collaborative work they are doing.

Alex and Liz with the Hope team
Alex, Liz, and Herry Kasunga of the Hope for Girls and Women team

My husband Alex, and I (Liz) were taking a career gap to travel around the world full-time when we learned about Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. When first planning our around the world trip over 5 years ago, we knew we wanted to spend some time working with a nonprofit in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having both spent time volunteering in Sub-Saharan many years prior, we knew we only wanted to volunteer if we were able to bring a unique set of skills to the table that would have a lasting benefit to a nonprofit.

We both have had an interest in video creation for years, but had only put together a few videos for fun mostly related to travel before we left on our around the world trip.

We created a YouTube channel to document our travels and develop skills that would enable us to create documentaries, which has always been an interest of ours. I have spent most of my career working in the nonprofit/public sector so while I was learning editing and video creation, I immediately saw the potential to utilize these skills to benefit nonprofits by highlighting the amazing work they do which could then be used to reach additional funders and donors. While not everyone can visit rural Tanzania, we thought a film that brings to life the work being done would be the next best thing. 

We had a very strict set of criteria for the type of organization we were looking to work for and we both could not have imagined a more perfect organization than Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. We were looking for an organization that is:

  • community run;
  • working to improve a human rights issue;
  • focused on women and children.
The Hope team
Liz (right) joined the wider Hope team including FGM survivor and Hope founder, Rhobi (middle)

Hope for Girls and Women not only met, but completely exceeded all of our criteria. We loved that it was founded and led by an amazing, passionate Tanzanian woman, Rhobi, who was such an inspiration.

I had some background knowledge about FGM in Tanzania, having written my final cumulative paper on it while completing my Master of Public Health.

So not only did it align very well with my interests, I also was able to see that they were implementing all of the best practices I had learned. They were the first and only organization we reached out to, while we were living in a van and exploring New Zealand. We had a quick phone call with Janet and Rhobi after sending a few samples of our work. We were then invited to come to the remote town of Mugumu in the Serengeti district of Tanzania. Getting to Mugumu from New Zealand was quite the experience! Our total travel time was over 60 hours consisting of 5 flights, and a very long car ride.

Our experience in Tanzania at Hope for Girls and Women will remain as my favorite experience on our around the world trip.  The entire team was so welcoming and accommodating to us following them around with video equipment. Without their language translation, logistical support, and the stories shared by the girls, the film would not have been possible. We really appreciate the kindness that was shown to us by the whole team while we were in Tanzania. 

While we were in Mugumu, COVID-19 was declared a global health pandemic. American citizens were urged to come home or plan to stay away for an indefinite time period. We were so torn and heartbroken about this, but made the hard decision to return home. As a result, we were unable to finish filming everything that we had set out to film. However, while quarantining in the United States, we had enough footage to compile and edit the film over the next two months. 

We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to highlight the work of an organization that truly deserves it. We were so inspired by the girls and all of the staff there. We will forever cherish this experience. 

Thank you!
Liz & (Alex) Clark

Against my will: A collaborative effort to end gender inequality

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><a rel="noopener" href="http://www.unfpa.org&quot; target="_blank">United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)</a> has published its State of the World Population 2020 paper. <em>Against my will: Defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality</em>, has contributions from many important figures focused on improving female prospects globally through a combination of determination and ongoing action.United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has published its State of the World Population 2020 paper. Against my will: Defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality, has contributions from many important figures focused on improving female prospects globally through a combination of determination and ongoing action.

Front cover of State of World Population 2020: Against My Will

Rhobi Samwelly tells her harrowing story of experiencing near fatal female genital mutilation and seeing it kill her friend, and how this galvanised the founding of Hope for Girls and Women and the team’s ongoing work. Rhobi is featured from page 67 of the report.
There is a wealth of important information about gender inequality within the document.  We were therefore keen to share it as a wider reading resource for those campaigning for an end to FGM and those interested in learning more about this and other practices that aim to prohibit the rights of women.

The full report can be downloaded via the UNFPA site from the button below: