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The “Kihamba” agroforestry system that has a multi-layered vegetation structure covers 120,000 hectares of Mount Kilimanjaro’s southern slopes. It is one of the most sustainable forms of upland farming and supports one of the highest rural population densities in Africa, providing livelihoods for an estimated one million people.

Under the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems Initiative (GIAHS), activities were piloted in 660 households to enhance farmers’ cash income while preserving the ecological and social integrity of the Kihamba system. The project implemented an action plan, formulated together with the community, with the following key activities:

  • Rethinking sources of cash income. Three interventions were agreed on: a) conversion to certified organic coffee farming b) introduction of vanilla as a high value additional cash crop and c) introduction of trout aquaculture along the canals of the irrigation system
  • Rehabilitation of the irrigation system to reduce water loss and expansion of the capacity of storage ponds to cope with longer dry seasons due to climate change
  • Training in sustainable land management

The interventions in coffee management alone are expected to increase farm cash income by 25 per cent in three years.