Posts in conservation agriculture

Community Inspired by Demo Plots

The 94 farmers trained so far in this new program said that what convinced them to sign up for conservation agriculture (CA) training was seeing the healthy green sorghum and beans in the program’s demonstration plots. The program conducted an awareness campaign prior to training by setting up demo plots in the villages.

When farmers were invited to compare the CA plots with neighboring fields, the sorghum was tall and about ready to tassel, and the lablab beans used as a cover crop to retain moisture and fix nitrogen in the soil were green and healthy-looking.  It was easy to see at a glance that the CA crops were in much better shape, so the farmers wanted to learn how to replicate those results.

The program area was chosen because of widespread food insecurity due to low crop yields from poor soils, low rainfall, and insect damage after harvest. The first group of 94 farmers has been trained in such CA practices as minimum tillage, intercropping, crop rotation, cover crops and mulching, all of which improve the soil and retain moisture. They are planning to use CA on their home plots at the start of the coming rainy season, and will receive further training on airtight grain storage and growing vegetables in their yards. The vegetables will supply much-needed food and increase nutritional diversity during the dry season when food is scarce.

Future training sessions will focus on establishing clean sources of drinking water and small- scale irrigation options for watering the kitchen gardens.

Caption: Farmers Daniel and Grace pose by a demo plot of very healthy sorghum

Tanzania Chamwino Program         
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT)
Story based on a report by Musa Chilemu. Photo by Lister Nyang’anyi.

 

09/28/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Transforming Challenges into Opportunities

“Being members of a farmers’ group and saving money with them has transformed my family’s challenges into opportunities,” says Ouga, an elderly farmer who participates in the Uganda Teso program.

Ouga and his wife, Janet, have ten children. They joined a farmers’ group in 2016 to receive training on a variety of sustainable agricultural practices. As their tomatoes, maize and cassava started yielding more, they began saving money with other members through the group’s Village Savings and Lending Association.

“In the first year, we just saved a little money. What opened our eyes was that the members who had saved more received a substantial amount of money as a dividend at the end of the cycle! In fact, they were even able to buy cattle!”

Seeing their fellow farmers’ success triggered Ouga and Janet’s desire to put away more money. At the end of the second-year payout cycle, Ouga’s family received enough to buy a bull for plowing.

“That same year, we got a loan from the group and purchased doors and windows for the house we were constructing as a family,” Ouga said. “We are also now able to pay school fees and cover other expenses. For so many years – even into my old age – I have struggled to provide for my family, with little and sometimes no success. Now I realize it was mainly because of my ignorance and sticking to traditional thinking and practices,” he says.

Caption: Janet and Ouga harvesting cassava

Uganda Teso Program
Led by World Renew and local partner PAG KIDO

08/28/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Encouraging and Empowering Farmers

Several farmers participating in the Zambia Northwest program recently stepped forward to share their results:

John: “My standard of living has improved since I’ve been applying the conservation farming methods I’ve learned. This means my wife and I can put more food on the table for our six children than ever before, and I’m able to pay school fees for all of them.”

Obieness: “My life has changed for the better since I started getting conservation agriculture training.  I’m a widow with seven children, and life has been a challenge for me. But after learning more appropriate ways to farm, I’m expecting good yields on my maize and groundnuts (peanuts) this year. For the first time in my life, my community respects me as a responsible and caring parent because I am able to provide for my family.  What a proud mother I am!”

Simeon: “This empowerment program has made me appreciate farming so much more, thanks to everything I’ve learned about conservation agriculture.  Through mulching and using environmentally friendly ways to manage pests, I’ve harvested more.  My successes gave me the confidence to enlarge my maize field, and I even added a new field of cassava. Because we have more to eat and I can make money from selling our excess, I feel like a person who has found a lucrative new job.”

Clara: “As a widow taking care of six orphans in addition to my son, I’m amazed and proud that I am standing on my own two feet where farming is concerned. I am thankful for all the farming instruction and support I’ve received from the staff. I’ve learned how to fertilize my fields with manure tea (liquid manure) and improved my yields of maize and groundnuts with a number of other practices that were new to me. The NCM team has visited me on many occasions to encourage me and suggest corrections when things weren’t going as planned. My yields improved and allowed me to make more money from selling what we didn’t need to eat just as I had to pay for an operation for my son.” 

Caption: Preparing fields

Zambia Northwest Program
Led by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries

06/07/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Fertile Soil, Higher Profits with Conservation Agriculture

Even though she’s started improving her yields with conservation agriculture (CA), Specioza’s piece of land is too small to sustain her family, so she rents an additional plot. She says, “Even so, I still ended up with losses because the soil was exhausted, and our once-predictable climate has changed, making it hard to know what to plant when.”

