Aweina Omar Suleiman Shehe Martin Walsh (ed)

ZCCFSP P.O. BOX 2283 Zanzibar

Telephone / fax: (054) 33121


Page Preface Introduction: Purpose of the Study Research Methods Turmeric: Origin and Introduction The Introduction of Turmeric to Mwambe The Establishment of Turmeric Production Expansion of the Market for Turmeric Constraints to the Further Expansion of Production The Case of Ali Nyange Land Shortage in Mwambe Declining Fallows and Soil Fertility Alternative Opportunities Labour Constraints Marketing Constraints Conclusion: Lessons Learned from the Study References ii 1 3 4 5 5 7 8 8 9 10 11 11 12 14 16

PREFACE This is one of a series of five cash crop case studies undertaken by the socioeconomics section of ZCCFSP in Zanzibar. The main aim of these studies is to analyse the different factors which have led to local cash crop development, with a view to forming policy recommendations and devising practical interventions which might further facilitate and promote this kind of development in the future. We hope that the lessons which are drawn from these studies will be of relevance to the Ministry as a whole and not just to projects like ZCCFSP whose primary interest is in encouraging sustainable cash crop production and marketing.

The present study examines the development and decline of turmeric production in Mwambe, in the south-east of Pemba. It is based upon

fieldwork and library research carried out by the staff of the socio-economics section of ZCCFSP on Pemba. Here we would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the farmers in Mwambe and Jambangome who discussed the history of tumeric production with us, as well as colleagues in ZCCFSP Pemba who provided additional background information on Mwambe and its environs.

Martin Walsh (ed) Social-economics Section ZCCFSP Pemba Wete, November 1995 Other titles in this series: The Development of Oranges as a Cash Crop in Ndijani, Unguja (WD 95/22) The Development of Sweet Potatoes as a Cash Crop in Makangale, Pemba (WP 95/24) The Development of pineapples as a Cash Crop in Machui, Unguja (WP 95/25) The Development of Mangoes as a Cash Crop in Muyuni, Unguja (WP 95/26)

Introduction: Purpose of the Study 1. One of the principal objectives of ZCCFSP is to foster the development of cash crop production and marketing in Zanzibar and to enhance the capacity of farmers, traders, and government to participate effectively in this development. The history of government-directed efforts to

promote cash crop diversification in Zanzibar has not always been a happy one. Agricultural research and extension have more often than not followed the top-down model, where researchers and policymakers decide what is not followed the top-down model, where researchers and policy-makers decide what is good for farmers and extensionists impose it upon them with a minimum of consultation and consideration for what farmers themselves might think. As long as clove prices, however, has given agricultural diversification a new urgency. The adoption and dissemination of participatory approach to research and extension has been a key feature of ZCCFSP’s response to this situation, and the present study (one of a series) was conceived in this light, and not as an academic exercise. 2. If participatory research and extension are to be effective it is essential for researchers and extensionists to understand how farmers and traders think and act and why they do so. The traditional approach to this question, however, it to ignore it until it starts to have a negative impact upon project or programme objectives (when farmers’ and traders’ actions do not match expectations) and it is often too late to do anything about it (especially if a lot of time and resources have already been expended in reaching this point). Zanzibar provides a good

example of this: before ZCCFSP began work (in November 1991) almost nothing had been written about farming and marketing practices on the islands aside from the little that could be gleaned fro the results of questionnaire-based surveys. Agricultural projects and programmes

were therefore devised and implemented in a virtual void, filled only by the assumptions of planners and the incomplete or informal knowledge of implementers about the indigenous practices relevant to these. 3. As ZCCFSP’s own experience has shown, developing and

institutionalising an alternative approach is not something that can be done overnight. The orthodox model of cash crop diversification and development is, as might be expected, crop-oriented and often focuses upon the introduction of new germplasm (new at least to a particular group of farmers and/or a particular location). The basic method is simple: it is the researchers’ task to find a crop or variety which has a promising market, and then to work on ways to introduce it, expand production and ensure that it reaches the market. It is also an old method, and one which was employed extensively during the colonial period. In some cases it succeeds, and a number of the crops being sold in Zanzibar’s markets are improved varieties which were introduced through the agricultural markets are improved varieties which were introduced through the agricultural research station at Kizimbani. However, many of them were not developed in this way, and the records of MALNR are replete with time-consuming and expensive failures, of introduced crops and varieties which have all but sunk into oblivion. 4. ZCCFSP has continued to work with this model, albeit with a number of important refinements. These include an emphasis upon on-farm trials, careful assessments of export markets, and of the potential for expanding production in terms of what is known about the land available and the likelihood that farmers’ will grow the crop or switch to the new variety in the first place. To the extent that this work is

conducted participatively with farmers and traders, it might be thought of as a compromise between old and new approaches. It is not,

however, entirely free from the problems which afflict the inherited model. On-farm trials in a range of crops and varieties on both Unguja and Pemba have been abandoned following their failure for one reason or another, and while important lessons have been learned in this process, it is quite likely that similar failures will occur in the future, in

other MALNR projects which operate with this model as well as ZCCFSP. 5. The present study of the development of turmeric as a cash crop in Mwambe, in south-east Pemba, is one of a series designed to address this problem. These approach the issue of cash crop development from a quite different angle, by looking in detail at selected crops which have already become important commodities without any direct input at all from government researchers and extensionists, and in some cases in spite of their efforts. 6. The philosophy behind this approach to the problem is quite straightforward. Rural Zanzibar comprises more than 100,000 farm

