Plant protection with minimal pesticides - an alumnus story of Godlove Kirimbo
Helping Tanzanian farmers to use less pesticides: that’s Godlove Kirimbo’s ambition. “I am convinced that we can farm without destructing the natural environment.” Slowly but steadily Godlove is convincing farmers that alternative pest control and good yields go hand in hand.Growing up in a village where farming was the only way of life, he knew early on that he wanted to improve the lives of farmers. Godlove: “I wanted to touch the society. I knew that my education should help farmers around me.” His education took him from Tanzania where he did his masters’ in horticulture, to Wageningen where he continued with natural resource management, and back again to Tanzania. In the Netherlands he collected key knowledge he now uses to reduce pesticides.The secret of intercropping“I am currently working in the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute in Tanzania”, Godlove explains. Originally the institute's task was registering pesticides. Nowadays his work focuses more on helping farmers minimize the use of pesticides. “The Institute has a plant protection division, and I’m working in this division. I conduct research into technologies that farmers can use to improve their production and control pests and diseases. The Tanzanian government wishes to reduce the use of pesticides.”One example of alternative methods to control pests is the use of intercropping, the cultivation of two or more crops simultaneously on the same field (see picture). Intercropping prevents soil depletion, it increases soil fertility and reduces soil erosion and the need for fertilizers. It also helps in controlling weeds and it controls the growth of pathogens and pests in crops. “We work on intercropping of maize and cowpeas and other legumes”, he explains. “We found it very useful that if you plant the beans first and then follow with maize, that in itself reduces the Fall armyworm (a pest). I reached out to the institution with this idea. Normally the institute would teach the farmers how to use the pesticide correctly. I introduced the idea that there are alternatives, for instance intercropping.” The idea is gaining traction thanks to the work of Godlove.With their own eyes Not all Tanzanian farmers however, immediately accept his novel ideas about plant protection. “They believe too much in pesticides and didn’t think good yields were possible without them.” Godlove and his colleagues decided to show the farmers the alternatives. “The Tropical Pesticides Research Institute has around a hundred hectares of farmland. We decided to work with together with eleven farmers from Arusha Region and seven farmers of Kilimanjaro Region and implementing the intercropping on the land of the institute. Farmers experience for themselves that it is working and even say that they can get good yield from intercropping.” Many other farmers come and can see for themselves that it is in fact working: “It is much easier to convince people if they see it with their own eyes.” Godlove studied at Wageningen University from 2015 till 2017. “I did my master’s degree in plant science and my specialisation was natural resource management. My studies in Wageningen really inspired me: my ideal is that farmers both farm their land and protect the natural resources.” In Tanzania he had seen many farmers making the step from local farming to modern farming with monocultures and many insecticides. Godlove: “These products are destructing the natural environment. When I came to the Netherlands I was naturally drawn towards this course: how we can farm and protect the natural environment? I decided to bring back this knowledge to my country.”Reaching every farmer in Tanzania Across Tanzania, natural resource management is still in its infancy. Godlove: “In the colleges nobody is teaching about natural resource management, but luckily enough the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro is now teaching students about this topic. Still it’s not very well known amongst the farmers.”His ambitions don’t stop in his own region. “I want to reach farmers all over Tanzania with my outreach course about the agricological approach to managing pests and diseases. I also wish to get some time to teach agricological courses at the university. My wish is to further disseminate the idea of a beneficial relation between agriculture and environment. So that we only use pesticides when it is really necessary.”Going back to the village Godlove grew up in Singida Region, in a typical village where the only way of making a living was farming. Everybody around him was a farmer. “I never thought I would get the chance to go to university because life was very difficult. Being a child I thought I would end up with just primary education. But with the help of someone I went to secondary school and at that point I decided that I wanted to be an agricultural officer, to be able to help people in Tanzania to improve their farming.” In Tanzania you get government help when you get to university level. Godlove: “So my government paid for my bachelor studies. In my time the main difficulty for children was to reach secondary school, it was expensive. Nowadays students can go to secondary level for free.”Every year he goes back to the village he grew up and he visits many farmers. “They are always happy so see me back in the village! I have to visit everybody.” Looking back at his education his biggest insight is that agricultural improvement is key to improving the whole society. “If you want to do good, to help poor people, you should invest in agriculture. I really appreciate The Netherlands for taking up many students from Tanzania and giving them the opportunity to study. When I meet the alumni here in Tanzania, they are all helping the society. It is very easy to touch the society when you support development of agriculture.”Godlove still has a lot of contact with the other Holland Alumni. “We have a group in which we share information with each other. Not only alumni from Wageningen but also from other Dutch universities. Our government very much appreciates these alumni and their knowledge.”The whole world in Wageningen “What I liked best about my studies in Wageningen was my teachers. The teachers are very, very responsible and well-prepared. They use the time very effectively and they structured the programmes very well so that you get the full context of the subject matter. I felt well equipped when I left Wageningen. The whole world is there.”The plan for 2020 was to come back to the Netherlands for a short course in August, but unfortunately the corona-disease seems to thwart his plans for now. “Hopefully there will be another opportunity.”Godlove in shortGodlove was born in a village in Singida Region (Tanzania). After his bachelor in horticulture, he did a master’s degree in plant science with the specialisation natural resource management (Wageningen University) from 2015 till 2017, as part of Nuffic's Netherlands Fellowship Programme. He currently works at the Tropical Pesticides Research Institute in Tanzania, helping farmers minimize the use of pesticides.An important takeaway from his period was that agricultural improvement is key to improving the whole society. “If you want to do good, to help poor people, you should invest in agriculture. I really appreciate the Netherlands for taking up many students from Tanzania and giving them the opportunity to study."Godlove's tip: " If a student from any country would want to study agriculture, I would definitely recommend Wageningen. Everything is there about agriculture and environment.”Find Godlove on Linkedin and on the Holland Alumni network.The Orange Knowledge Programme - the successor of the Netherlands Fellowship Programme - is a € 220 m Dutch global development programme, available in 54 developing countries and managed by Nuffic, a Dutch non-profit organisation for internationalisation in education. Launched mid-2017, it aims to have provided tens of thousands with the possibility to change their future through education and training by mid-2022. The programme is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Information about scholarship opportunities under the Orange Knowledge Programme can be found www.studyinholland.nl/okp.