Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation at NEI

Because Kilimanjaro and its economy are largely dependent on the smallholder-based agriculture sector, they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Approximately 90% of Tanzania’s population, as with the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, is dependent on rain-fed crops for their food security. Climate change negatively impacts such crop production through rainfall variability and temperature shocks, threatening the livelihoods of farmers (Arslan, Belotti & Lipper, 2017; Moore et al., 2011).

Natural Extracts Industries (NEI) is working hard to address this. Our work firstly addresses deforestation through agroforestry. Because vanilla requires shade to grow, forest conservation is promoted throughout our network of farmers. This is vital, as cutting down forests releases the carbon stored within them into the atmosphere, a
process accounting for 17% of carbon emissions globally (Gorte & Sheikh, 2010). An estimated 500 to 750 tonnes of carbon are stored in each hectare of forest, with Tanzania losing approximately 400,000 hectares every year (Khatun et al., 2015; Komba & Muchapondwa, 2015). These emissions have drastically changed the local climate.

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In order to help our farmers mitigate the effects of climate change on their vanilla and other crops, we have begun implementing several strategies, one of which is our rainwater harvesting project, funded by our partner organization MEDA. Farmers are selected for the program based on their level of water-stress, with priority given to our women farmers as well. They receive a rainwater harvesting tank and all required infrastructure installed at their farm free of charge. The size of the tank varies based on the number of vanilla vines each farmer grows.

fullsizeoutput_3b8bAfter receiving tanks from NEI, farmers are trained both on how to use the tanks and on how to most effectively utilize the harvested water for their irrigation purposes. Each vanilla vine requires approximately one litre of water a week, which can be achieved by implementing a bottle-drip irrigation system. NEI has already installed 74 tanks to 74 farmer beneficiaries, and aims to reach a total of 200 tanks by the end of 2018. In addition, NEI is also repairing water furrows.

 

 

Farmer Profile:fullsizeoutput_3b8c

Mary Ulomi lives in the village of Uswaa in Kilimanjaro with her husband and five children. Her livelihood is solely dependant on agriculture. Using her extra income generated from growing vanilla with NEI, Mary was able both to send her children to school and invest in other economic activities such as maize cultivation.

In the past, however, Mary has struggled with drought at her farm. She has even lost vanilla plants, which dried up due to the lack of water. In order to address this issue, NEI installed a rainwater harvest tank at Mary’s farm in August, and provided her with training on how to use her tank. She is now utilizing bottle-drip irrigation for her vanilla as well. Since the installation of the tank, her plants have remained in good health and she hopes to achieve increased yields in the coming season.

 

References

Arslan, A., Belotti, F., & Lipper, L. (2017). Smallholder productivity and weather shocks: Adoption and impact of widely promoted agricultural practices in Tanzania. Food Policy, 69, 68-81. doi:10.1016/j.foodpol.2017.03.005 (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306919217301872)

Gorte, R. W., & Sheikh, P. A. (2010). Deforestation and Climate Change. Congressional Research Service. (http://forestindustries.eu/sites/default/files/userfiles/1file/R41144.pdf)

Khatun, K., Gross-Camp, N., Corbera, E., Martin, A., Ball, S., & Massao, G. (2015). When Participatory Forest Management makes money: insights from Tanzania on governance, benefit sharing, and implications for REDD. Environment and Planning A, 47(10), 2097-2112. doi:10.1177/0308518×15595899 (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0308518X15595899)

Komba, C., & Muchapondwa, E. (2016). An analysis of factors affecting household willingness to participate in the REDD programme in Tanzania. Climate and Development, 1-14. doi:10.1080/17565529.2016.1145098 (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/296475511_An_analysis_of_factors_affecting_household_willingness_to_participate_in_the_REDD_programme_in_Tanzania)

Moore, N., Alagarswamy, G., Pijanowski, B., Thornton, P., Lofgren, B., Olson, J., . . . Qi, J. (2011). East African food security as influenced by future climate change and land use change at local to regional scales. Climatic Change, 110(3-4), 823-844. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0116-7 (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0116-7)

 

It’s Pollination Season in Kilimanjaro!

This September, NEI held a special training for our Farmer Champions teaching them how to pollinate vanilla. This is such a vital part of the vanilla growing process that the training will be repeated three times. Our Farmer Champions will disseminate this knowledge throughout our entire network of more than 1600 farmers, ensuring that each farmer maximizes their harvest, and therefore their income!

Hand pollination of vanilla is a very delicate process. Each flower blooms only once and must be pollinated within a 6 to 8 hour window of doing so. To complete the pollination, our farmers use a toothpick to push up the rostellum, a very small flap in the centre of the flower. This allows pollen to be passed from the anther to the stigma.