Local partner PAG encouraged her to try a number of CA techniques aimed at replenishing the soil, like mulching and fertilizing with manure “tea” (liquid manure). During her training, she planted some climbing beans using traditional practices, and used CA on another plot, just to see the results from each.  She was astonished at the huge difference in quality and yield, and declares, “I will not stop practicing conservation agriculture now. After applying all this new knowledge both on my land and the rented land, the soil has started to regain its fertility and now I am making some profits.”

When one of her neighbors realized that the rented field had regained fertility and that Specioza was earning more profits, he thought he would take advantage of her hard work. He went to the land owner and tried to rent the plot at a higher price. Specioza was quite worried, but then gratified by the land owner’s generous reply:  “My land used to be worn out and exhausted, but now it has regained fertility because of Specioza. She is deserves to remain on it, since she takes such good care of it.”

Caption: Specioza’s climbing bean crop in a plot under conservation agriculture

Uganda Kabale Program
Led by World Renew with Local Partner PAG

05/29/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

My family now knows happiness

"My name is Hélène. Thanks to this program, my family knows happiness.  I’ve received training on farming practices and leadership that has helped me in my home life, in groups, and in my field work. I now help my husband with some of the expenses for our 15-member household, so there are no more fights.

"This season, in spite of the failing rainfall, I have hope for a good harvest. I got training on a conservation agriculture technique called intercropping, and then received some improved sorghum and bean seeds. I’ve planted them together in a half-acre field. I’m happy in the field because both crops have survived periods of drought and are developing well.

"In the dry 'off' season I keep a vegetable garden. It invigorates me to have work to do during this otherwise difficult time. Having cabbage, tomato, eggplant and onions available right here has helped me feed my family during times when we used to have less food. I put all these vegetables in my sauces, which taste great and are loaded with nutrients. I also sell what we don’t need to eat, and that’s allowed me to buy clothes for the children, dishes, soap and more. I was even able to send some money to my mother.

"With all these advantages we’ve received from those who support and encourage us, all I can say is, '“Thank you.'"

Caption: Hélène in her field intercropped with sorghum and beans

Burkina Faso Central
Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner Office de Développement des Eglises Evangéliques (ODE)

05/22/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Village Savings and Loan Group Turns James’s Life Around

James, a farmer and the director of the school in his village, says that the ag training and support he has received from the program changed his family’s story from one of desperation to hope. Trained in information technology, he found it very difficult to earn enough money in the city to support his wife and three girls. He took a big risk by moving back to his village to take up farming. His first exposure to what the program had to offer was joining fellow farmers in starting a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). “This,” he says, “was the beginning of the turnaround for my family.”

James and his group received training in conservation agriculture techniques, growing vegetables, and Farming as a Family Business. This year, he and his family planted one acre of groundnuts (peanuts) to sell, and two acres of cassava to eat. What they earned from the groundnuts allowed them to buy a cow, and the milk adds protein to their diet. With their VSLA savings they bought five bags of cement and built another room onto their home. “I plan to borrow money from the VSLA to complete the work,” says James.

James’s story is representative of the general success of the program in his village. His VSLA is doing so well that it made a contribution to the school he was instrumental in starting. James was able to buy a blackboard, chalk and textbooks and even pay the teachers with the funds.

Caption: Village schoolchildren benefited from a donation by James’s savings group

Uganda Teso Program
Led by World Renew and local partner PAG-KIDO
96 communities, 11,624 households, and 51,944 individuals

05/16/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Improved Farming Knowledge, Improved Income

Since Theresia began receiving training and support from the Kenya Kathonzweni program and experiencing success in her pasture farming, she foresees a bright future for herself and her family. She says, “This season I have put three more acres into pasture. I’m getting much better returns than ever before.”

Theresia is a small-scale pasture farmer who, like others in the area, used to sell her hay directly to local livestock farmers at low prices. She signed up with the program because she wanted to improve her knowledge and skills and find ways to market hay more effectively.  At the program’s Farmer Field School, which focuses on training farmers in sustainable Conservation Agriculture practices, she says she “learned by doing, and from demonstrations,” how to establish and manage a pasture and harvest grass seeds for sale.

Theresia has met and exceeded her expectations for taking part in the training. She now markets her hay and seeds through the program’s Farmers’ Cooperative. After just one year, she was able to sell 3300 pounds of pasture for a good price, and earned more than double the income from her grass seed. The money allowed her to pay her granddaughter’s school fees and buy a dairy cow.  She says, “Now that I have enough pasture for at least two cows I would like to venture into dairy farming as well.”

