Tonight I am staying with Otto Ulyate, a very successful, hard-working farmer in this area of Tanzania. To understand the situation in this part of the world, it is essential to know at least a little about the past; in the 1970s, the state took over and “nationalized” farming operations through a process of “villagization”. It went downhill from there. Though the intentions of the policy may have been good and some positive effects were realized, farming productivity dwindled. This and other consequences left Tanzania as one of the poorest countries in the world, and dependent on foreign aid.
Otto is a fifth-generation Kenyan who came to this area about 10 years ago. He brought skills and knowledge about how to use the land wisely, and now his farm produces more than 10 times any other per unit area. The Bill Clinton Foundation leases a run-down, state-owned farm in the vicinity, and with Otto’s help this operation is now approaching production levels similar to those of Otto’s own farm. Such proof that it is fully possible to farm efficiently is particularly important in the context of Tanzania’s heavy dependence on foreign production; the harvests are generally so poor that the country must import food.
Otto gave me a tour of the area and I was extremely impressed by how these farmers have stuck to it. They are a tough breed, committed to making agriculture work here. Many have their own landing strip and aircraft. The lagging infrastructure and remote country make private aviation absolutely necessary.
The hospitality here is second to none. I have a nice guest room and en suite bathroom. This kind offer certianly helps Cape to Cape! Still, as always, I am grateful but feel the need to fly on. It will be interesting to take off from an airstrip at 6,000 feet of elevation. Should be pretty easy since I don’t have so much fuel on board…!
I’ll spend a night in Mbeya and then I plan to make a fairly long flight through a beautiful valley in Zambia to land at Mfuwe. Apparently few human inhabitants along the way, but I do hope to spot some hippos and elephants. We’ll see!