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At our training, farmers receive hands-on instruction from our field officers on how to do this correctly. Each farmer can practice their pollination skills, as well as provide support and advice to one another. Pollination is so important because it enables the vine to grow long green fruits, commonly referred to as pods. These green pods are what is harvested and then cured to make black vanilla pods, which in turn are used to make the Epicurious Hedgehog Vanilla Extract you know and love!

The reason vanilla must be pollinated by hand is a rather interesting one. Vanilla, which originates from the tropical forests of Mexico, can only be pollinated in nature by a very specific type of bee known as the melipona bee.

When Mexico was colonized, Europeans fell in love with the flavour and took vanilla plants back with them to grow in their tropical African colonies. Since the melipona bee does not exist elsewhere in the world, the vanilla was not pollinated and, therefore, did not produce fruit.

Europeans tried unsuccessfully to introduce the melipona bee, and it wasn’t until 1836 that Belgian botanist Charles Morren discovered it was possible to pollinate vanilla by hand. Since then, vanilla has been enjoyed as a delicious flavour worldwide.  

 

References

Howell, M. (2016, May 05). Hand-pollination used to produce vanilla. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from http://newsok.com/article/5496227

Kull, T., Arditti, J., & Wong, S. M. (2009). Orchid biology: reviews and perspectives, X. New York: Springer.

Silas, the Vanilla Expert!

Across from me in my office sits a humble gentleman who types quietly on his computer… for 2 minutes until he is on his way out of the office again, off to visit another farmer.

Silas Noah is one of NEI’s co-founders and even though he rarely mentions it, it made perfect sense to me once I found out! He knows everything there is to know about farming and growing vanilla, not to mention he knows each one of the Farmer Champions personally.

Silas and Juan Guardado established NEI in 2011, combining their expertise in rural development (Silas) and business development (Juan). Learn more about the history of NEI here.

Silas has personally worked with the vanilla farmers since the first day and still does. I had the chance to join him on a field visit recently and got to learn so much from him (even about clove trees) and observe him mentoring another farmer and Farmer Champion.

Last week NEI’s extension team held a meeting with all the Farmer Champions in the area, it was a great time to learn about all the challenges the farmers face. Silas was totally in his element guiding the farmers!

NEI is very lucky to have someone as positive, outgoing and smart as Silas! Thank you Silas!

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Chocolatey Relaxing Face Mask, YES PLEASE

yogurtThis face mask is great after a long, hot, tiring day! It is calming and cooling and the best part…chocolatey!

It is very simple to put together! Just plain yogurt, raw honey and cacao extract! All 3 ingredients do wonders for your skin!

Yogurt contains lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural skin exfoliator yet is very gentle! High concentrations of lactic acid also make yogurt face masks hydrating because the lactic acid increases water content in the skin. An awesome bonus to yogurt is that it is a source of zinc, a mineral known for its skin repairing, healing and protecting abilities. Zinc reduces skin inflammation, quickly healing acne breakouts while also reducing excessive oil production.

Raw honey, besides tasting amazing, is also a natural antibacterial!  How cool it that?! “Raw” means that the honey hasn’t been damaged by heat, for example, lots if hone is pasteurized. This process heats up the honey to kill microorganisms, and is often done to reduce the likelihood of the honey crystallizing. But the process kills lots of the good stuff about honey that should be celebrated and utilized!  Here is a good read that better explains the problems with honey pasteurization.

So find raw honey!

Raw honey’s antiseptic and antimicrobial properties making it great for healing the skin (it is even good for healing cuts and burns by killing bacteria and fungus). Raw honey also contains gluconic acid, an acid that brightens the complexion, evens out skin tone, and lightens scars and age spots.

Cacao extract adds a lovely aroma to this mask but also offers tons of antioxidants for your skin. Cacao has antioxidants called flavonoids, which are great for stimulating blood circulation in the skin, smoothing fine lines, and giving you a rosy glow, it is also a potent anti-inflammatory, and can help soothe redness and reduce blemishes. Extracts are a great way to get a high concentration of antioxidants!

If you want to make this mask extra rich and luxe add some cocoa powder for an extra addition of chocolatey goodness.

In small bowl, mix:

  • 3 tbsp of plain yogurt
  • 3 tbsp of raw honey
  • 1 tsp of Epicurious Hedgehog Cacao Extract
  • 1 tbsp Epicurious Hedgehog Cocoa Powder (optional)

Apply the mixture to your face in a thin yet complete layer. Relax while wearing the mask for 20 minutes then rinse with warm water! I like to use this mask 2-3 times a week to keep my skin fresh and calm.

Hope you enjoy it and have a relaxing week!

For more information about Epicurious Hedgehog and Natural Extracts Industries, head to our website!