Caption: Theresia’s increased hay yields

Kenya Kathonzweni Program
Led by Dorcas Aid International Foundation and Local Partner Kitise Rural Development
3 communities, 1,094 households and 7,660 individuals

 

04/18/2018 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Growing Success: Land Donation to Benefit Women Farmers


More women will benefit from training through our Burkina Faso Namentenga program, thanks to a generous land donation. Community leaders agreed to donate 17 acres of communal land to develop into a training site. The site is upstream from a dam to facilitate irrigation, and will be divided into smaller parcels for the women to work and practice on. At least 120 women farmers will learn how to earn an income from market gardening.

To be more inclusive and ensure that each participant feels she is receiving the same benefits, all hands-on training must be done on a communal plot of land. It was critical to find a place everyone could agree on. After a lengthy process of meetings with the authorities of three communities, community-wide discussions, negotiations, and legal work, the original goal of 15 acres was met and exceeded. Community leaders also expressed willingness to participate in work planning. Such community buy-in promotes ownership of the entire process and creates a firm foundation for the women’s long-term success as market farmers.

The program follows Catholic Relief Services’ proven SMART Skills (Skills for Marketing and Rural Transformation) approach. SMART teaches basic skills all farmers need so that they can grow more food, market excess, and earn a sustainable income. By growing their own crops, the women will learn sound farming techniques to improve their soil, increase the quality of their produce, and manage their farms and money with good record keeping.

Photo caption: Women discuss seasonal planting schedules

Burkina Faso Namentenga Program
Led by Catholic Relief Services
73 communities, 2,620 households, 15,720 individuals

12/13/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

I've Never Had Such A Harvest in My Life!

My name is Christopher. I’m married with seven children and depend on farming to support my family.  Before I received training, I did not know there was a way to farm that makes your soil fertile instead of depleting it. We learned how to make our own compost, and also how to prepare natural insecticide and fungicide for our vegetables. They also taught us a lot of farm management methods, and how to store our crops after harvesting so we wouldn’t lose them to pests or mold.


I received better maize and soybean seed and cassava cuttings for my 2.5-acre plot. I did a little comparison between the improved maize and some local maize I grew.  I harvested 18 110-lb. bags of improved maize and only nine of the local maize, and five bags of soybeans.  I have never had such a harvest in my life, even though I used to cultivate more land.

I am ready to sell some of my grain to pay for home, farm and school expenses, and will save some of the money to buy the seed for next season. I’ll pay back a tenth of what I’ve produced so other farmers can receive the same blessing I have.  I’m planning on working hard to double the size of my fields. Conservation farming is very good for us small-scale farmers.

On behalf of my family, I thank the organization and all partners for looking into our plight. May God bless you and give back 100 times into your life and resources what you’ve done for us.

Photo caption: Raised-bed vegetable garden

Zambia Northwest Program
Led by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and local partner NCM Africa
47 communities, 450 households, 4,500 individuals

12/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Benjamin Breaks the Cycle of Poverty

Benjamin, married with three children, has managed to break the cycle of poverty with the support and encouragement of FRB’s Kathonzweni program.

Like other small-scale farmers in his region, he used poor farming methods that produced small yields, and sold his harvest to middlemen who paid low prices. His fortunes changed when he joined the program. He began learning a variety of Conservation Agriculture techniques to improve soil fertility and yields, crop care, and post-harvest management practices. His enthusiasm and success led to his being certified as a Trainer of Trainers (TOT). As a TOT, he’s able to reach out to other farmers in the community to bolster peer-to-peer learning.

Benjamin also enrolled in Kitise Farmers’ Cooperative, which guarantees purchase of his produce, and at a better price than the brokers give. As a co-op member, he received further training in leadership and management, collective marketing, grain quality control and store management.

Last season he harvested nearly 600 lbs. of green grams (the legumes we know as mung beans) where before he’d reaped only 155. He sold 430 lbs. to pay off his son’s school fees, at double the price he’d formerly received from the middlemen. This season Benjamin has expanded his use of Conservation Agriculture based on his impressive results. He is hopeful that, with support, more farmers can increase their production and marketing of green grams.

Caption: Benjamin sells his green grams at the co-op

Kenya Kathonzweni Program
Led by Dorcas Aid international with local partner Kitise Rural Development
3 communities, 1,094 households, 7,660 individuals

11/29/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More