IF you ask about Khamis Mkubwa Khatib of Mzingani, Mkoani Pemba, almost everyone there will tell you that he is a charming long hair, beard man, a famous farmer, making life out of growing and selling cassava, vegetables and banana.
Mr Khatib, 40, born in Pemba, started the farming business without agricultural production know-how, a situation that led him to produce low yields. But he continued to struggle with expectations of becoming a big farmer.
The young farmer gives cassava, the second staple food in Zanzibar after rice, top priority out of the trio-crops in term of commercial agriculture. After a number of repeatedly farming with a help of agricultural advice or expertise, the young farmers started to record success.
The farmer's dream became true faster following the establishment of Agricultural Services Support Programme and Agricultural Sector Development Programme-Livestock (ASSP and ASDP-L).
Khatib joined Farmer Field School (FFS) formed at his homestead, Mzingani, after ASSP and ASDPL program started there, the duo 15 years programs incepted the Schools, with only one aim of obtaining technologies, he has for a long time been hankering to increase production and ultimately reduce poverty.
The farmer opted for agriculture after completing ordinary level of secondary education in 1999 at Karume secondary School, Unguja. His decision to embrace the business paid dividend after closely following advices from extension officers through FFS.
He said that he started new farming technology in 2009 at his farm estimated one acre and set-aside a small portion as demonstration plot using accustomed farming system aimed at showing the difference in growth pattern between improved production and traditional methods.
Mr Khatib says that his intention to establish a demonstration plot nearby Mkoani, Chake Chake road was established to attract people and 15 farmers have already adopt the technology.
He says that one harvested cassava stand of Mwari variety through the use of improved farming is capable of producing eight to ten cassava roots and weighs between 4kg to 5kg compared to hardly four cassava roots weighing one kg by accustomed agriculture.
Additionally, he described that one harvested stand sells between 4,000/- to 5,000/-. A similar number of harvested stand in the case of old farming system could fetch not more than 500/-.
"Many people told me that I would apply improved technology to the entire area so that I could harvest more but, I said no, because I want others to see the difference that will directly enable them to adopt upon seeing the change from me," said Khamis.
Secrets behind increased production were application of fertilizers, space planting and timely weeding, he says. The variety of cassavas he grows is mwari, sepide and Kizimbani.
Zanzibar has been cultivating cassava on a total of 30,000 acres, but in mid 1980s many smallholders' farmers were disappointed amid the outbreak of diseases which wiped- out local cassava varieties to extent that production was declining yearly.
The diseases are Cassava Brown streak and Cassava Mosaic Disease. Assisted by duo programmes, ASSP and ASDP-L, in transforming agriculture, Khatib has it that the use of improved agriculture on his farm has increased production both cash-income and also build respect and dignities in his household.
He said he earned 800,000/-for the first time in eight months. He, however, reiterates that the big cry still haunts many smallholders' farmers in Zanzibar including himself, is scarcity of land.
"Actually the area 0.5 acre is not enough for the time being because I want to expand agriculture I, always aim at high in terms of production, so at least I need two acres of cassava," says the farmer.
The Minister for agriculture, Natural Resources, Livestock, and fisheries Mr Mmanga Mjengo Mjawir is encouraging more farmers to grow cassava because the demand in the world market has been increasing.