Compost Training Builds Farmers’ Ability to Improve Soil and Protect Habitats


Deforestation for agriculture is the biggest threat to chimpanzee habitat in the western Tanzanian landscape. Through the USAID-funded Landscape Conservation in Western Tanzania project (LCWT), JGI focuses on finding sustainable alternatives to agricultural forest-clearing for farmers. Riverine forests in the region are a critical habitat for chimpanzees, other biodiversity, and healthy watersheds. Since low soil fertility is one of the key drivers of agricultural incursions into riverine forests, composting was identified as an appropriate way to build soil health in plots outside of forested areas at low cost.  

In Fall 2020, JGI offered a compost training that emphasized lessons on soil fertility and how it relates to farm yield; best agricultural practices; controlling pests and disease; the benefits of riverine forests; and the process of making and applying compost. Over three days, 165 farmers were trained in three pilot villages, culminating in the farmers working together to create a functional compost pile.  

Since compost takes time to produce, the project further motivated the farmers by distributing ready-made compost. The farmers saw first-hand that crops receiving compost looked significantly better. “The plot with compost is doing great,” said Moses Mashishanga, a pilot farmer. “The advice given by agricultural experts will give me good yields this year.”  

This work is part of a larger innovative LCWT Behavior Change Campaign (BCC) that kicked off in 2021. Through the BCC, a complete environmental behavior change approach will be implemented based on community surveys and collaboration to advance composting, improved farmer yield, and ecosystem protection in the region. 

About Author

Ashley Sullivan is the Director of Storytelling & Marketing for Communications & Partnerships at the Jane Goodall Institute USA, where she works to connect individuals with Dr. Jane Goodall's vision, and the JGI mission to create a better world for all by protecting the interconnections between people, other animals, and the environment. Ashley graduated Stony Brook University with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and a minor in Biology, and is pursuing a Master's of Science in Environmental Science & Policy at Johns Hopkins University with a focus on Environmental Justice. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, now a D.C. resident, she has a varied background including 10+ years of expert communications and digital marketing in the social and environmental non-profit sector. Her intersectional approach to this work has been shaped by a holistic world-view, having traveled to Madagascar and Ecuador for conservation research projects, leading communications for youth social justice filmmaking organizations, and as a part of several professional groups advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in environmental spaces including Greens REALIGN. With skills ranging from conservation fieldwork, policy and advocacy campaigns, strategic communications, art, digital media, and design, Ashley believes in sharing information to empower and in the magic of storytelling to transform hearts and minds. Through growing understanding, empathy, and justice, she is igniting positive change to create that better, more equitable world, every day.