A long time ago, when I was only 17, I decided I wanted to study tropical agriculture. An interesting choice, because I grew up in the city and no-one in our family was a farmer. Except for my grandfather on my mother’s side; he had some land and greenhouses. But the stories I heard about that growing up were not very promising. I guess what motivated me to make this choice was that I had always liked biology and science but I wanted to do something practical and meaningful with it. Add a bit of adventurism to that and, voila, I found the course that fitted me perfectly. I really enjoyed stuying and student life. I spend half a year in Togo and 6 months in Zimbabwe to do research, and after 6 years in university I got my engineer’s title.
After graduating, I worked a bit here and there, but was soon mostly busy with moving to different places and taking care of little children. But we have not moved house in the last 2 years and our children are not so little anymore. So now I am back to work!
The company I am working with is called Kilimo Markets. Kilimo means ‘agriculture’ in Swahili. Kilimo Markets works with smallholder farmers that produce pigeon pea and other pulses, mainly for export. Kilimo Markets organises the farmers in farmers’ groups and facilitates the marketing of the harvest. They also increase access to quality certified seed of improved varieties and other inputs. Read more about what they do on their website.
The project I am working on looks into the local consumption of pigeon pea. In India and other Asian countries, pigeon pea is mostly consumed as dal (a stew made of split peas). A dal made out of split pigeon peas is called toor dal.
As any other pulse (peas and beans), pigeon pea is very nutritious, and rich in essential amino acids (protein). The staple food of Tanzania is maize. It is mostly consumed as ugali, a stiff porridge made of maize flour and water. It can be eaten with vegetables, beans or meat. The consumption of pigeon pea is not very common in Tanzania, at least, that is the assumption. Kilimo Markets would like to know if pigeon pea is consumed by the farmers that grow it for export. It is available to them, but it is possible that they prefer not to eat it, for various reasons.
Over the last two weeks, several farmers (mainly women) from a number of villages in the pigeon pea production areas have been interviewed, in order to find out if they consume pigeon pea, and if not, why not. More general questions about nutrition have also been asked, to get a better understanding of how (and if) pigeon pea would fit in the diet of the farmers and their families. It will be my job to put all the information together and draw some conclusions. A follow-up on that could be finding ways to increase pigeon pea consumption, as that would most likely improve nutrition for the farmers’ families.