conservation agriculture

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

Village Men are Following the Women’s Lead

People who fled their homes and villages due to conflict and extreme danger during the country’s civil war have been moving back to the area during the past five years.  Some villages had been abandoned for over 15 years, so people had to start over again, from scratch.

The farmer in this picture has taken advantage of all the conservation agriculture (CA) instruction the program offered. A simple but effective practice is mulching to retain soil moisture and improve soil fertility and composition.
 
She started out by planting a few test plots, with and without mulching, and readily saw the difference. Even though there has been less rain, and an invasion of army worms is devastating corn yields in the region, she will get a higher yield from her mulched plots.

When she was just learning about CA, she had a hard time convincing her husband to try it.  Now that he has seen the results he is fully on board. What’s more, other men who have observed the improved yields are asking the women to teach them what they’ve learned. In this way, the overall resiliency of the community is improving. Participants are moving from covering their basic needs to earning incomes and making improvements on their farms and in their lives.

Photo caption: Mulching improves soil and yields

Uganda Teso is Led by World Renew and Local Partner Katakwi Integrated Development Organization (KIDO)
12 communities, 802 households, 4,812 individuals

11/10/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Women Now Earning 5x More; Planting Trees Saves Watershed

There is much to celebrate as FRB’s Honduras Orocuina and Liure program completes a second three-year phase for farmers and single mothers, including a significant increase in monthly income.

By starting small in-home grocery stores, single mothers are now earning five times more, with an average monthly income of 5,000 Lempiras (about $250). They can now provide for their children and are seen as role models in their community, giving hope to other women.

On the agricultural side of the program, environmentally destructive slash-and-burn agriculture is on the decline. Approximately 80% of farmers have stopped burning their fields, and more join them every year. These farmers have seen first hand how conservation agriculture improves their yields and how the loss of forests impacts the weather and their water supply.

Farmers are also diversifying their crops and diets beyond corn, to include fruits and more vegetables such as squash and yuca (a tuber). Some are growing cashews, sesame and passion fruit as cash crops. Diversification was an important factor in communities’ food security when insects destroyed the sorghum crop. Many community groups are saving a portion of their corn and other grains in seed banks to protect against future losses.

What’s more, a healthy forest now stands around a local watershed thanks to a community’s hard work and dedication in planting 13,000 trees. The river in this watershed is the only one that did not dry up during a recent drought.

Photo caption: Doña Ilce’s store fills a community need and improves her income

Honduras Orocuina and Liure Program is Led by Mennonite Central Committee and Local Partner CODESO
8 Communities, 255 Households, 1,740 Individuals

11/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Neighbor Solidarity Turns Dreams into Reality

As staff members from FRB's local partner in the Mexico Chiapas Ocosingo program, INESIN. travel among the communities to hold training sessions, they are touched by the generosity of the families. “They always give you the best. Many times, this is something that we forget to do in the cities, to share our food, our house, with anyone who comes.”

Participants often come a long way on foot to attend workshops on conservation agriculture, rainwater harvesting, patio gardening, healthy cooking, using medicinal plants, community organizing, and leadership skills.  Typically, the workshop host families offer a meal so people don’t go home hungry, or participants bring food from their gardens to share. “It is important to them to share the life and abundance of food that Mother Earth has gifted us,” say INESIN staff members. Such sharing represents community ownership of the program – everyone gives something in return for participating.

Improving crop yields and nutrition is the focus of the program, but an even greater benefit comes from the opportunity for far-flung neighbors to be together, learn from each other, establish friendships, and share hope that their dreams of building a good life from farming can become reality.

INESIN staff says, “Whenever we do group visits to gardens, there is always some kind of exchange happening with medicinal plants, ornamental plants, and seeds. Since the project began, we have seen significant changes in relationships within the working groups. There is greater cohesion and confidence, and many groups are showing solidarity by supporting each other in their gardens.”

Caption: Elena makes a medicinal tincture for her husband’s cough

Led by Mennonite Central Committee
6 Communities, 150 Households, 4,003 Individuals


11/02/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Mulching Means More Maize

Salome spends a lot less time on farm work because the mulching she does suppresses weeds and frees her from hoeing, a task that used to consume most of her time.  

Like most farmers in this dry region of Kenya, Salome’s maize yields were increasingly disappointing until she tried a number of techniques aimed at building soil fertility and retaining moisture.  This harvest, Salome’s production tripled in spite of a lack of rain.  She had improved her soil with such conservation agriculture practices as minimum tillage, applying manure as fertilizer, crop rotation, agroforestry, and using drought-tolerate varieties. But, for Salome, the technique she most appreciates is mulching. With less overall work, her harvest increased from one to four 220-pound bags of maize in the same small plot.

