Our first shamba (farm) visit was a fifteen-minute walk along Tabora’s rust-colored paths, passing the ever-present sisal plantations and acres of maize along the way. Our guide Rashidi boasted of his diversity of crops-mchicha (leafy greens), tomatoes, sugar cane, okra, potatoes, hot peppers and a scattering of native papaya and banana trees. The fact that he didn’t practice maize-only monoculture undoubtedly makes Rashidi an outlier in Tabora’s farming community.
Rashidi had dug a pool in the lowest part of his sloped plot, and the water was primarily used to irrigate his tomatoes, which grew in untrained, untrellised vines along the ground. It is notable that though these crops were in direct contact with the soil, there appeared to be very little soil-born disease and pest problems, which are destructive agents of tomato production in the United States.
Rashidi loaded us down with produce that we ate for the next week. Our favorite allotment was an entire stem of ndizi ya kupika (cooking bananas), which have a consistency most similar to starchy potatoes. We had fun experimenting with new fruits, having not cooked with them in the United States.