conservation agriculture

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

Mozambique program brings conservation agriculture to 1,000 more farmers

Farmers in FRB’s Mozambique Tete-Mutarara program are experiencing increased yields through conservation agriculture. Despite frequent droughts and flooding, many are finding ways to improve planting techniques and soil condition.

06/27/2014 | Comments: 0 | Add Comment | Read More
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