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A lifeline for farmers in Tanzania

In November last year, I saw an emergency intervention – the very heart of Concern Worldwide’s work.

I live and work in Tanzania, where farmers have been struggling to cultivate food due to sporadic rain causing poor harvests.

Distributing seeds

The European Commission (EC) has funded Concern to distribute seeds, giving farmers a chance to grow again this season. Many of the poorest farmers had no seeds to plant. Without assistance they would be hungry again this year. I played my part in securing the funds from the EC, so I was eager to see my contribution first hand.

All too familiar

We drove a couple of hours north from Iringa Town to a village called Kehorogota. I watched the villagers unload the bags of maize seeds from the truck. They waited patiently to sign their forms and weigh out their 5kg of seeds. They know the procedure too well. They already received food aid from the government last year. If the rains are poor again, they may receive it this year as well.

Meeting Halima

I spoke to Halima. She didn’t know her age, but in Tanzania where the life expectancy is just 55, she is a very old lady. She is somebody’s mum, somebody’s grandma. She apologised for “disturbing” me, even though I approached her to talk. She has a good sense of humour and she clasped my hand like my own mum does. At her age, she should be resting and enjoying her days. But she was born into this dry place in Iringa, so her life has always been hard. It shows on her fragile face.   

 

She works throughout the year making “pombe” – an alcohol made from maize. She used to do it three times a month but now she’s too old. “My arms hurt because it’s so hard,” she told me. Because she hasn’t cultivated any maize, she has to buy it to prepare the drink. With maize at the highest price she has known since she was a child, she makes just €4 profit on 120 litres, and the process wears her out.  

 

Halima told me that without the seeds she would have to beg again from friends in the village. At least this year she has a chance to cultivate maize. And, she says, “if I have more food then, maybe I’ll look a bit younger.”

A lifeline

Tanzania was Concern Worldwide’s first long-term development programme. But humanitarian relief will always be at the very heart of our operations, working to relieve the suffering of people like Halima. These high-quality and drought-tolerant seeds are a lifeline for poor farmers, who will be praying the weather is on their side this year.