Impacts of Climate Change and COVID-19
In 2019 WAMBOMA began supplying hotels and restaurants with fresh, quality local produce. Feedback was positive. Having produced a business plan establishing that the co-op would be self sufficient in three years, it has been constrained: first by the severe impacts of climate change, and now with the international pandemic and the closure of hotels.
Climate change resulted in flash floods which washed away crops three times and also with drought. The consequences of the floods are not only lost crops and income but the creation of soil degradation and gullies. The snows of Kilimanjaro are diminishing and the farmers who are on its western slopes, which had been water abundant, were allowed water for one hour a day only in the hot season. This is insufficient to sustain the crops. The villages had no tanks, no wells, no pumps, no electricity and no toilets. The women cook primarily on wood in outside shacks. After the destruction of their crops they had no capital to reinvest in new seed and could no longer save.
The project has been able to mitigate these impacts through very generous donations and crowdfunding which enabled the project to erect an industrial sized greenhouse, a tank, a pump and drip irrigation in each village The women have been trained to manage all of these and the greenhouses are flourishing.
The Greenhouse Farms: A Report by Grace, Manager of the Wamboma Co-operative
In March 2020, the women farmers from Mailisita and Namuai villages felt privileged to receive a greenhouse from the project stakeholders. The women were very happy and have expressed so much their gratitude to the co-op management team, as well as to Equality in Tourism. In Namuai the women’s chairperson, Mama Eunice, spoke on behalf of her fellow women. “The greenhouses have come at the best time in our lives,” she said. “We have battled drastic climatic changes that have destroyed our crops, sometimes leaving us penniless. These climate-change disasters are mostly unforeseen and it has been hard to protect our crops without resources such as greenhouses. But here we are, celebrating receiving our first co-op greenhouse. We are beyond delighted and happy. We feel like heroes again.”
To the applause of the women, Mama Eunice continued: “With this greenhouse, the women will be able to farm for their future, as our co-op slogan says. We are confident to say that we have finally seen and reached for the light at the end of the tunnel. We will now be able to do our farm activities all year round without hesitation. The heavy rainfalls, flash floods and extensive droughts don’t scare us anymore. We are moving forward with great zeal and energy, working together to end poverty and improve our living standards.”
The women in Mailisita were also excited to receive their own greenhouse. They cleared and sprayed the land before transplanting their crops in the greenhouse. Mama Elitruda Soka, the group’s treasurer, spoke for the women, saying: “We are so happy to receive our greenhouse. We extend our gratitude to the whole management team and our beloved Ms Tricia for making this happen. With the greenhouse in place, the women can produce quality products needed by the tourist market. We are all aware of how greenhouses can prevent pests and diseases. We have all wished to practice organic farming to meet market demand. Now, we will be able to do that. This will also positively affect the quantity of produce that we can offer to our clients.”
The women in both villages agreed that these greenhouses will offer a new, brighter future, not only for themselves for their families, too. They know that they’ll grow better-quality produce, which will attract new markets and increase their incomes. The women save their money in their highly valued micro-finance scheme. They can take loans out against their savings, which they use to expand their farm activities and address their household needs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating news for the women farmers. Tourism has been hit hard by events. There are few visitors and all the hotels are closed. Now the women can’t predict if they will get a good market for their crops. Yet, the women remain positive, taking precautionary measures to keep working on their farms and in the greenhouses and depending on the tiny businesses that many of them have set up following their entrepreneurial training. Although they might well have lost the hotel market, they know that, for the first time, they will have food security for themselves and their families. Destinations across the world that are over-dependent on tourism, such as Kilimanjaro, are struggling because tour operations have stopped.
The project had been very excited because a leading ethical adventure operator was due to offer financial support by bringing its groups to the farms to buy provisions from the co-op and enjoy lunches prepared by the women. It was a wonderful opportunity that is now, very sadly, on hold.
Lucy is a WAMBOMA cooperative member in Namwai village.
Before joining the Empowering Farming Women Through Tourism Project in 2019, Lucy grew enough vegetables just to feed her family. With training in agricultural skills and farming as a business, she was able to start selling okra and peppers to hotels in the Kilimanjaro region and start saving for the first time in her life.
With her newfound savings, Lucy was able to invest in her passion and buy a sewing machine and materials to start making dresses. She likes to create tailor made African prints and hopes to one day supply school uniforms for local children.
Lucy’s business has taken a hit during the Covid-19 pandemic. Without tourists and hotels to supply, she has lost a valuable market. She has had to go back to selling her crops on the marketplace for little or no profit.
Faced with this challenge, and now equipped with entrepreneurial training, Lucy put her tailoring skills to good use and created over 700 facemasks which she distributed to schools, church members and around her village.
She is fighting for her place in the economy. She hopes that soon she will be able to sell on the tourist market again and make enough capital to expand her business.
In the absence of tourists and with hotels closed, the project is planning how it can survive the crisis. It has always operated on a shoestring, dependent on its dedicated manager, Stuart, to ensure that it has a future. It is now seeking funding to train the women and provide the equipment for drying and packaging their produce, for creating a website and delivering Farm to Table farm boxes, and for buying all necessary protective and sanitary equipment, such as sanitisers, buckets with taps, and soap.
They would value and appreciate your help.