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    Saturday, January 11, 2014

    Sisal growing in Tanzania


    Following this visit, the Tanzania Fund has agreed to fund this sisal project for at least the next 2 years.

    We drove to Kishapu District (East of Shinyanga) to look at the Sisal project. Sisal is a drought resistant crop, processed to create a white fibre used in rope and twine. This area is a drier region, so particularly suited to sisal. The project involves 202 producer groups in 25 villages (8,624 beneficiaries). Participants are being encouraged to grow sisal, taught to start plants in a nursery and then transplant out in a specified distance apart in fields. The plants take four years to maturity and useable leaves, but in the meantime people are encouraged to plant legumes in between the sisal. Once mature, the sisal plants will produce leaves that can be processed for six years and can be harvested twice a year. Traditionally sisal is used as a 'hedge' crop, its spiky leaves deterring animals. There is therefore quite a lot of sisal already around that can be harvested before the main crop matures.
    Oxfam has provided a loan to Katani Ltd through its Enterprise Development Programme, that has procured five raspadora machines that provide a mechanical extraction of the fibre. This diesel fuelled machine does in seconds what a person can do manually only in minutes. Katani then provides a machine to a local person in return for a staggered payment, allowing the costs to be spread over a number of years while they build up their business. The five processors are encouraged to sell their sisal in 10 tonne batches, which takes approximately one month to amass. Sisal is currently collected by a number of producer groups who bring it to one of a five central locations to be processed. Each processor employs six people (all men) to work the machines and additional people (women) to hang and dry the sisal. Katani then is the major buyer of the resulting white fibre. The plan is to procure ten more raspadoras for the project area this year, with ten additional people already trained up to run them as a business.

    Then we drove to Lubaga village to meet the Neema Women Group, whose spokeswoman was Regina Salaganda. They also run a Savings and Internal Lending Community (SILC) and she explained how this is helping them to manage their incomes better. The Neema Women Group met us with a song as they hoed the sisal field that they have planted with Oxfam's support. These plants are not yet ready to cultivate, so they are collecting leaves from the hedge crops. They have a choice of walking 10-15 kms to the nearest raspadora machine or extracting the fibre by hand. It seemed that the walk was preferable to trying to do it by hand.

    Next stop was to Igaga B, where we met Peter Kihanda & Fatuma Yusufu. Both had raspadora machines & seemed to be doing very well. Fatuma was able to provide for her family of 9 adults & 7 children! Farmers paid to use her machine, and she then bought the stripped Sisal from them & sold it on to Katani. A secondary business is turning the waste from the sisal processing into compost, animal feed and biogas. 98% of the leaves are not used, so there is plenty of it available. So far, the processors are being encouraged to make compost or to shred and dry the waste for animal feed.
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