She and other farmers have also started practicing better post-harvest grain handling and storage, including drying maize on tarps in the sun to prevent the poisonous fungus aflatoxin. Many are storing their grain now in hermetically sealed bags that prevent moisture and pests without chemicals. Higher yields and reduced post-harvest losses mean more overall food for their families, more to sell, and more to plant the following year.

Participant farmers are also planting trees to produce fruit, fuel, wood, shade, and mulching materials. All these and other improved practices are taught at the program’s two hands-on Farmer Field Schools and disseminated through their communities by trained facilitators. When they see the great results that conservation farming yields, area farmers go on to put their new knowledge to work on their own farms.

Kenya Tigania encompasses 7 Communities, 200 Households, 1,000 Individuals
Led by World Renew and local partner ADS - Mt Kenya

09/14/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Warming Trend: Winter Crops Increase Family Food Security

Tam and Oanh are neighbors and close friends whose small fields are side by side. Every day, when one of the women is ready to work on her field, she calls to her friend and they walk to their plots together. Mixed into their conversations about work, family, weather and more are the sustainable farming techniques they’ve learned through FRB’s Vietnam Tan Son program.

They participated in a training course on planting crops that would perform well in the climate and soil conditions of the winter season when, after two harvests, farmers traditionally let their fields lay fallow. Tam and Oanh agreed that the practice wasted precious resources that could allow them to feed their families without having to work on someone else’s land for cash.

The farmers were encouraged to experiment with rotational cultivation and increase the variety and number of crops in order to get more food and prevent soil diseases. After training, some pilot households received seed. Tam and Oanh were not on the pilot list, but their interest was high enough that they each bought seeds and committed to following what they learned at the training.

Oanh chose to grow sweet potatoes. Tam chose corn. Last year, Tam and Oanh were able to harvest their fields three times. By adding winter crops, their families did not suffer a food shortage. Tam notes, “We’ll plant winter crops next year. Having corn in winter makes us feel warm in our stomachs.”

The Tan Son program will continue to use agricultural models to evaluate and promote the effectiveness of different crops and farming techniques. Training activities not only help people in difficult areas achieve sustainable food security, they promote good relationships within the community.

Vietnam Tan Son encompasses 6 communities, 512 households, and 2,212 individuals

05/08/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

No Stopping Now: Conservation Ag Reaps Returns

Robert, Mariam, and Pastor Silver are just three of the farmers in FRB’s Uganda-Kabale program who are reaping the benefits of their Conservation Agriculture (CA) training. Their increased yields are astonishing to themselves and their neighbors alike.

Robert, 40, is married with three children and farms on one acre of land. He says, “Before CA, I used to experience challenges like poor yields, insects, and many diseases. I almost gave up planting fruit. After two years of minimum tillage, I’m seeing a great reduction in these problems. Now I can harvest at least 50 kilos (110 pounds) of fruit and 50 of tomatoes each week. And my labor costs have gone down since I no longer till. My land is never idle. I’ve planted gooseberries so that, when the tomatoes begin to die out, I can begin harvesting the berries. I cannot stop this type of farming now.”

Mariam is single and farms on her parents’ land. “I’ve tried mulching and minimum tillage on my garden plot. I’ve planted beans and, even though I have not harvested yet, they look better than my neighbor’s beans which were planted at the same time. People believe in me. I have taught CA to my mother and she, too, has started mulching her garden where she has planted cabbages.”

Pastor Silver, a longtime farmer, is 45 and married with five children. “I had left my land idle and contemplated moving because the soil was depleted. But after CA, I’m harvesting 800 kilos (1,764 pounds) of Irish potatoes where I could barely get 70 (155 pounds) before.” His family members now help him by cutting and carrying grass for mulching. His results have been so good, he says, that he can hire additional labor. “Even if the program withdraws its assistance I will not stop mulching.”

Uganda Kabale encompasses 25 communities, 1,021 households and 6,126 individuals

04/07/2017 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More

Conservation Agriculture Webinar Available!

What is conservation agriculture (CA)? How does it work? 

The UN's Food and Agricultural Organization describes conversation agriculture as: a concept for resource-saving agricultural crop production that strives to achieve acceptable profits together with high and sustained production levels while concurrently conserving the environment.

In the recorded webinar, MCC staff based in Southern and Eastern Africa share

10/29/2014 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
Syndicate content