Today’s blog post comes from Jackson Ruvamuwabo, our Community Development Manager. Jackson teaches our farmer training classes, conducts one-on-one farmer visits, and builds relations with local village government.
Seed Change works with over 400 smallholder palm oil farmers in the Kigoma region; one of them is John Ibrahim from Kizenga village. Before joining Seed Change, the only option within John’s reach was to farm the local, low-yielding palm oil trees. He spent many hours tending these uneconomic and slow-growing trees, which took 8-10 years to mature.
When Seed Change first came to Kizenga, John was among the first farmers to join. He told us at the time that he was happy to be joining Seed Change and excited about the positive impact the increased income would have on his family. Since then John says that he has been very pleased with the progress his new trees are making, saying that they are growing more quickly than the old ones. In fact, they are doing so well that John tells us the only challenge he has faced is dealing with all the questions from his neighbours asking where he got his new trees.
People in Kizenga were understandably wary of Seed Change in the beginning. If something sounds too good to be true, it often is – not everybody in the village was chomping at the bit to take new trees. And so one of the best things to come from John’s experience is that it has shown other smallholder farmers the benefits of working with Seed Change. These farmers are now keen to make changes to improve their situation.
John also takes full advantage of our Farmer Extension Program, which focuses on supporting the development of farmer groups and running farmer training sessions. The goal is to ensure that farmers like John get the very most from their new trees and become empowered actors in the palm oil value chain. By helping farmers form strong associations and learn agricultural best practices, financial literacy, and environmental awareness we can maximise the financial gains they will receive from their new high-yield trees.
More than a year after first receiving his trees, John says his first positive impressions of Seed Change have lasted. John is now looking forward to harvesting the fruit of his labours for the next 30 years.