Matengo farming system (Commonly known as ''Ngoro'') [Tanzania, United Republic of]

Reporting Entity: United Republic of Tanzania

Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights: No

Completeness: 74%

General Information

General Information

Title of best practice:

Matengo farming system (Commonly known as ''Ngoro'')


Tanzania, United Republic of

Reporting Entity:

United Republic of Tanzania

Property Rights

Clarify if the technology described in the template, or a part of it, is covered by property rights:



Section 1. Context of the best practice: frame conditions (natural and human environment)

Short description of the best practice

The system is a unique indigenous cultivation technique used in all Matengo highlands to conserve soil moisture and minimize soil erosion. It is a grass fallow tide ridge system characterised by crop rotation and maintenance of soil fertility by compositing grass, weeds and crop residues. It is an intensive system of cultivation on steep mountain slopes. The system has sustained land productivity for at least 200 years in Mbinga District.|


Matengo highlands of Mbinga District, Ruvuma Region, Southern Tanzania.|

Brief description of the natural environment within the specified location.

Mbinga District is composed of mountains, valleys and plateaus that extends from 800 - 1900m above mean sea level. The District is divided into four major agroecological zones representing combinations of unique altitude ranges that have variable characteristics.|
Mbinga District is characterised with Haplic or Humic acrisols depending on their position in the topo sequence. At higher elevations the most common soils are highily leached yellow red soils which are well drained with good permiability. At lower elevations, soils are less leached brown red in colour sandy clay loams and sandy clays.|
Mbinga District is characterised by tropical temperate with a unimodal rainfall pattern. The rain season extends for at least six month from November through May with a colder dry season for the remainder of the year. Average minimum and maximum temperatures are 19 - 23 degree celcius and 29 - 31 degree celcius respectively. Average annual rainfall for the District is 1224mm.

Prevailing socio-economic conditions of those living in the location and/or nearby

Almost all income is derived from agriculture, coffee being the main cash source. At lower altitudes maize and beans are the main cash crops. Another sources of income is pig  and poultry keeping. |
The average income level for Mbinga District is Tshs 219,238,000 per year. Income per capital is 489,639 Tshs per year (According to 2006 household survey data)|
In Mbinga District the dominant land tenure system is customary land ownership with much of the land being un surveyed. Due to the nature of land tenure systems families have equal rights to use land although head of families have decisive rights.

On the basis of which criteria and/or indicator(s) (not related to The Strategy) the proposed practice and corresponding technology has been considered as 'best'?

This Indiginious conservation technology ''Ngoro'' is considered best due to its efficiency in controlling soil erosion, increasing soil moisture at critical times of the year and maintaing soil fertility, consequently increasing both production and productivity. |

Section 2. Problems addressed (direct and indirect causes) and objectives of the best practice

Main problems addressed by the best practice

Main problems addressed by this practice include soil erosion, soil moisture defficiency and loss of soil fertility.|

Outline specific land degradation problems addressed by the best practice

1. Soil erosion;
2. Loss of soil fertility;

Specify the objectives of the best practice

1. To conserve soil fertility;
2. To increase soil water retention capacity;
3. To increase productivity; and
4. To improve soil structure.

Section 3. Activities

Brief description of main activities, by objective

Increased productivity is attained as a result of high soil fertility, water availability and better soil structure.|
Water retention capacity is improved through organic matter and micro pits which act as water micro catchment.
Soil fertility is improved by compositing grass, weeds and crop residues and also by crop rotation and planting of legumes. |
Soil structure is improved through addition of organic matter.

Short description and technical specifications of the technology

The Ngoro system is based on rows and pits that form a grid pattern. Usually men cut the grass and lay it in rows forming a grid and women do the cultivation. The rows which are 2m or 3m apart roughly follow contour lines, with distance between them depending on the amount of grass to be covered and the soil depth with which to cover it. The soil in the  squares is dug out and pulled on top of rows of grass. In this way one quarter of the work is done facing downhill and dragging the soil. Digging continues until the subsoil is exposed in each ngoro pit. The depth of the pits normally ranges between 10cm to 50cm. The crop is planted on the raised beds surrounding the ngoro pits. Maize is normally planted in one field as a pure crop and beans and peas are planted as pure crops on the other. The plant beds are clean weeded with the weeds being pulled out and thrown into the pits to form compost. After harvest crop residues are also thrown into the ngoro pits, the old soil beds are split and new beds formed over old pits. The new ngoro pits come to occupy the places where the former soil beds intersected. The rotation is strict, a grain crop, usually maize, alternating with a leguminous crop, normally beans and peas.|

Section 4. Institutions/actors involved (collaboration, participation, role of stakeholders)

Name and address of the institution developing the technology

Mbinga District Council|District Executive Director,
Mbinga District,
Tanzania.|Permanent Secretary|Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security,
P.O. Box 9192,
Dar es Salaam,
Email. psk@kilimo.go.tz

Was the technology developed in partnership?


Specify the framework within which the technology was promoted

  • Local initiative

Was the participation of local stakeholders, including CSOs, fostered in the development of the technology?


Was the population living in the location and/or nearby involved in the development of the technology?


By means of what?
  • Participatory approaches


Section 5. Contribution to impact

Describe on-site impacts (the major two impacts by category)

The on-site impacts of the Ngoro system are increased crop yields due to improved soil fertility and crop rotation.
Improved food security and income due to high crops yield.
Reduced land degradation due to controlled soil erosion.
Reduced land pollution due to minimal use of agro-chemicals
Improved land productivity due to reduction in soil erosion, increased nutrients, improved soil structure and moisture.|
Improved livelihood due to increased income levels and food supply.

Describe the major two off-site (i.e. not occurring in the location but in the surrounding areas) impacts

Reduced eutrophication and soil contamination due to minimal use of agro-chemicals.
Reduced siltation downstream due to controlled soil erosion.

Impact on biodiversity and climate change

Explain the reasons:

1. The system minimizes expansion of cultivated lands hence protecting flora and fauna.
2. Ngoro system minimizes carbon emissions by reducing both vegetation and soil degradation.
3. Ngoro system enhances in-situ moisture content, soil fertility and soil structure acting as a potential adaptation strategy. |

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?

Has a cost-benefit analysis been carried out?


Section 6. Adoption and replicability

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?

Was the technology disseminated/introduced to other locations?



Uluguru Mountains |Same district

Can you identify the three main conditions that led to the success of the presented best practice/technology?

Existing physical feature of the Mbinga District (i.e Steepy terrain)
Favourable weather condition of the area.
Scarcity of the agricultural land vs population.


In your opinion, the best practice/technology you have proposed can be replicated, although with some level of adaptation, elsewhere?


At which level?
  • Local
  • Sub-national
  • National
  • Subregional
  • Regional
  • International

Section 7. Lessons learned

Related to human resources

The Ngoro system is labour intensive and it involves both men and women.

Related to technical aspects

Technically the system is simple, does not need highly skilled labour and uses simple tools.|

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