Early June in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania is the start of the cold season. Temperatures drop, and as none of the homes have heating systems, heavy quilts are needed for warmth at night. But today, it still looks like summer. The weaving, red dirt road is lined with sunflowers and the rolling hills are covered in lush green trees, a stunning reminder of God’s presence in nature.
It is here that Martin Kembo Mwamwezi, 64, hunches over in a field of what looks like daisies. He is harvesting pyrethrum, a flower used in the production of organic pesticides. A byproduct, pyrethrum marc, is also sold on the export market and is used primarily in the manufacturing of mosquito repellant coils and in cattle feed.
Finding the future in flowers
Tanzania is the world’s second largest producer of pyrethrum, and for smallholder farmers like Martin, particularly those who use best practices for production and harvesting, it can provide a substantial and steady income in a country where the average per capita income is only $936 a year.
Martin started farming pyrethrum when he was 23 years old and farms with his wife. Because of pyrethrum income, he sent his five children through to secondary school and has paid the school fees for all 12 of his grandchildren, a source of well-earned pride. He also grows maize for food and he uses the money from pyrethrum to grow other foods and to purchase crops like beans and peas.
Your love is building resiliency
Pyrethrum is a cash business, providing quick and ongoing returns since farmers can start harvesting 3-4 months after planting, and continue to harvest every two weeks for 10 months of the year. The demand for pyrethrum and crop production, as well as its price, has continued to grow year after year, which also makes it an increasingly effective investment for farmers.
It is not without its challenges, however. This year, ripple effects of the Ukraine war sharply raised fertilizer prices, which many companies — including the major buyer of pyrethrum in the country, Pyrethrum Company of Tanzania (PCT) — purchase from Russia or Ukraine. While their pyrethrum crops have yet to suffer, many small pyrethrum farmers have been unable to purchase fertilizer for their consumption crops, meaning less food to feed their families.
For many years, Lutheran World Relief has collaborated with both PCT and farmers to help maximize their crops, allowing farmers to grow a better-quality crop. Because of the generous hearts of Faithful Neighbors like you, farmers are being trained and supported with the proper tools, equipment and education. It’s helping them fetch top dollar for their crops and to be more resilient to external market changes, allowing them to better provide for their families and their futures. Many also receive Mission Quilts and School Kits, meaning your love is reaching families not only in the fields, but also in their homes and schools as well.
Remaining hopeful for the future during uncertain times
Angelina Amon Mwanzonga, 50, has been farming pyrethrum essentially since she was born. Her husband, Edward Peter Mwanzyesye, 68, also farms with her to support their four children and 11 grandchildren. Because of the rising prices, they didn’t purchase fertilizer for their consumption crops this year and as a result, they have a low yield of maize. Angelina worries that her children and grandchildren won’t be able to eat. They all rely on the maize she and Edward grow.
Their son-in law Japhet Amon Mwasonga, 47, also farms pyrethrum. This year, he only farmed half the amount he normally would because of fertilizer costs. He used less fertilizer on the land he did farm and now his maize isn’t growing as it should. With his troubles, he has earned less this year and fears he won’t be able to afford his children’s school fees or feed his large family. Despite the hardships, the farmers remain grateful for the kindness of their Lutheran neighbors and hopeful for the future and continue to find reasons to celebrate their successes.