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Riziki S. Shemdoe, Idris S. Kikula and Patrick Van Damme

This article presents local knowledge on ecosystem management by analyzing and discussing traditional tillage practices applied by smallholder farmers as a response to drought risks in dryland areas of Mpwapwa District, central Tanzania. Farming activities in the area wholly depend on rain-fed systems. Information from key informants and in-depth household interviews indicate that farmers in this area use three different traditional tillage practices—no-till (sesa), shallow tillage (kutifua), and ridges (matuta). Available information suggests that selection of a particular practice depends on affordability (in terms of costs and labor requirements), perceived ability to retain nutrient and soil-water, and improvement of control of erosion and crop yield. In this area, smallholder farmers perceive no-till practice to contribute to more weed species, hence more weeding time and labor are needed than in the other two practices. The no-till practice also contributes to low soil fertility, low soil moisture retention, and poor crop yield. No plans have been made to introduce irrigation farming in these marginal areas of central Tanzania. Thus, improving the ability of the tillage practices to conserve soil moisture and maintain soil fertility nutrients using locally available materials are important tasks to be carried out. This will ensure the selection of practices that will have positive influence on improved crop yields in the area.