households, most of them with two or more members involved (in varying degrees) in farming and (to a lesser extent) in the sale of farm produce. Every year they make innumerable decisions about the

cultivation and harvesting of a wide variety of farm plots, including major decisions about what to plant, what to sell, and how. In so far as they are striving to solve agricultural problems (as a means to meet the requirements of domestic survival and subsistence), they are conducting agricultural research. From this point of view the number of formal experiments which government researchers can undertake pales into insignificance. And while the proportion of farmers’

experiments which have an uninteresting design or result might seem inordinately high to a formal researcher, the cumulative effects of farmers’ research can be very impressive, and have consequences which many government researchers and extensionists can only dream of. In short, a lot can be learned from looking at what farmers (and traders) are already doing. 7. By looking at past and present examples of successful cash crop development it is possible to examine and assess the contribution of a wide range of factors in each case. This is rather more difficult to do when retrospectively analysing the failure of on-farm trials, especially when they have failed at an early stage. Although it may be possible to isolate the cause or causes of failure, there is no guarantee that this will suggest ways in which these and other constraints may be

overcome, including constraints which emerge at a later stage of development. For example, if a trial fails before a crop is harvested, then there is obviously nothing which can be learned from this about marketing. The study of ‘real-life’ cases, however, offers a lot more information and should make it possible to provide much clearer guidelines to researchers who are experimenting with crops, varieties, and techniques which have not been known to farmers before. It also makes it easier to assess the viability of crops, especially tree crops, which cannot be developed in a short period of time (for example within the life-cycle of a project) and provides some perspective on the length of time which the development of any cash crop might reasonably be expected to take. 8. By comparing a series of similar studies common patterns should emerge, and this has already begun to happen in the case of the ZCCFSP studies. The most important application of this is in the

design of more appropriate strategies for fostering the development of cash crop production and marketing, as well as in predicting what some of its impacts might be upon different sectors of the farming and trading community. Readers of this report are asked to consider

carefully what they think the implications of it might be, and what kinds of intervention might be effective in replicating the kind of development which has taken place in Mwambe, or how it might be improved upon. In the final section below the discuss some of the lessons which we think emerge from this study. This should not, however, be taken as the final word on the matter, and in a future report we will present an expanded comparison of all of the case studies and their implications, which would no doubt benefit from any constructive comment and criticism which is supplied to us in the interim.

Research Methods 9. This study is based primarily upon fieldwork undertaken in Mwambe (and Jambangome) by the socio-economics section of ZCCFSP Pemba between November 1994 and May 1995. Mwambe is located in the far south-eastern corner of Pemba, on the opposite side of the

island to the southern town and port of Mkoani.


Mwambe forms a single shehia (formerly CCM branch) within Mkoani district, and comprises a collection of six main hamlets, each with a population of more than 100 households. These villages are Mchakwe, Bwegeza, Chaleni, Jombwe, Kwasasani and Chanjani. Mwambe was selected as the location of this study because of its fame as the pimary turmeric-producing area on Pemba. 10. In December 1992 ZCCFSP conducted a PRA in Mwambe, focusing upon Jombwe, Kwasanani and Chanjani villages. The report of this PRA provides an outline description of the local farming system and its wider socio-economic context, and should be consulted for further background information. The farmers of Mwambe exploit three main types of land: (1) the deep nchi nene soils, which contain a high content of cracking clay and are found especially around the villages; (2) the coral rag (makaani) to the east, this being the most important area for agriculture, including turmeric production; and (3) the clovegrowing land to the west, which only a proportion of farmers have direct access to. Severe land pressure has led some local farmers to

cultivate, either seasonally or permanently, much further to the west and outside of Mwambe altogether. One such group of farmers, in the Jambangome area, north-east of Mkoani town, were also sought out for interview in the course of the present study. 11. A checklist of research questions was drawn up prior to conducting informal interviews with farmers in the field. In addition to group

interviews in Mwambe, a small sample of farmers was selected for individual interview, focusing upon those who had been named as playing an important role in the historical development of turmeric production. The results of this work were written up in the form of interview notes (retained on file in the ZCCFSP Pemba office) and subjected to initial analysis by the socio-economics section in early 1995. This led to the decision to follow-up with a further round of

interviews in Jamangome, which were not completed until after the long rains of 1995 because of problems in gaining access to this area

by road. As indicated above, information drawn from the earlier PRA of Mwambe has also been incorporated into the present study. 12. A brief literature review has provided additional background data on turmeric production in both Pemba and Unguja. No attempt has been made, however, to make a thorough search of the archives or inerview other key informants either within or outside of MALNR. The full history of turmeric production and marketing in Zanzibar therefore remains to be written, as indeed it does for most other crops on the islands. 13. In writing this report we have tried to highlight the main stages in the development of turmeric as a cash crop in Mwambe, singling out the principal factors which have contributed towards it. The logic behind this form of presentation has already been outlined in the introduction above. Again, we invite anyone with additional information and/or

alternative interpretations to share them with us, and so add to the potential value of our research.

