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SHARP and its partners are looking for ways to assist smallholders to assess, monitor and avoid deforestation caused by agricultural expansion, with an initial focus on palm oil.

HCV interview: Mwajuma

Meet Mwajuma Hemedi, a Tanzanian palm oil grower

Since her husband passed away in 2003, Mwajuma Hemedi has faced many challenges in providing for her seven children. Mwajuma is a farmer from western Tanzania who grows maize, cassva and tomatoes on her 6 acres of land. Mwajuma joined Seed Change, an organisation that provides smallholders with training and support to establish small plantations of high-yielding oil palm trees. Mwajuma is now part of the Upendo farmers group, which grows oil palm in Mahembe Village, Kigoma.

We got the opportunity to interview Mwajuma about her cultivation of oil palm and her thoughts on the HCV process. 

What made you start growing oil palm?

We are subsistence farmers but by growing palm oil I can make some money which can be used to buy extra food not grown on my own farm and to pay school fees for my children. There is no other way for me to make money. I really wanted to change my life so I joined Seed Change to get access to high-yielding seedlings. I had a quarter acre of the local variety planted on my land but knew this would never be enough to sustain my family. With my new high-yielding trees I will be able to do even more. I will go from nothing to something.

What are the challenges of being an oil palm farmer?

The work is difficult, especially in processing fresh fruit bunches because we do this manually using local equipment. It is very hard work and it produces low quality palm oil. Our biggest challenge is inputs, access to fertiliser and high-yielding varieties of seedlings.

How do you sell your harvest?

I process my fruits using a local machine. I sell the oil by the litre in a plastic bottle at the village market. Sometimes I sell my fresh fruit bunches to neighbouring farmers, who process the oil.

What made you decide to take part in the HCV programme?

Seed Change offered to teach my palm oil group about HCVs. I wanted to learn more about how to take care of the environment because it is important to me. I learned why it’s important to care about the environment long term.

What activities and trainings did you participate in?

I participated in three trainings and two group meetings specifically dedicated to the HCV approach. The trainings and discussions were led by the Community Development Officer and included both theoretical and practical sessions.

What do High Conservation Values mean to you?

HCVs mean life – by having a good environment the people will be happy, disease will be reduced, and we will have enough water. Managing HCVs will be the way to maintain our forests and for the land to be regenerated. We will experience land that is more fertile and harvests will be good. We will enjoy the land of our childhood.

In what ways has your farmers group agreed to manage the HCVs in your area?

We have all agreed to stop burning crop residue and vegetation, stop washing clothing in the stream, not to kill animals and not to plant near the stream. We passed on information about deforestation to other farmers, even those who are not members of the Upendo group.

Where there any challenges during the project?

The group was worried that maybe someone would burn vegetation even though we agreed not to but that has not happened.

How have you benefited from the project?

My farming has changed. I can see the palm oil trees are growing very well. I am now a tree friend – I do not burn vegetation, I protect the forest. I am now a water friend – I do not dig our plant around our water sources.

Photo: Seed Change

Details

Name: Mwajuma Hemedi

Age: 45

Land: 1 acre of oil palm, 6 acres of farm

Lives: Mahembe Village, 15 km from Kigoma

Farmer group: Upendo Group

What is the HCV for smallholders approach?

The High Conservation Values (HCV) for smallholders approach aims to support smallholders to discuss the concepts of HCV and ecosystem services, identify the likelihood of HCVs in the area where they farm and develop plans to monitor and manage them.

The SHARP Partnership has collaborated with Seed Change to conduct field testing of the HCV for smallholders approach in western Tanzania. Read more