What does it mean to be climate smart in Africa? Under the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) Tanzania project, funded by the EU, an ecovillage approach was implemented in two phases (2010–2013 and 2015–2019) with the overall aim of helping communities to become climate smart within the context of ever-increasing erratic and unpredictable rainfall patterns. As a result, multiple climate-smart activities were introduced, including climate-smart agriculture and livestock-smart agriculture. A further project impact concerned encouraging communities to rely less on rain-fed agriculture and to start up other income-generating activities, including environmentally friendly small businesses.
Five ecovillage projects situated in different agro-ecological zones in Tanzania were set up with the aim of building resilience against climate change and reducing poverty. They carried out activities ranging from training farmers in how to conserve water and prevent soil erosion by creating terraces on farms situated on mountain slopes, using bio-fertilisation including farmyard manure, crop rotation, intercropping, building energy-saving stoves, natural resource management and enforcing by-laws to conserve water sources, among others.
However, due to the varying landscape (semi-arid regions, rainforests, small islands and the Maasai Steppe) and the nature of the project participants (farmers and pastoralists), each project experienced its own unique results.
"Climate-smart agriculture incorporates an integrated approach which ultimately helps with food security in an ever-changing climate."
- Sylvester Mziray, Assistant Muheza District Agriculture Ofﬁcer who worked alongside the East Usambara project in eastern Tanzania.
Mr Mziray has encouraged the planting of ‘early maturing crops’, including maize and beans which are pest- and disease-tolerant, as this helps with food security. These crops include clove and cinnamon trees, with black pepper grown and intertwined as a climber, followed by planting cardamom underneath the trees as this crop needs plenty of shade. This integrated approach helps create carbon sinks which are necessary for a healthy environment. Farmers have also been trained in post-harvest handling using proper chemical-free storage bags which keep grain edible for between three to ﬁve years to guard against future droughts.
"Climate-smart agriculture alone is not enough. The GCCA+ Tanzania experience has shown that with extreme droughts, even drought-tolerant seeds and other climate-smart agriculture practices will not be able to produce a yield so other measures are needed that enable households to diversify from their dependency on rain-fed agriculture."
- Joss Swennenhuis of GCCA+ Tanzania.
Income-generating activities, including leather tanning, livestock and bee-keeping, and setting up village savings and loans groups to create small businesses are also vital to increase resilience to climate change and to become climate smart.