Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Look Back

Food security is not just about having food. It's about having security, the knowledge that your next meal is there when you want it. Farmers are becoming secure in their ability to produce enough for their families. And when families are not overwhelmed by the search for food, other important family matters can be addressed, like health, shelter and education.

This year the Mziza Farming Club harvested more than ever before, storing over 7,700 lbs. of reserve grain. Farming families continued to improve the quality of their houses, toilets, and water sources. With enough stored grain, farmers focused on generating income and providing nutritious vegetables through irrigation. 

A low input, high yield growing season was added to the farming calendar in late August. Farmers grew beans, which require no chemicals or fertilizer and provide protein to their diets. Usually during this time farmers' irrigation gardens are inactive.

Lead farmers were trained at Mphombe, Mphimbe, and Malika villages. These farmers will provide experience and guidance to their respective clubs as the remaining farmers are trained in the coming year.

Food security training teaches farmers how to fend off hunger with strategies that don't cost anything. Farmers at Chifuchambewa learned how to plan for lean times, stretch grain supplies with irrigation, and avoid selling food supplies by growing valuable vegetables during the dry season. Farmers have been putting these methods into practice and will see the benefits during the hunger season of January through March.

The AWP demo garden provided a foundation for training farmers in all our project areas. Farmers were able to see the proper crop layout and waterway construction. The windmill on the demo showed farmers the potential for growth on their farms. 

Going into 2015, we are excited to see the number of farmers using advanced irrigation techniques increase. As we train them to incorporate the techniques into an improved farm management method, farmers will realize the dream of food security.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Learning from the demo garden

One of the best ways to learn a new skill is to see it in practice. That's why AWP operates a demonstration garden at Mziza. Today we brought 13 farmers from Mphimbi Village to see how we farm and irrigate our crops. This visit will provide a grand of reference for the trainings to come and hopefully inspire them to innovate and go beyond the typical vegetable garden.

They saw the layout of our garden, the windmill and tank, and how we prepare manure throughout the year. At a nearby Mziza club garden, the visitors had a chance to use a rope pump and water a pea garden.

The Mphimbi farmers will bite formulate goals for themselves and their club as a whole. As they look into their food requirements at home, they will have a picture in their minds of how they can manage to grow that much food.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How many farmers does it take to feed a village?

With lead farmers trained at Malika and Mphombe, it was time to get to know the remaining club members, and to see their gardens. Many of the farmers had small plots of vegetables or maize, but the overall output of these gardens is insufficient to meet the needs of the families they are intended to feed.

The 23 farmers pictured here provide food to 140 family members and numerous others who will join their table when food becomes scarce. They will do this with just 63 acres of land, making food security a challenging proposition. But they have the opportunity to add 24 acres of irrigation, from which they may harvest twice per year. This increases their potential acreage 111 acres.

But that is a long way off. With current skills and capital, these farmers may only plant half that amount, and yields will be low. The Malika and Mphombe farming clubs have committed to learning how to maximize their production to put enough food on every table in their villages.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Third Harvest

This is not the season for growing corn and beans - at least not traditionally. While the rest of the village is thinking about the upcoming rainy season, the Mziza farming club continues planting, growing, and harvesting, just as they do year round.

 Yesterday, we saw this maize garden approaching maturity. The sale of this crop will be enough to provide inputs for one acre of maize, which in turn will supply food for the farmer's family for the whole year.
Adjacent to the maize garden, a near quarter acre of beans will yield all the beans needed to last to the end of the rainy season, when the threat of hunger has passed. These farmers are serious about a three-harvest year.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Garden in Stages

Mpombe lead farmers recently learned how to use rope pumps for irrigation. Here is their garden at three stages during the training.

First they graded the field for an even contour.

Next, the most critical step was to make canals and beds for the water to flow to the crops.

Finally, they planted beans and tomatoes, covered with mulch, and started watering.

Just last week they called us to come and evaluate a new garden, which they prepared on their own to demonstrate their skill. They nailed it. Here they have planted more tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rope Pump at Malika Village - Video

We visited Malika Village yesterday, where farmers are getting the hang of the new pump. During our visit, they pumped the well dry irrigating their crops.It's time for a bigger well. 

Watering with buckets can be so slow that the well refills faster than farmers remove water. With the rope pump, they can drain a 500 gallon well in less than 20 minutes.

Crops are progressing well at the club's demonstration site. Farmers have already started enjoying the mustard greens and rape leaves. Check out the video below.

Friday, September 12, 2014

New windmill video

The windmill design has really come together over the last year. The reliability and output have improved. The windmill is sufficient for the demo garden, and our 2 farmers, Wallace and Custom, are able to focus on the crops rather than the exhausting work of pumping water.

We also use a windmill at Chifuchambewa where 15 farmers have divided 1 acre for windmill irrigation. The farmers have reported a number of passersby just stop to observe the windmill. Many of them think there is a gasoline engine hidden somewhere that turns the windmill and pumps the water. The farmers are always happy to explain that it's just the wind.

Here is a video of the windmill at the demo garden.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

Pest management @ Malika

The Malika club work on organic pest management at their training garden. Red spider mites, grasshoppers and moths destroy crops and frustrate the learning process. Farmers have learned that addressing the problems early reduce the need for chemical pesticides.

Many families cannot always wait the required number of days after applying chemicals to harvest and eat the veggies. Organic pest control allows them to harvest any crop right when it's needed, breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mpombe lead farmers

Lead farmers continue the training process, making water ways and basins.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Ram Pump

We tested a new type of pump today at Chifuchambewa. The ram pump takes in a high volume of water from a small dam, and puts out a small volume at a higher elevation.
The output is continuous and uniform, which makes irrigation with the pump easy to plan.  The farmer will get exactly the same amount of water every day. The output is low right now because of the height to which it pumps (almost 40'). Yet, it will still provide over 1,000 gallons daily.