The 5 month dry season was broken this morning with the pitter patter of rain on our metal roof. This sound is exciting for all the farming communities in our region and especially those communities where World Renew has been teaching Conservation Agriculture. The farmers who were trained have received seeds and now will start to plant green manure cover crops along with the staple crops of corn and cassava. The rains are also exciting for Phil as he can prove out the newly installed rain gutters on our home. Are they sloped the correct way? Will the rain harvesting technique collect enough water over this short rainy season to grow the beans that have been planted? It also brings the following questions: Will the rains continue? For how long will it rain? Will there be a good harvest? Will there be enough food to provide for my family?
The theme for this newsletter is the “Celebration of the Harvest”. The Anglican Church we attend prepared the following poster which reads: You are all welcome to the service of the festival of the harvest. The scripture verse is taken from Malachi 3:10. “Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple, so that there will be plenty of food there. Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good things”.
This is also our prayer for you as you prepare to celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving.
Since our arrival in mid-August, Jannetta and Phil have been fully engaged in our respective work. Phil’s focus has been on supporting World Renews Conservation Agriculture programming. There have been opportunities for Phil to attend and participate in the in-field trainings with the village farmers.
The traditional way of preparing the soil for planting has been through 100% cultivation of the ½ acre farms by hand hoe, usually the woman’s job. Our farming friends believe that you cannot plant unless you have cultivated. You also should not cultivate until after the rains have started. There is also the belief that planting without cultivation is the sign of a lazy farmer. Once cultivation is completed, which can take up to 3 or 4 days, the traditional planting methods employed are either broadcasting the seed by hand or using a dribble stick to make a hole in the soil and placing the seed in the hole by hand. One can imagine that several weeks are lost from the time of the early rains until the seed is in the ground due to the exhaustive amount of labour required to complete the cultivation and planting.
Conservation Agriculture teachings emphasis minimum cultivation of the soil (training on using planting basins), crop rotations and a ground cover either of dead plant material we call mulch or a living cover crop such as a legume crop. World Renew partners are able to provide the farmers who attend the trainings with lab lab, macuna and jackbean seeds. These legume crops are known to provide a dense living ground cover, they are drought resistance and they provide bio mass when maturing (their leaves dropping to the soil and decomposing). These plants fix nitrogen into the soil which can then be available for successive plantings. Lab lab can also be eaten by humans and the cattle really like it.
Government leaders and District Agriculture Extension Officers are invited to join the Conservation Agriculture trainings and promote the new knowledge to the communities. In one village, the Government Extension Officers took their own initiative to plant a small demonstration plot outside their office to show the community what it looks like to use planting basins and mulch. Even in the dry season there was a small harvest. Demonstration plots and learning visits are very much valued by farmers who wish to learn the new agricultural techniques which results in improved soil fertility and improved crop yields. A typical yield of corn using traditional methods is often in the range of 8-10 bushels/acre. Demonstration plots using the principals of Conservation Agriculture often result in doubling of the yield with no significant change in labour or inputs required.
Prayer of thanks:
- We thank God for safe travel back to Mwanza, Tanzania and for good health.
- Please pray that the short rainy season will begin and that the Conservation Agriculture teachings will be understood and adopted by farmers.
- Pray that our World Renew Team members and partners will be effective in all the areas of ministry.
Blessings, Phil and Jannetta VandenBerg Global Associates, World Renew Tanzania. www.worldrenew.net