Tanzania: Animals and crops provide mutual benefits in mixed farming

Madanji Awe practices mixed farming in Babati, Tanzania

Mr. Awe demonstrates how to use a forage chopping machine in front of his home (Babati, Tanzania).

Madanji Awe holds a recently-picked maize stalk which he has stripped clean of cobs. He places the long, yellowy-green stalk into a forage chopper and pulls the cord to start the motor. After a few attempts, the machine roars to life and shreds the stalk into bite-sized animal feed.

Mr. Awe grows maize, beans, cowpeas, vegetables and bananas. But he is most proud of his seven young, zero-grazed dairy cows.

He used to let his cows graze freely, but they did not put on weight or produce much milk, especially during the dry season. But with the forage chopper, he is much better able to integrate his animals with his crops. He can better feed them and collect their manure to fertilize his fields.

Mr. Awe lives with his wife and four children on a farm measuring just under a hectare near Seloto, a village outside Babati, 170 kilometres southwest of Arusha.

The 49-year-old teacher says, “The machines are expensive, but hopefully the government will subsidize the cost. It would help us produce livestock feed during the dry season.”

Mr. Awe looks after the three forage choppers that were placed on his farm as part of a project called Research In Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation, or Africa RISING. The project is part of a donor-funded initiative in three districts of central and northern Tanzania that encourages farmers to adopt mixed farming and improved seeds.

Mr. Awe says, “This machine saves me time and labour. Plus there is no post-harvest loss.”

Farmers who keep both animals and crops use the forage choppers to turn dry, harvested maize stalks into animal fodder to feed their livestock during the dry season.

Africa RISING model farmer Monica Pascal

Mrs. Pascal shows her intercropping techniques at the plot behind her home (Babati, Tanzania).

Gregory Sikumba is with the International Livestock Research Institute. He says that research in Babati district showed that farmers didn’t have enough feed for their livestock. But now that the farmers have access to the forage choppers, this situation is likely to improve.

Monica Pascal lives in the neighbouring village of Galapo. She too practices mixed farming. She raises chickens and uses their droppings to fertilize the tomatoes, eggplants and amaranth that she grows on her quarter of a hectare plot.

Mrs. Pascal works with a group of 70 farmers. She trains them to intercrop vegetables and fruits and use manure to maximize yields on their small parcels of land.

Mrs. Pascal says: “I didn’t know much about nutrition. I was planting local seeds, but now I’m planting improved seed varieties and teaching other farmers how to improve the health of their families.”

Inviolate Dominick is an extension officer at the World Vegetable Centre in Tanzania, one of the partners in the project. Ms. Dominick explains, “We selected Mrs. Pascal as a farmer-trainer due to her leadership and communication skills. Farmers come to her plot to learn.”

She says that small-scale farmers in the project area are now better equipped to improve their families’ food security and nutrition, as well as generate income.

Mr. Awe is pleased that his farm is making a better profit. He uses the extra money to supplement what he earns teaching agricultural science at a local secondary school.

He says: “I am paid [only] a small amount as a teacher, so I need to make money as a farmer. I practice zero-grazing instead of allowing my cattle to graze in the open because I want them to be free from disease and not easily injured.”

Published online @ Barza Wire

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Uganda: Teacher leaves classroom behind but keeps educating

John Kaganga and KEA young farmers

John Kaganga and his Kikandwa Environmental Association young farmers, also known as his children.

John Kaganga is transforming the lives of rural youth. The retired teacher is inspiring young people to pick up their hoes and build a brighter future in Kasejjere village, 70 kilometres northwest of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.

Mr. Kaganga says: “When I returned home after living in the city for 20 years, I saw the community was lagging behind. Everywhere you looked, trees had been chopped down for making charcoal and the soil was degraded.”

To respond to these problems, he founded the Kikandwa Environmental Association, or KEA. With a garden hoe in one hand and a notebook in the other, Mr. Kaganga encourages children and young adults from seven to 30 years of age as they farm. The 59-year-old teaches his “class” to use farming as a way to achieve food security and tackle climate change.