Turmeric: Origin and Introduction 14. Turmeric, Curcuma domestica Val., was probably domesticated in southern or south-east Asia and is no longer found in a truly wild state. It has been suggested that it first reached East Africa in the eighth century AD, carried by the Bornean people who settled Madagascar and some of whose descendants on the latter island still cultivate turmeric. However, despite the long history of contacts between the Malagasy and the Swahili (who founded settlements on the north Madagascar coast), there is no firm evidence from other sources to indicate that turmeric was grown in Zanzibar or other places on the Swahili coast until relatively recently. Turmeric as a crop is not

mentioned in the literature prior to the nineteenth century, and on Pemba in particular there are no unambiguous traces or records of its cultivation before its recent introduction in Mwambe. 15. The linguistic evidence suggests that turmeric was first encountered on the East African coast and islands as a processed trade item, or perhaps in the form of harvested rhizomes ready for pounding. The Swahili name for turmeric, manjano, evidently referred originally to

turmeric powder, and was only later extended to include the plant which provides it. Although ground turmeric is principally used as a spice to impart both flavour and colour to food, and is one of the main ingredients in curry powders, one of its chief early uses among the Swahili-speakers of Zanzibar appears to have been as a dye for colouring mats and other inedibles. This practice has given rise to the Swahili term for the colour yellow, rangi ya manjano, which literally means ‘the colour of turmeric powder’. Curry powder, however, is

given a quite different Swahili name – bizari – suggesting that it was introduced separately, also as a processed item of trade. The history of the introduction of turmeric to Mwambe, outlined below, provides some support for this hypothesis.

The Introduction of Turmeric to Mwambe 16. Turmeric was introduced as a cash crop to Mwambe in the mid-1960s, solely as a result of local initiative. While it is quite likely that individual plants had been grown in Mwambe and/or elsewhere in Pemba before this date, these isolated introductions had no lasting impacting upon local agriculture. To most intents and purposes turmeric was unknown as a field crop on Pemba before the 1960s. It appears never to have been the subject of attention by the colonial Agricultural Department, and there is no record of any programme to promote its cultivation. 17. Informants agree that turmeric was first grown as a cash crop in Mwambe by Ali Nyange Ali, a locally born man. Ali Nyange himself recalls seeing a solitary plant growing in the area in 1957, though he did not know who had planted it or whose farm, if anyone’s, it was growing in. As a result he does not consider himself to be the first person to have introduced turmeric to the area, though he accepts that he was the first to grow and sell it as a cash crop. 18. On his own account, when Ali Nyange introduced turmeric his primary source of income was as a trader. He began trading goods between Pemba, Unguja and Tanga in a bout 1955, and on one of his subsequent journeys to Tanga he saw turmeric being grown – for domestic purposes, not for sale. In 1965 he carried some planting

material from Tanga to Mwambe and planted it himself.


harvesting and drying them in the sun, he gave some of the rhizomes to women in the area to pound into powder for use as a dye in matmaking. He took the rest of his harvest to Wete where he sold them to local shopkeepers by the ratili (pound). He says that he sold the

rhizomes for Tshs 125 per ratili, but this seems far too high a price for unprocessed turmeric at that time, an it is possible that he was remembering the total proceeds of his sale. 19. Whatever the case, he says that he did not continue to plant turmeric, partly because the market was not very promising, and partly because he was still too busy with his trading activities and agriculture was only of secondary importance to him. There is no certain record of anyone else planting turmeric in Mwambe at this time, either as a result of Ali Nyange’s example or independent innovation.

The Establishment of Turmeric Production 20. According to Ali Nyange, turmeric production did not take off in Mwambe until 1972-74, when the government of the new President of Zanzibar, Aboud Jumbe, exhorted people to grow it as a cash crop. As a result a number of people in Zanzibar began to plant turmeric, and Ali Nyange was prominent among them. He had no planting material left over from 1965, but bought it from a shop in Chake Chake. Thereafter he began to cultivate turmeric for a second time in Mwambe, and continued to produce and sell it until the 1980s. 21. Other informants in Mwambe remember the sequence of events somewhat differently. They agree that turmeric production on a wide scale began about twenty years ago, and that Ali Nyange was the first to grow and sell it. They recall, however, that he began by selling small quantities of turmeric powder, presumed to have been brought from Unguja, to women in Mwambe. This powder was used, as already mentioned above, as a dye in making floor mats. Whether he began this trade as a result of his first experiment in growing turmeric in 1965, or whether he was already bringing turmeric powder to Mwambe at that time, is not recorded.

22. The establishment of turmeric production in Mwambe in the early 1970s was closely linked to a parallel development at Mkwajuni in northern Unguja. The village history recorded in the course of

ZCCFSP’s 1993 PRA in Mkwajuni indicates that turmeric was first cultivated there on a large scale in 1972 – 73. As in Mwambe, turmeric was planted solely for its use in making a yellow dye for mats, baskets and similar products. In a 1992 study of turmeric production and

marketing in Zanzibar, ZCCFSP researchers were told that turmeric was established first in northern Unguja, and that planting material was taken from there to south-eastern Pemba in 1973. The farmer who is said to have taken turmeric to Mwambe at this time, Kombo Sheha Hassan, subsequently provided other local farmers with rhizomes for planting, while some procured planting material themselves from northern Unguja. 23. There are indeed close connections between the people of Mwambe and those of Mkwajuni and other villages in northern Unguja. Mwambe and the islands off the southern Pemba coast were settled by Tumbatu (speakers of a distinctive Swahili dialect) from northern Unguja in relatively recent historical times, and these two related groups of people still maintain regular contact across the channel which separates Pemba and Unguja. The transfer of turmeric technology

from one island to the other is therefore not surprising, although, as Ali Nyange’s account suggests, there were also other sources of planting material available to Mwambe farmers, who were further encouraged to grow turmeric by government exhortations to do so. 24. Whatever the means by which turmeric reached Mwambe’s farmers in the early 1970s, it is clear that at this time they primarily valued the crop and its processed product as a source of dye, especially for use in mat-making. The finely woven mats of Mwambe, known as mikeka ya Chole, are made from ukindu, the leaves of the Wild Date Palm, Phoenix reclinata (Swahili, mkindu). This grows wild in the areas in which the women cultivate, including Bopwe, Chambani, Kiwani, and Mzambarau-Buduru. The leaves are cut from the top and centre of (usually) young trees and dried in the sun before being sliced into

thinner lengths of fibre. These are then woven into the long strips (kili) which are finally sewn together to make the mats. The ukindu of

