Thursday, February 14, 2013

Siyasiya Irrigation Club

And finally, Siyasiya Village in Salima District. Yesterday we met the last group of irrigation farmers to be trained in 2013. Last but not least, this particular irrigation site is promising for the farmers and exciting for the AWP team.

 First, just look at the turnout for the orientation meeting. The village was aware that only 15 farmers would be participating this year, but that did not seem to matter to the 60 or so others who showed up anyway.

The irrigation club was formed out of the Ministry Team of the local churches. The Ministry Team itself is a joint initiative of the churches and World Relief. In Salima district, World Relief has helped establish more than 20 similar ministry teams.

The AWP team knows how important good organization is for the success of community development projects, but having that organization as an extension of the local churches is more than we could have asked for, a true blessing.
The entire community have embraced the project and seem keen on diving into irrigation. We hope to deliver more than their expectations, a true blessing in return.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mzindo Irrigation

It had just stopped raining in Mzindo families run to the village headman house to hold a meeting with him. The ten families remain standing waiting for traditional leader to come out. He comes out, and finds people with clothes dripping. One representative tells the chief about the irrigation farming. The farmers did not know that AWP had already met him to discuss irrigation farming in the area.
Later that day, AWP starts off on the 30 km drive to Mzindo village to hold the first meeting with farmers interested to participate in irrigation farming. AWP finds farmers sitting around a big tree with a big canopy that provides good shade to children, mothers, fathers and the aged. During the day, most people would converge around these trees to relax after working in the crop fields; play Bawo; listen to cases; attend village meetings; watch traditional dances like gule wamkulu and any other traditional activity.
This day, only adults sit around to hear what AWP has brought to the village. Children play in the tall grass nearby. The meeting begins with introductions and finishes with AWP telling farmers about sustainable irrigation farming and the water pumps that would help them to have improved crop yield each irrigation season. AWP asks the farmers for their commitment to an irrigation project in the area. This sends farmers into hand clapping and ululations.
One farmer rises up and tells AWP how they have had problems using watering cans to irrigate the crops; the activity of drawing water alone is tiresome as compared to the irrigation technology they saw in Mziza village, not far from their village. This farmer finishes by saying the introduction of hand cranked and pedal pumps for irrigation farming will help them to harvest more food in a year. The farmers want to be the beginners in learning the new concept of farming.

The meeting ends with a visit to a new site where the village headman has offered land for establishing an irrigation garden for other farmers within and the neighboring villages. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Katsumwa Irrigation Project

The Katsumwa Irrigation Project is now under way, in partnership with Good Neighbours International.

There are 20 farmers in the irrigation club. All of them will be fully trained this year. Five of them, the lead farmers in the group, will be farming a 1-2 acre garden using AWP pedal pumps and a brick water reservoir. Next year those farmers should have raised the money and gathered the resources to implement irrigation gardens on their land, and each season a new group of five will be given the chance to use the club's demo garden for experience and the chance to raise their own funds.

The abandoned primary school makes a good classroom for our farmers:

Farmers gather in the classroom:

Participation yields a user friendly calendar for February: 

Fly on the Wall

If you were a fly on the wall at the AWP office today, you would be the fly most equipped to provide high-impact irrigation training in probably the whole of Malawi, even in all of Africa. Maybe you'd be the best six legged irrigation trainer in the WORLD!
Ok, not many irrigation experts to compare in the insect family, but if you were a human on the wall at AWP (get off the wall and have chair), I hope you and the rest of the staff present today would be ready to deliver some outstanding training sessions to farmers in the field.

Teaching a group of adults whose ages range over 40 years, who may or may not be able to read, who usually have heavy burdens put on hold outside the classroom, teaching such a group is no easy task. And you just try for ten minutes to focus with an empty stomach... no, didn't think so.

After a few hours spent discussing how our training programme should adapt to the particular challenges we face in the field, we came up with a short protocol to guide us. 
  1. Adults can only be expected to learn 5 simple things a day. If we selfishly take all those things for irrigation, we still should only expect 5 learned outcomes. Some things aren't so simple, so fewer expected outcomes is better.
  2. Good teachers deliver their outcomes over multiple routes; we should bring the learned outcomes through a variety of components: verbal/aural, visual (photographic/text), tactile, and participatory. These should be highly memorable and form memory indicators or associations.
  3. The visual and tactile elements should be left in the hands of the trainees to review/repeat in the future.
  4. We should hit the key memory indicators once more at the end of the training session.