, ,

So here’s something incredibly cool. In Tanzania, the Amani Butterfly Project is using butterfly farming to conserve rainforests and as a source of income for hundreds of families. Don’t you just love a planet on which ideas like this are possible?

The problem in the East Usambara Mountains has been that logging and agriculture in the region has been damaging the forest, but reduction in these has meant poverty. Butterfly farming is solving both these problems. Wilma den Hartigh at Tanzania’s The Citizen points out that the ‘farmers, of which more than half are women, receive about 65 per cent of sales of butterfly pupae to overseas markets’. The rest of the money goes to staff salaries, costs, and community development projects like hospitals.

The idea was that of American biologist Theron Morgan-Brown, but now the project is run by a board of twelve elected volunteers from the farmers. It’s part of a network under the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group. From the project website:

Although butterfly farming is a side activity for most of the households participating in the project, the average household has seen a 25% increase in income since starting to farm butterflies.

There are about 400 farmers involved from six villages in which the average annual household income is less than $400 USD, so that’s nothing to sneeze at. 60% of Tanzania’s women live in absolute poverty, according to the Tanzania National Website. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations says that ‘Approximately 98% of rural women classified as economically active are engaged in agriculture’ in Tanzania, and women are logging a lot more working hours than men without necessarily having the same decision-making powers. In a country with rampant rural poverty, particularly for women farmers, such a profitable and environmentally sound side project is a pretty excellent move.

So, if you’re ever in need of some butterflies, I guess you know where to go…!