Mwambe is said to be darker when dried than ukindu from Tanga (which is also stronger and longer lasting) and this may be one reason why a lot of effort is put into dyeing it. Some mats have 8-10 different colours: the greater the number, the greater the value of a mat. The ukindu is dyed either before or after it has been woven into kili strips. If the dye is applied before, then different colours can be woven into a single ukili strip. Turmeric is a particularly favoured dye because mats coloured with it attract good prices. Mats with many different colours can sell on Pemba for around Tshs 2,800 – 3,000, while those with less sell for Tshs 1,500 upwards (at early 1995 prices). The women of Mwambe are well known for their mats, and girls are taught to make them from an early age, four years old and upwards. They are often brought to town, however, by male hawkers. 25. Ali Nyange is said to have started growing his own turmeric when he saw that there was a high demand in Mwambe for the dye. Other farmers, including some of his customers and their families, then began to follow his example and planted their own turmeric. Eventually

production reached a point where demand for his own produce had dropped quite significantly (suggesting that this might be another reason why he subsequently moved out of the business: as an entrepreneur he was only satisfied by the high profits which he made in the early days of the trade).

Expansion of the Market for Turmeric 26. Turmeric production was initially established in Mwambe on the basis of the local market for turmeric dye. The second phase of expansion is said to have begun when farmers realised that it had domestic culinary uses. At first it was sold just to the local shops in Mwambe, who

retailed the powder to consumers. After a short period farmers also begun to take it to shops further afield, in the towns of Mkoani and Chake Chake. At this time (in the mid-1970s?) the price offered to farmers was around Tshs 30 per pishi of turmeric powder.

27. Before this trade developed, consumers on Pemba were only familiar with bizari, curry powder, a common ingredient in many local dishes, especially in the towns. The bizari sold on Pemba was and is of two different kinds. Bizari nzima, ‘whole curry powder’, consists solely of cumin. Cumin is rarely cultivated on Pemba (though it is reported to grow well on the coral rag), and all the bizari nzima is imported. Bizari ya mchuzi, ‘soup (or souce) curry’, is based on turmeric powder, either unmixed or with cumin added. It is said that when people on Pemba realised that turmeric powder was the same as unmixed bizari ya mchuzi, they began to buy the local product. As a result many

domestic consumers now prepare their own curry sauce by frying purchased cumin powder and then mixing it with turmeric powder. 28. Most purchased turmeric has already been pounded and ground into a powder: shopkeepers generally refuse to buy turmeric unless it has already been processed. This is done by farmers themselves before they sell it, usually by the women and girls in their homes, sometimes by children for money. Three turmeric processing methods are known in Mwambe. The simplest method used by farmers is to wash the rhizomes, pound them when fresh, and then dry them in the sun before grinding them into a powder with a pestle and mortar. The most

common method used is to cut the washed rhizomes into slices, with are then sun-dried on a mat for two to three days before grinding. A third method involves boiling the washed rhizomes, which are then sun-dried for about six hours before being ground. The drying and grinding process is then repeated over the next two to three days until a fine powder has been produced. This last method, which results in a better quality product, is also the most labour-consuming, and therefore not widely practised. In Unguja the rhizomes are boiled, sun-dried, and then sold whole, to be machine-ground by the buyers. The absence of a suitable grinding machine on Pemba means that this process, which conforms to international standards, cannot be employed on the island. 29. As the local demand for turmeric powder increased, the marketing system also became more developed. In the 1970s processed

turmeric was usually taken from the farm to the towns by the farmers

themselves, who hawked their harvest around the shops much as Ali Nyange had first done in Wete. In the 1980s, however, the lolcal trade in turmeric was partly taken over by middlemen. Whatever effect this has had upon prices and profits, many farmers feel that this system is advantageous to them, because it reduces the amount of time, effort, and money they have to spend in finding buyers and also provides them with a more assured market for their produce.

Constraints to the Further Expansion of Production 30. Although turmeric production expanded in Mwambe through the 1980s, and the 1992 PRA team felt that it could be expanded ever further, a number of constraints (and alternative opportunities) have emerged which make continued expansion in Mwambe unlikely, as well as in other parts of Pemba. There are number of indications that after two decades of relatively unimpeded development turmeric production in Mwambe has already entered a period of slower growth and consolidation. In some ways it is at a critical stage: unless the

constraints to further expansion can be overcome, then turmeric producers will increasingly shift their resources to other cash crops, with the result that turmeric production may even decline. However, while this would be a negative outcome for the prospects of turmeric, it would not necessarily be a backward step for Mwambe’s farmers. Instead it might be taken to indicate the basic dynamism of their farming system, and farmers’ ability to respond to changing circumstances and the opportunities available to them.