He says: “I was born into a farming family. My mother died when I was only two years old, so my grandmother took care of me and taught me to love agriculture.”

The now-fertile farmland on which Mr. Kaganga teaches young farmers was once used for slash and burn agriculture. Farmers cleared all vegetation to create more space to grow crops. But many struggled to put food on the family table.

Mr. Kaganga explains: “This wasn’t environmentally friendly and caused serious soil degradation. When I started [KEA], my objective was to inspire young people to become sustainable small-scale farmers and to stop deforestation.”

There are 200 households and nearly 1,000 residents in Kasejjere village. More than 100 young farmers have joined KEA, including some of Mr. Kaganga’s eight children and ten grandchildren.

Claire Nakate is Mr. Kaganga’s granddaughter. The 14-year-old is in her first year of secondary school. She wields a hoe as she digs in the family farm alongside two brothers and four helpful friends.

Ms. Nakate says happily: “I like to do weeding and pruning and sowing seeds. Most of all I like to rear animals like goats, pigs and cows. Through farming I can get money for my school fees and food to eat.”

Her proud grandfather smiles broadly and sets down his hoe. Picking up a handful of soil, Mr. Kaganga says, “A lot of youth today want to make quick money, so they sell land to buy motorbikes or move to the city looking for work. Not many want to get their hands dirty.”

Mr. Kaganga thinks young people should turn to farming to create their own jobs. He says farming can have a huge impact on food security and the environment, if young people are taught sustainable techniques.

KEA is supported by Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers Forum, or ESAFF, which helps to train many small-scale farmers in Uganda on sustainable agricultural practices.

Yvette Ampaire is ESAFF’s campaign and advocacy officer. She says, “It’s inspiring to see the work [Mr. Kaganga] is doing. He’s quite an exceptional farmer. He learns something, puts it into practice, and passes on the information to others.”

She is impressed by the ambition of Kasejjere’s young farmers. Ms. Ampaire says, “For them, the sky is the limit.”

Mr. Kaganga has helped Kasejjere become a model farming village. He has also established a community resource centre for young people to prepare for a successful future in agriculture. KEA’s library houses books on sustainable agricultural practices, environmental issues, and climate solutions.

Mr. Kaganga says, “Information is power. If we are going to solve the climate crisis, we must connect rural villages across the world to share information.”

Published online @ Barza Wire

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Uganda: War orphan educates young farmers

OFSP young farmers in Atego B village N Uganda

20-year-old small-scale farmer Jaspher Okello with his three brothers on the farm in Atego village.

Jaspher Okello crouches low with his hands in the soil. He is surrounded by two hectares of orange-fleshed sweet potato vines which sprout from the earth. His three younger brothers watch and learn as he inspects the crop.

The 20-year-old is a fine example of a Ugandan farmer. Mr. Okello says, “I have hope in agriculture. I have been farming since I was 11 years old.”

Nine years ago, his family was captured by the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA. The militia was waging a war in northern Uganda, and was well-known for abducting children into its ranks. Mr. Okello was the youngest child. Luckily, the LRA left him behind in the village with his grandfather.

Mr. Okello says: “I’m from Pader town. But my grandfather and I ended up at a displacement camp in Lira. We stayed there for some time, and a nice mama fed us beans and cassava. She asked me to come and live with her and work on the farm.”

The LRA fled Uganda in 2005. Since then, Mr. Okello has lived with his adopted family in Atego village, three kilometres outside of Lira and 300 kilometres north of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. This is where he teaches his younger adoptive brothers about farming.

Perpetua Okao is that “nice mama.” The 63-year-old widowed mother of nine took Mr. Okello in and adopted him.

Mrs. Okao is an orange-fleshed sweet potato farmer who sells not only the potatoes, but also the vines. Like carrots, pumpkins and other orange-fleshed foods, orange sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients that the body converts to vitamin A.

OFSP 20-year-old farmer Jaspher Okello with eggplant

Mr. Okello is proud of his egg plant this season.

