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Digging in to fight drought in Tanzania

Joachim Eggers
February 4, 2022

Grass seeds, shovels, muscle and rain — the perfect ingredients to bring parched land in Kenya and Tanzania back to life.

Two men in the Arusha region of Tanzania carry spades on their shoulders.
Justdiggit believes learning simple techniques can empower communities to improve their environmentImage: Nduati Mambo/DW

Tanzania: Restoring the soil with reforestation

Village communities in Kenya and Tanzania are using a surprisingly simple, low-tech method to fight desertification. They dig semicircular depressions into the earth, so that it when it rains, water collects instead of evaporating quickly from the parched ground.  

Grass seeds are sown into these "bunds". As they germinate, they bind the soil together preventing erosion and keeping it cool. In this way, more greenery is able to take root in the surrounding earth.The technique was thought up by Dutch-Kenyan NGO Justdiggit, which has been working on the project with communities in Kenya and Tanzania since 2013. Since then, more than 200,000 "bunds" have been dug. 

Bund soil restoration Tanzania
Virtually nothing grows here yet, but after the next rains, all that could change Image: Nduati Mambo/DW

Justdiggit also helps communities build grass seed banks and supports reforesting, with 9 million trees planted using the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration method. Above all, the organization focuses on on-site educational work, with the conviction that drought and desertification in the region can only be stopped if enough people learn these simple techniques and dig in. 

People create earth bunds between withered trees in the Arusha region of Tanzania
Digging in to dry earth can make a world of differenceImage: Nduati Mambo/DW

Project goal: By revegetating degraded land, Justdiggit aims to increase pasture and arable land for locals in the Arusha region of Tanzania. Together with reforestation, this also cools the microclimate, helping to prevent desertification. Reforestation can also bind carbon dioxide and counteract climate change. 

Project duration: The project began in 2013 and aims to restore a total of 130 million hectares of degraded soil by 2030. 

Budget: The project is financed by donations and through partnerships with internationally active companies. Private donors finance individual bunds. Companies commit to providing money over five years to maintain 10 million trees in Tanzania.  

Project partners: In addition to the non-governmental organization Justdiggit, theLead Foundation and the Germany's The Food Family foundation are also participating in the project in Arusha. 

A film by Joachim Eggers and Thuku Kariuki