The Case of Ali Nyange 31. Before examining the constraints facing turmeric farmers one by one, it is instructive to look at the subsequent career of the farmer who introduced turmeric to Mwambe, Ali Nyange. Having been the prime mover in the development of turmeric as a cash crop, he abruptly stopped growing turmeric in the 1980s when he took up employment as a jahazi or dhow sailor. After a few years of this work he returned to the land and moved with his family to Jambangome, 10 km to the

north-west of Mwambe, where he still lives and farms.

In the

nineteenth century Jambangome was a thriving settlement and port with a large community of Indian traders. Its fortunes declined in the early twentieth century and nothing is now left of the former town but its overgrown ruins. A number of Mwambe farmers moved and settled there in the 1980s, while others continue to visit and farm there on a seasonal basis. 32. This movement was prompted by an increasing shortage of land for cultivation in Mwambe and the rather better prospects which Jambangome offered and still offers. Although most of the land in

Jambangome has individual owners, many of them do not live or cultivate in this area. When Ali Nyange first moved there he was given land by its previous owner and has since continued to clear the uncultivated bush expand his faming area. On his own account

Jambangome provides better crop harvests than at Mwambe. This may be because the newly-cleared land there is much more fertile than that at Mwambe, where land pressure is increasing and fallows declining as a result. 33. Turmeric, however, is not grown by the farmers at Jambangome. When Ali Nyange first arrived there he planted turmeric but stopped when he realised that he could make more profit from other crops. At present majimbi, cocoyams, are his main cash crop. He says that

turmeric thrives best in well-heated soils (‘udongo wa joto jingi’), especially those on the coral rag or which are near to the coral rag and of the same type. Agronomic research provides a somewhat different perspective on this last observation. The deep coral rag soils of

Mwambe are among the most naturally fertile on Pemba, and they hagve good moisture retention properties which make turmeric a viable crop in the open. Elsewhere turmeric usually requires some shade if it is to grow well. In the wetter clove-growing areas of Pemba, however, including Jambangome, large-scale turmeric production is constrained by the prevalence of Leaf Blotch (Colletotrichum sp.), a serious disease which can cause total crop loss. Farmers do not know the cause of

this ‘leaf-disease’ (‘ugonjwa wa majani’), and have no effective means to treat it. 34. Ali Nyange’s later history, together with that of other Mwambe farmers who have moved to Jambangome, provides an interesting perspective on the current state of turmeric production, the constraints it faces and the opportunities which it provides. Ali Nyange is evidently an

innovative farmer and entrepreneur with a keen eye for the best opportunities available. The fact that he has moved out of Mwambe and moved out of turmeric production suggest that since the 1980s this is not where he has perceived these opportunities to lie. He apparently shares this view with other farmers who have moved to Jambangome, though some of the seasonal visitors there continue to grow turmeric back home in Mwambe.

Land Shortage in Mwambe 35. The movement of farmers from Mwambe to Jambangome has taken place in response to the increasing land shortage in Mwambe itself. The 1992 PRA team concluded that the land had reached saturation point. Population has increased rapidly in recent years and although a large area of land is available for cultivation relatively little of this can support permanent cropping. 36. The dominant land type is makaani, coral rag, mostly comprising shallow soils with many outcrops of rock. These soils are not very fertile, and are mainly cropped with bulrush millet, cowpeas, green grams, and tomatoes. In some places, however, there are deeper

pockets of soil which support a variety of root crops, maize, bananas, and, where the soil is deep enough, orange trees. These are also the main areas for turmeric production. The relative scarcity and value of these deeper pockets of soil is such that individual farmers have established more or less permanent use rights to them. This pattern of de facto private ownership contrasts with the situation which obtains elsewhere on the makaani, where the land is still considered to be communal property and treated as such. This means that whereas all the farmers in Mwambe can access makaani land, as population grows

only a shrinking proportion of them can take advantage of these more fertile pockets of soil, and there is no room for them to expand the type of cultivation which these pockets allow. 37. Relatively few people have access to the bopwe, deep clove (and rice) growing soils to the west of Mwambe. Most villagers do have access to the nchi nene, ‘thick land’ around the villages. However, this land mostly comprises kinako soils with a high content of cracking clay, and suffers from poor drainage and variable fertility. Both the bopwe and the nchi nene are under private ownership, and access to them is therefore also limited and declining as population increases. They are, moreover, less suitable for turmeric production than the deeper makaani soils, at least from villagers’ point of view and in terms of the alternative uses to which they can be put.

Declining Fallows and Soil Fertility 38. One consequence of land pressure has been a progressive reduction of fallow periods on the makaani. This in turn has had a negative impact upon soil fertility, reducing farm outputs and therefore putting further pressure on the land. 39. Fallows on the shallow makaani soils have declined to the extent that there are now few areas of mature, regenerated, bush to be seen. These are reportedly restricted to the more distant areas of Kuji and Shamiani islands, where seasonal migration and farming was reported to be declining in 1992 because of an increasing incidence of cassava mealy bug. While some makaani plots are only cultivated in alternate years, others are cropped every year. This only permits the growth of weeds between cultivating seasons, though after four years or so this may reach a point where cultivation is no longer economical (when crops have to be weeded four times in a season) and the plot is abandoned. 40. The deeper pockets of makaani soil are sometimes cultivated on a sixyear cycle of three years’ cropping followed by three years’ fallow. However, with negative consequences for soil fertility. This pattern of intensified production is also reported to have led to an increase in the

incidence of pests and disease on a wide range of crops. The main problem for turmeric growers is Leaf Blotch (Colletotrichum sp.), though as Ali Nyange indicated, thisw seems to be more serious in areas of higher rainfall like Jambangome. 41. The intensification of agricultural production on makaani soils has also made it more difficult for farmers to keep livestock, especially cattle, in Mwambe. The principal constraint is said to be the declining

availability of fodder. Livestock-keepers are further discouraged by the increasing incidence of conflict with cultivators over crop damage. As a result the number of cattle in Mwambe has fallen. The potential

benefits of livestock-keeping for soil improvement are not widely recognised, and the reduction in cattle numbers means that there is very little manuring to counter the decline in soil fertility.