Vitamin A is important for human growth and development, and also helps the body resist disease and maintain good vision.

Mrs. Okao says of Mr. Okello: “He’s a good boy and very hard-working. I taught him about agriculture and now he’s the best farmer in Atego village. He can explain everything about orange-fleshed sweet potato. I hope he takes over the business once I’m gone.”

Mr. Okello started going to school soon after settling in with Mrs. Okao. He attended classes during the day and worked on the farm in the evening. His adoptive mother smiles as she thinks back to when he was younger.

She says: “During the holidays, he never fooled around like the other boys in the village. He was always in the farm tending to the crops. We had a farmer field day and he was the one talking to all the other farmers who came.”

Mr. Okello says, “Now I attend a teacher training college. I hope to educate young people and teach them about farming.”

Published online @ Barza Wire

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Farm Radio broadcaster: Monica Ruth Acan, Radio Wa, Uganda

Monica Acan on her lipstick red Honda motorbike in the village

Monica Acan on her red Honda motorbike stopping in the mud on the way to a village.

Monica Ruth Acan smiles and says, “I first felt the spirit of agriculture while I was a student in secondary school. All students had to tend to a garden. While I didn’t like doing it at first, I came to love it.”

Ms. Acan presents two programs on Radio Wa: Wa Farmer (Our Farmer) and Poto Wa Tin (Our Garden Today). The station broadcasts on 89.8 FM in Lira, northern Uganda.

After presenting her programs, the 27-year-old broadcaster hops on her red Honda motorbike and drives off to her other job, leaving a cloud of dust in her wake. Ms. Acan is not only a broadcast journalist, but also an agriculture extension officer. She visits farmers and helps them understand the importance of good farming practices and nutrition.

Ms. Acan was born and raised in Lira, and has one younger sister and two brothers. Ms. Acan says: “My mother loves agriculture. I did have to do a lot of work to help her. Together we grew maize and sunflowers. This made me appreciate farming at a young age and want to study the science behind it.”

Her love for agriculture took her to Busitema University, in Tororo, Uganda, where she graduated with a diploma in crop production and management.

Radio Wa Monica and baby Monica

Farmers Dennis and Dillys love Acan’s radio programs so much they named their baby after her, Monica.

Before Ms. Acan took the reins of Radio Wa’s farmer programs, the station’s director, Alberto Eisman, was at a loss. Mr. Eisman says, “Wa Farmer had been on air for a long time. [But] When Monica became the presenter last year, it was a decisive moment for us.” He adds, “People love her style and wit. It’s a combination of her agriculture knowledge and personality. She’s bright and optimistic. She brings this into the programs every week.”

Farmers tune in regularly to hear Ms. Acan’s agricultural advice. Rose Akoye is a 66-year-old mother of five, and the chairperson of the Abil’a village farmers’ group, 30 kilometres from Lira. She says, “I feel connected to her. I call in regularly to speak with her. Women make most of the decisions at home about food.”

Dennis Ayoand and his wife Dillys enjoy Ms. Acan’s programs so much that they named their new baby after her. Ms. Acan visits Abil’a as often as she can to spend time with her namesake, seven-month-old Monica.

Ms. Acan says, “I’ve trained people … on farming techniques. I use the radio program as a way to continue my agriculture extension work.” She adds, “I moved away from home and live in town, but … I dream of having my own farm one day.”

Published online @ Barza Wire

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Mathare Radio provides local news relevant to Nairobi slums

In 2007, Wairimu Gitau dreamed of starting a community radio station broadcasting in Sheng for residents of Nairobi, Kenya’s Mathare slum. Seven years later and her dream is closer to becoming a reality as she builds ties in the community and hopes to soon receive funding.

Building its presence online, Mathare Radio is now a household name in the slums of Nairobi.

Featuring the voices of Mathare youth: Stephen Onyano and Faith Awour and Lewinsky Wanjiku. Mathare Radio crew: Wairimu Gitau, Eunice Nyambu and Rose Akinyi.

