Usamabara Mountains

Name ID 1822

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BBC internet news
Extract Author: Daniel Dickinson
Extract Date: 17 August, 2004

Butterfly farming proves worth a flutter

BBC reporter in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Haji Mshangama charges across the hilly landscape of the East Usamabara Mountains brandishing his blue butterfly net.

Suddenly he snaps the net down and has caught what he is after: a pregnant female Salamis Parhassus butterfly.

This is the beginning of a process lasting up to two weeks which will culminate in the export of the live pupa or chrysalis to a butterfly exhibit somewhere in the US or Europe.

Mr Mshangama is a happy and increasingly rich man, at least by local standards.

Working with seven other farmers, he began farming butterflies just ten months ago. In June his group sold pupae worth $500, a staggering amount of money, in an area where many farmers are earning just one or two dollars a day.

"My friends did think I was a bit crazy when I started farming butterflies," Mr Mshangama says.

"But when they saw how much money I was making they realised it was a good thing to do and they no longer say that.

"Now they all want to farm butterflies."

And so they are: there are now around 250 farmers based in four villages in the East Usamabara Mountains who are raising butterflies.

This year they expect to earn around $20,000, and probably more next year.

They have turned their back on some local traditions - cutting timber, poaching, giving up work on the tea estates which dot the hillsides - and transforming themselves from subsistence farmers into small scale cash crop entrepreneurs.

Despite the unfamiliar technicalities of butterfly farming, they are getting the hang of things.

East Usamabara farmers are already excelling at producing a wide range of pupae which are as colourful and varied as the butterfly that will finally hatch from them.

The farmers begin by catching a pregnant female butterfly and putting it in a large fly-cage. Once the butterfly lays her eggs on her favourite type of plant, which the farmer has grown from seeds collected in the mountain forest, they are collected and placed in a small canister.

The eggs hatch into caterpillars which are placed in their own cage, where they eat copiously before creating their protective covering which is the pupa.

The pupae of many different varieties, some of which can be found only in the East Usamabara Mountains, are collected from the individual farmers, put on a bus to the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

From here they are sent by courier to live butterfly farms and exhibits overseas.

Only there do they hatch into butterflies.

Asha Ibrahim is one of many farmers who has taken up the challenge of farming butterflies. "It is easy work, a lot easier than other types of farming," she says.

"The important thing is to make sure you do the right thing at the right time."

The butterfly idea was brought to the farmers by Theron Morgan-Brown, a young American biologist.

He spotted the potential of the area, its wide range of butterfly types and the demand for rare African butterflies coming from the increasing number of exhibits around the world.

"In Africa the only commercial exporters of butterflies are in Kenya, South Africa and now Tanzania," he says.

"So these farmers are well placed to do good business."

Theoretically, butterflies can be farmed wherever they are found, although areas rich in bio-diversity are more likely to provide the range of different species wanted by exhibits.

Areas of West Africa, as well as central and southern Africa, could provide yet more species not seen "live" outside Africa before.

As with any commodity, however, the danger is that over-eager production will force down prices, and the business may become less viable.

Extract ID: 4728

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nTZ Feedback
Extract Author: Paul Bolstad
Page Number: 2008 10 06
Extract Date: Nov 2007

2007 return to nTZ

In November 2007 I organized and led a return 'safari' of my family and two 'extended family' members to northern Tanzania. It had been 25 years since I left my job as a teacher at Enaboishu Secondary School in 1982 to return to the USA. It had been 50 years since my two sisters had been back to see the area where they lived as children in the Usambara Mountains. Included in our group were my two daughters, the oldest of which was born in Nairobi when we lived in Arusha(1975).

The story of our 'return to our roots' is told with pictures in the 2nd quarterly edition of the TANTRAVEL magazine, the official magazine of the Tazania Tourist Board and it is available free of charge at any of their offices.

We spent the first part of our time in Tanzania in Arusha reconnecting with old friends and co-workers and then proceeded to Usambara via chartered Toyota Coaster type bus. The highlight of our visit to Usambara was the church service at Vuga, the location of our ten year tenure between 1946 and 1957. The people there had known of our plans for almost a year and were well prepared for us. After a nearly three hour service, during which the four Bolstad siblings, plus daughters and spouses sang three Swahili songs we had learned as children, and I was asked to give a greeting from the family (in Swahili), we were treated to an African style lunch in the buildings of the former printing press which my father had managed and which now were being used as a combination retreat and conference center and Bible School. Many emotional tributes were heard to our parents, who all remembered well and were truly loved by the people of Vuga.

The rest of the safari was sight-seeing: Lushoto and the fabulous Irente view, the Maweni Lodge at Soni, and then to Tanga and Pangani on the Indian Ocean coast. After returning to Moshi for a Thanksgiving dinner, African style with ndizi na nyama, we were back in Arusha and off to the game parks to see the world famous animals. Ndutu Lodge, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, and Tarangire were on the agenda and many wonderful animal pictures were the result.

We continue to re-live the experiences we had last November and get together to talk about it, looking at our best pictures. Last August we gathered at our parent's gravesite and placed eleven stones and some soil we had collected from the church site at Vuga. We continue to savor the memories of those days long ago and the more recent days we spent there.

Paul Bolstad

Extract ID: 5829