Alternative Opportunities 42. Farmers have responded to this situation in a number of different ways. A small but significant proportion of them have sought land and opened up farms in the west of Pemba. While some of these farmers cultivate seasonally in Jambangome and elsewhere, others, like Ali Nyange, have moved out of Mwambe altogether and settled permanently on their new farms. Although he and other farmers in Jambangome tried at first to cultivate turmeric there, the somewhat different conditions (resulting in a higher incidence of Leaf Blotch) and potential for growing other crops for sale (including cassava and cocoyams), led them to abandon the attempt. 43. Many of the farmers who have remained in Mwambe have also changed their cash cropping strategies. The most notable

development since the 1992 PRA has been an increase in the production of crops, especially bananas, for the Zanzibar town market. In 1992 bananas were mainly considered to be a local food crop: although they had once been traded in some quantities to Unguja, this trade had come to a virtual standstill following a decline in regular boat services between the islands. The recent improvement in these

services, however, has resulted in a marked increase in the volume of

bananas and other fruits exported to Zanzibar town through the port at Mkoani. This has had a positive effect upon banana production

throughout Pemba, and especially in Mwambe, where oranges are also beginning to find a wider market. In Mwambe bananas and oranges are principally grown on the nchi nene and deeper makaani soils. The fact that bananas can be sold throughout the year and consumed as food makes them a particularly attractive crop to farmers. The main impact of this new development upon turmeric has therefore been negative, as farmers have increasingly shifted their attentions away from it. 44. As the 1992 PRA made clear, off-farm activities also play an important role in the economic strategies of Mwambe’s householders. Ali

Nyange’s movement in and out of different forms of enterprise and wage labour is just one example of this from a reasonably well-off household. Off-farm income is equally important to poorer households, though it contributes less to their overall subsistence. Growing land pressure and its consequences for the ability of households with little land to live off it means that off-farm income is increasing in importance for this group. Although clove-picking is no longer an attractive source of income, many others are exploited by Mwambe households. The long list of off-farm activities reported in 1992 includes fishing, carpentry, stone-collecting, lime-making, basket-making, mat-making, pole and firewood-collecting, petty trading, and wage employment of different kinds.

Labour Constraints 45. Another factor which makes turmeric a less attractive crop than others is the labour involved in processing it. As we have seen, shopkeepers prefer to buy turmeric in powdered form. There is no suitable grinding machine on Pemba, and turmeric therefore has to be processed manually. This is a relatively time-consuming task, and one which

takes longer and involves even more work if a high-quality product is desired. The process which produces the best powder also begins with boiling, and this requires the collection of firewood by women

and/or added expense in purchasing it.

Not surprisingly, the most

common method used is one based upon sun-drying and which does not involve repeated grinding. This results in a medium-quality product which is at least better than the powder produced by the simpler and quicker method of pounding then drying fresh rhizomes. 46. Processing is normally the work of women and girls in the household, though sometimes non-household members, including children, are paid to do it. Turmeric demands a higher labour input from women than most other local crops. At the same time women’s returns from the crop are limited by the fact that powder is usually sold by their husbands or other male family members, even when the crop nominally belongs to them. Women’s control over turmeric income is therefore restricted, though the extent to which this may be an issue varies from household to household, depending on how decisions are taken within the household and the uses to which the income is put. It can be assumed that women’s enthusiasm for turmeric as a crop was greater when its primary use was in dyeing the mats and other woven goods which women made. As the market has changed, however, the benefits from turmeric have become more diffuse, and it remains a ‘women’s crop’ only in the sense that women perform most of the labour. 47. From this point of view turmeric compares unfavourably with other crops, like cassava and bananas, which involve less labour and offer higher returns to these labour inputs. In addition to making more cash available to household (if not necessarily the women within them) on a regular basis, these crops are of direct benefit to women and children because they are also consumed as staples. When alternative

opportunities are available, as they now are in Mwambe, women are likely to shift their labour out of turmeric and into crops which provide them with more immediate benefits. This is one reason why turmeric is not an important crop in resource-poor households: another reason being their limited access to suitable land. To this extent turmeric

resembles another local spice crop, chillies. Although more land is available for chilli production, the labour requirements (in this case the

onerous task of harvesting) are such that many householders, and especially women, will not invest in the crop even though it has an assured market.