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Mathare music centre gives voice to Kenyan youth living in slum

Billian Okoth runs Billian Music Family, a youth centre in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Through music and dance, Billian empowers youth to make change in their community, and in the process giving them a chance to dream of a brighter future.

Featuring Billian Okoth, Stephen Onyango (17), Faith Awour (13) and Lewinsky Wanjiku (14).

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Mingkaman FM: Helping to foster peace among cattle keepers

Cattle keeper Mamour Ayii close-up with mobile phone

Mamour Ayii, a Dinka cattle keeper, listens to Mingkaman FM on his cell phone. (credit: Internews)

Smoke billows from piles of smoldering cow dung at a cattle camp outside the town of Mingkaman, South Sudan. Children covered in ash dump grain bags full of fresh manure on to the ground, beside their makeshift homes.

Once dried by the sun, they throw it on to the burning dung heaps. This keeps mosquitos from biting and infecting the nearly 3,000 head of cattle, a source of livelihood for dozens of families living in the cattle camp.

Mamour Ayii is a 30-year-old Dinka cattle keeper who grew up in the camp near Mingkaman. He remembers a time, not so long ago, when the fields surrounding the camp were pastures for grazing. Now this area is known as “Site One,” home to hundreds of displaced South Sudanese families.

With an assault rifle slung over his left shoulder, Ayii said he tunes in regularly to Mingkaman 100 FM on his mobile phone due to the fact that nobody living at the camp owns a radio set.

“The reception out here on my phone isn’t too good, being so far from town, but if I use my headphones I can hear it better,” he said in Dinka.

Mingkaman 100 FM was set-up by Internews earlier this year to help humanitarian organizations provide critical information to over 100,000 people displaced by the fighting in neighboring Jonglei state, across the Nile River from Lakes state.

Residents of Bor, the capital of Jonglei, fled to Mingkaman, creating a need for a humanitarian radio service. Radio plays a vital role in South Sudan, providing an information lifeline to many families, especially those leaving everything behind.

At Mingkaman 100 FM, five of its reporters are also displaced with their families from Jonglei, while another three come from Awerial County in Lakes state. This dynamic makes the radio station unique in its approach to the needs of everyone in the community.

The radio station’s manager, Aguer Atem, said due to recent clashes at cattle camps outside of town, he’s had to ask his reporters to focus on stories that promote peace between internally displaced people, known as IDPs, and long-time residents of Mingkaman, known as the host community.

Lakes state is prone to violent cattle raids. Last month, a conflict erupted when a displaced cattle herder returning home to Bor from Mingkaman led his unvaccinated cows through the town’s main market on the way to the port.

A rumor spread that his cattle were infected with foot-and-mouth disease, which is infectious and sometimes fatal. This caused outrage at cattle camps around Mingkaman. A firefight ensued which caused panic among the town’s residents, especially the IDPs, fearing a backlash.

Atem said Mingkaman FM covered the story, dispelling any rumor of foot-and-mouth disease spreading. He also took the next step of broadcasting messages of peace to the community to avoid revenge attacks, as armed cattle keepers are known to mete out vigilante justice.

“We recorded five messages of peace in the Dinka language. We also aired local songs which contain peaceful messages to stop fighting among youth,” he said.

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan started almost one year ago. It receives a lot of the media’s attention, while cattle theft and revenge attacks do not seem to raise the same kind of attention.

Atem is trying to change all that. He believes community radio can help put an end to violence by giving it the attention it deserves, hoping to see it go from a local problem to a national issue.

Mingkaman 100 FM is now working to include community leaders and organizations like Non-Violent Peace Force, a peacekeeping organization protecting unarmed civilians, to use radio in creating a peaceful dialogue in the community.

Ayii said he has heard the messages broadcast by Mingkaman 100 FM and has now become a staunch advocate for peace among armed cattle keepers at the camp.

“I have passed the message along to my brothers and sisters here. We don’t need to fight our neighbors and cause fear anymore,” he said.

Internews’ work in South Sudan is supported by the United States Agency for International Development.

Published online @ Internews.org

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