Cultivating Abundance: Suleiman Mrisho Mwita's Farm
By Rebecca Jacobs, Posted on November 15, 2023
Nestled in the vibrant landscapes of Zanzibar, Suleiman Mrisho Mwita’s farm stands as a living canvas painted by the hands of sustainable farming, guided by the seasoned expertise of Community Forests Pemba (CFP). His journey began in the early 2000s when he transitioned from a public servant to a steward of the land in 1998. Over the past two years, Suleiman’s agricultural journey has unfolded into a rich tapestry of agroforestry and diverse crop production.
Over the years, CFP has provided Suleiman with a wealth of technical expertise, emphasizing best practices and internal control systems for organic productions. The transition to agroforestry marked a pivotal moment, both increasing the yields of Suleiman’s farm and amplifying its wider ecological impact.
Guided by CFP, Suleiman embarked on the cultivation of 400 vanilla and 300 passion plants, effectively transforming half an acre into a thriving haven. From an initial 400 vanilla seedlings, his farm now boasts an impressive 2,600, with each set of four vines yielding an average of 1kg of dried vanilla for sale. The scale of Suleiman’s endeavour is impressive — a sprawling 50-acre farm. The vast expanse of his farm represents not just an agricultural venture but a commitment to a sustainable and diversified future.
One of the cornerstones of Suleiman’s strategy is the preservation of large trees on the farm. Trees like breadfruit and mango, already present when he acquired the land, not only contribute to the community’s food security but also create a symbiotic environment for the crops, fostering resilience and diversity. His farm features a medley of crops, with okra and eggplant cultivated without pesticides to act as a buffer between vegetables requiring fertilizers and vanilla, enabling certification and ensuring the sustainability of the entire ecosystem.
Suleiman’s commitment to community welfare finds expression in “Wakfu,” a walk-through approach allowing open access as long as the produce is intended for home consumption and sustenance. This approach fosters community engagement and ensures that the land benefits the entire community.
Yet, challenges loom large, notably in water supply and electricity for irrigation. Suleiman, resilient in the face of adversity, made significant investments in solar panels to ensure a consistent and reliable water source for his crops, showcasing a proactive approach to sustainability.
The recent three-month drought, the most severe in two decades, underscores the urgency of adapting farming practices to climate change. Suleiman, echoing the lessons from his journey, emphasizes the imperative of hard work, especially for farmers navigating this evolving landscape.
Looking ahead, CFP’s support extends beyond the farm to linking Suleiman’s produce to local and global markets, unlocking new opportunities and broadening the farm’s impact. His vision is expansive, encompassing the growth of a thousand banana trees, each contributing to a bounty of 2500. Suleiman also aspires to increase production and start the export of avocados. However, governmental limitations pose challenges that he hopes will be addressed with enhanced infrastructure, underscoring the need for broader, systematic support and advocacy for sustainable farming practices.
Beyond personal ambitions, Suleiman aspires to be an example for young farmers, inspiring them to embrace diversity in agriculture and champion sustainable practices. Grateful for CFP’s ongoing support, he underscores the importance of adaptation in the face of climate change and encourages other farmers to invest effort and creativity in navigating this ever-evolving landscape.
Suleiman Mrisho Mwita’s farm is more than a testament to agriculture; it’s a living example of resilience, adaptability, and the potential inherent in sustainable farming practices. The vibrancy of his farm paints a picture of what is possible when guided by a commitment to the land, community, and the enduring principles of sustainable agriculture.