Marketing Constraints 48. Although the market for Mwambe turmeric grew significantly in the 1980s, it appears that this growth has now slowed down considerably. Indeed many farmers report having difficulty in disposing of their crop, even though total production in Mwambe is said to have declined. 49. There is little local market now for turmeric dye. The main reason for this is that the market for dyed mats and similar products from Mwambe has contracted, largely because of their high cost. This in turn is a function of the cost of obtaining high quality ukindu (the leaves of the Wild Date Palm, Phoenix reclinata) from Tanga, which is now preferred by both producers and customers to the inferior type which grows in Mwambe. Customers on Pemba also have much less

disposable income than they had in the past, before the decline in clove prices, and multicoloured mats are a luxury which few people can now afford. 50. As mentioned above, there is also little demand either on or off the island for unprocessed rhizomes. Shopkeepers in Pemba usually

demand the processed powder, if they buy it at all. At the time of our study farmers who did sell reported receiving Tshs 150-200 per kg of fresh turmeric, while the price of powdered turmeric was in the range of Tshs 550-600 per kg. 51. The market for powder also appears to have contracted, at least relative to its supply from Mwambe. It has clearly suffered in

competition with bizari ya mchuzi, ready-mixed curry powder, which is being brought in from Mombasa (also Tanga) and whose ingredients (cumin and turmeric) often ultimately originate from India. Many

shopkeepers prefer to stock this good-quality powder rather than buy the local turmeric (which they or customers mix with imported cumin), and they order it from the ‘informal’ traders who travel regularly by boat to the southern Kenya coast. While curry powder containing Mwambe

turmeric is still a common sight in the shops at Mkoani, very few shops in Wete stock it now, although they did in the past. A quick survey only found one Wete shopkeeper who bought processed turmeric from Mwambe, who said he preferred it because of its stronger taste. 52. One of the advantages of imported curry powder over local turmeric is that it is available all year round. Although it is possible to store

powder, very few Mwambe farmers do so because they prefer to seek a quick return to their crop. Turmeric is usually planted during the short rains, in November, and harvested the following October and November. However, many of them have difficulty in finding buyers during the peak season, when prices are at their lowest. One Mwambe farmer interviewed in November 1994 complained that he had three sacks of turmeric which he had tried to sell but in vain, and similar experiences were reported by others. Some farmers therefore choose to harvest early, in September, or after the end of the season, when prices may be up to 20% higher. Interviewees complained that they were forced to do this, making it clear that they did so in order to be sure o a market, rather than just obtain a higher price for their crop. Middlemen and other buyers tend to come to Mwambe out of season: during the peak season farmers often have to market their turmeric themselves. 53. Given these local marketing constraints, there seems to be little immediate prospect for expansion of the external markets. The export of turmeric to Unguja has been affected by the same factors which have led to the contraction of the market within Pemba. Export costs and procedures further discourage this trade, as they do trade with Tanga and elsewhere on the mainland. 54. The type and quality of Mwambe turmeric also make it difficult to sell in any quantity outside of Zanzibar. Two main types of turmeric are

recognised and traded on the international market: Alleppey and Madras. Allepey is used principally in colouring foodstuffs, while

Madras, which is much more in demand, is used to flavour them. Mwambe turmeric, like all the turmeric grown in Zanzibar, has been described as a poor-quality Alleppey type. It has a poor curcumin

content and excessively high oil content, which means that has insufficient pigments, is difficult to grind, and has too strong a flavour for most of the market (the feature which one Wete shopkeeper found attractive). As a result Mwambe turmeric has very poor prospects on the international market, and is also unlikely to sell well regionally, for example in Kenya. This is one of the reasons, of course, why even within Pemba it is suffering in competition with curry powder of Indian origin imported from Mombasa.

Conclusion: Lesson Learned from the Study 55. The following is a summary of the principal lessons which we think can be drawn from this study. 56. The development of turmeric as a cash crop in Mwambe was achieved by local farmers with minimal inputs from the government agricultural research and extension services. Turmeric was first introduced on the initiative of a local farmer and trader. Although the expansion of

production in the early 1970s owned something to President Jumbe’s campaign to expand agriculture, it is likely that farmers were already doing so in response to the famine of 1971-72. This famine, which Pembans generally blame upon government policies at the time (and especially the restriction of food imports) severely affected the whole of Pemba and prompted an expansion of food and cash crop production throughout the island, especially on the coral rag and in other ‘marginal’ areas. Our report on The Development of Sweet Potatoes as a Cash Crop in Makangale, Pemba, describes another example of this. 57. Turmeric was originally grown in Mwambe, as in northern Unguja, solely as a source of yellow dye for the local mat-making and handicraft industry. Turmeric germplasm had not been a subject of government research, and farmers used the planting material which was already available on Unguja and the mainland coast.

Appropriately enough, this was (and is) an Alleppey type turmeric whose main use elsewhere is also in colouring, though usually of foodstuffs rather than handicrafts.

58. The realisation that turmeric powder also had culinary uses, and was one of the two main ingredients in imported curry powders, stimulated a second phase in the expansion of production and marketing. The difficulty which shopkeepers had in obtaining imported spices prior to economic liberalisation in the mid-1980s presumably contributed towards this development, and encouraged them to buy the local product. As the market expanded so too did the role of middlemen, who purchased processed turmeric in Mwambe and traded it to the towns of Pemba. Quantities of Mwambe turmeric wee also carried

across to the Zanzibar town market by shopkeepers and other traders. Turmeric marketing, however, never developed to the point where it was regulated or otherwise managed by an association of producers. 59. In the 1990s, however, the market for Mwambe turmeric began to contract. In many respects this has been a consequence of

liberalisation. The local type of turmeric was perfectly adequate for its original purpose – dyeing – and was readily adopted as a food spice in the absence of serious competition from outside. Under more

