The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) took part in the NaneNane festival held in Arusha, Tanzania, to showcase its “Mbili Mbili” technology. NaneNane, a Swahili name meaning “eight,” is an annual farmers’ festival held during the first eight days of August by the national government in collaboration with other actors in the agricultural sector. This year, however, the festival ran from 1 to 12 August 2019 following an exceptional extension of days by the national government to ensure that as many farmers as possible would be impacted.

The Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) of Selian and the Babati District Council (BDC) have been the key national collaborators during the 6 years of research in Babati District, northern Tanzania, that have partnered with CIAT during the festival. Alongside were four agricultural extension staff members who have been working together with CIAT in rigorous agricultural research, in their respective villages, and four farmers who have been direct beneficiaries of the newly introduced technologies. About 900 participants from Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Manyara regions of Tanzania were greatly inspired by the technologies and information on good agricultural practices offered by CIAT during the entire period.

The innovation

Mbili Mbili and doubled-up legume are two (alongside other) technologies being tested by CIAT in Babati District, examples of showcased technologies during the festival. The high performance and increased production potential of the two technologies prompted their display. The name Mbili Mbili is derived from the Swahili word “Mbili,” meaning two maize rows alternating with two legume species. The technical aspect within Mbili Mbili is the manipulation of plant spatial configuration, within the normal intercrop system, to increase light penetration to the legumes, oftentimes shaded by cereals. The ultimate expectation is increased legume (pigeon pea and bean) productivity without interfering with the productivity of the maize crop.

Similar to Mbili Mbili is the doubled-up legume technology, in which pigeon peas are intercropped with beans, an improvement of common pure bean cropping. Both technologies produce two intercropped legumes (pigeon pea and bean), with reduced competition for light, moisture, and nutrients, while maximizing the use of land and labor for increased crop yield.

Benefits

The two systems are food secure and climate smart. They offer staggered harvests, beginning with bean, maize, and later pigeon pea, thus reducing the risk of crop loss due to variable weather. In addition, they allow an extra bean cycle after the first harvest. Other benefits involve the following:

  • Increased income generation vis-à-vis pure bean stands.
  • Improvement of soil fertility through atmospheric nitrogen fixation, hence reducing expenses on nitrogenous fertilizers.
  • Minimized cattle invasion into crop fields after maize and bean harvest, and their effects on soil physical degradation due to the growing period of pigeon pea that extends into the dry season.
  • Increases in year-round soil cover due to the different growth cycles of the three crops established in this system, which helps to reduce soil erosion and nutrient leaching.

Besides the two technologies, CIAT was able to educate and inspire both farmers and stakeholders on the importance of using fertilizers in crop production. It was interesting to hear views from farmers who use either inadequate or no fertilizer during crop production. In fact, all appreciated the positive impact of applying appropriate fertilizer rates in the right place and at the right time during crop growth.

The District Agriculture, Irrigation and Cooperative Officer (DAICO), Babati District Council, explains to participants the necessity of applying nutrient inputs during crop production.

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