Shinyanga. The introduction of sisal farming has brought new hope among farmers in Kishapu District, Shinyanga Region, a semi-arid area affected by climate change.
Mr Yusuf Mboje, secretary of the Federation of Farmers and Sisal Processors in Kishapu District, said at least 500 farmers in the area who grew other commercial crops in the past have switched to sisal.
An average of 43 tonnes of sisal are harvested every month, generating Sh100 million for farmers in the district. A kilogramme of sisal currently fetches between Sh2,200 and Sh2,400, which is four times the price of maize.
Mr Mboje said production has grown from 20 tonnes within a short period, with more than 1,000 people being employed directly.
Kishapu is among districts in the Lake Zone that have been adversely affected by climate change due to deforestation and other human activities. This has caused many farmers to stop growing traditional cash crops such as paddy and maize.
“The district is now very dry, and farmers frequently suffer losses because it is difficult to grow most cash crops due to inadequate rainfall. Farmers have decided that sisal is the only cash crop that can be grown profitably in the district,” Mr Mboje, adding that there are plans to plant four million sisal seedlings in the coming months.
A farmer and small-scale sisal processor in the district, Ms Helena Simon, told The Citizen that her fortunes have improved since she started growing the crop.
She said she earns up to Sh1 million per month by growing and processing sisal.
“I also sell 50 kilogramme of sisal residue for Sh10,000, which is disposable income, in addition to processing sisal from other farmers.”
Ms Simon said sisal farming and processing has made it possible for her to build a decent house valued at Sh25 million.
“It was not easy to venture into the sisal business. However, I’m now reaping the fruits of hard labour and perseverance.”
Ms Simon said farmers and processors in the district have formed a federation, which helps them to secure markets for processed sisal fibre.
Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperation (Sugeco) official Revocutus Kimario says sisal grows well in most Lake Zone regions.
“The number of people interested in growing sisal is increasing steadily despite a shortage of seedlings. We plan to cultivate 20 acres of sisal seedlings in the next few months,” he said.