competitive conditions, however, it has been unable to compete with imported curry powders, especially those of Indian origin which are brought into Pemba from Mombasa. The lack of cultivated cumin on Pemba means that the principal ingredient of curry powder has to be imported, and it is inevitable that traders will also bring in ready-mixed cumin and turmeric powders if they can. This is especially so given the higher quality and better taste of the (presumably) Madras type turmeric which is used in imported curry powders. 60. Another advantage of the imported powders is that they are available all year round. Most turmeric farmers in Mwambe do not store their crop or the processed product but are keen to sell it at the first opportunity after harvest. Pemba’s internal supply of turmeric is

therefore strictly seasonal, and few if any of the traders or shopkeepers who buy it show any inclination to store or keep large stocks of it either. One reason for this is that many of them operate with limited working capital and only buy stock as they need it. Otherwise the ready

availability of better imported powders, which are already mixed, gives them little incentive to build up stocks of the inferior local product. 61. This situation suggests that one solution might be to introduce Madras type germplasm and thereafter promote storage of the processed crop by either farmers or traders or both. Indeed ZCCFSP has recently brought new turmeric germplasm into Unguja. However, there are a number of other constraints to turmeric production in Mwambe which have seen total output decline in recent years, and would therefore work against a solution of this kind. One of these constraints is the growing shortage of suitable land on which to grow turmeric, exacerbated by shortened fallows which have in turn led to a decline in soil fertility and the consequent productivity of the land. The plots of deeper makaani (coral rag) soil on which turmeric grows best are increasingly being converted to private ownership. As population

grows proportionately fewer farmers have access to them, especially those in poorer households. At the same time farmers with access to this land are unable to expand production, but instead have seen their turmeric yields decline. 62. Turmeric production has also relatively unattractive to many farmers because of the labour required to process it. There are no suitable grinding machines on Pemba, and all of the processing has to be done by hand. This labour is mostly performed by women and girls, and the returns they obtain from it appear to have diminished over time. When turmeric was first introduced it was a ‘women’s crop’ in the sense that women were the primary consumers of the processed proeduct, in the form of the yellow dye used in colouring handicrafts. The development of turmeric as a widely marketed spice crop, however, has meant that women’s control over the product and income from it has declined, and its benefit to their households become more diffuse. 63. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that women now complain about the labour involved in processing turmeric. One result of this is their avoidance of the most labour-intensive processing method, which would otherwise produce a better quality and more competitive powder. Another result is their readiness to switch their

labour to crops which provide them with better and more immediate returns. These include crops like cassava and bananas which can be consumed directly by household members as well as sold more easily and at different times of the year. 64. Farmers in Mwambe have been quick to exploit other opportunities in response to this situation. A wide range of off-farm activities provide income for households in different wealth categories. A number of

relatively wealthy farmers have sought land in Jambangome and other parts of western Pemba where they farm either seasonally or permanently and grow cash crops other than turmeric. In Mwambe itself the recent improvement in boat services between Pemba and Unguja has resulted in a marked increase in banana production for the Zanzibar town market, while orange growing and marketing is also beginning to take off. 65. From this point of view the decline in turmeric production is not a great loss. The history of many other cash crops in Zanzibar suggests that twenty years or so is a reasonable period to expect a particular crop to retain its dominance in a particular location. A more important

consideration is whether or not the local farming system remains dynamic and agriculture within it sustainable. The current situation in Mwambe provides some grounds for optimism. The greatest threat to local agriculture, however, is the inability of the land available to support a growing population. The continued degradation of the coral rag is particularly worrying, and it remains to be seen whether a more viable land use system will emerge. Experience from elsewhere in Zanzibar suggests that fruit tree planting is a step in the right direction, but other ingredients of an efficient mixed farming system (including manuring by cattle) are currently lacking.

References Fox, Diana, Salum Shaali Amme, Abdulla Juma Khamis and Awina Omar Issa 1993 Marketing and Transport in Pemba Island, Working Paper No. WP 93/12, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministy of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar.

Fox, Diana and James Packham 1994 Rural Income Earning Opportunities in Zanzibar with Regional Analysis (2 vols.), Technical Report TR 93/10, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar.

Kombo, Abdalla Ali and Rashid Khamis Ali 1992 Turmeric Production and Marketing in Zanzibar, Working Paper No. WP 92/7, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar.

Purseglove, J. W., E. G. Brown, C. L. Green and S. R. J. Robbins 1981 Spices (Volume 2). London and New York: Longman.

Taylor, S. J., C. L. Green and G. A. Hone


Turmeric: A Techno-

economic Profile, Crop Profile No. CP 94/12, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar, and Natural Resources Institute, Chatham.

Woods, Rupert 1994 Spice Strategy Paper: Opportunities for Spice Crops on Pemba and Strategy for Further Research and Development, Technical Report TR 94/15, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar.



Report on a Village PRRA: Jombwe, Kwasanani and

Chanjani Villages, Muwambe Branch, Pemba, 14th to 19th December, Report No. P/PPA 93/5, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar.

ZCCFSP 1993 Report on Mkwajuni Village P/PRA: February 8-12, 1993, Report No. P/PR 93/8, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar.

ZCCFSP 1995 The Development of Sweet Potatoes as a Cash Crop in Makangale, Pemba, Working Paper No. WP 95/24, Zanzibar Cash Crops Farming Systems Project, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources, Zanzibar.

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