We were honoured by the visit of Anglican Bishop Given Gaula of Kondoa, Tanzania. He came to see if the work we do can help people in his diocese fight hunger and malnutrition. His diocese faces significant water stress as an obstacle to food production. However, irrigation and good farm practices could overcome the challenge.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
As recent blog posts have highlighted, the nursery is an integral part of a good vegetable farm. Many plants are too sensitive to be planted on their own in the field. These sensitive plants are planted first in a protected nursery. Usually, we plant onions, tomatoes, and leafy greens in the nursery, while hardy crops such as maize, beans, and squashes are seeded directly in the field.
The first step in establishing a nursery is to select a location near the water source. The site should be flat and on a higher ground to avoid flooding by rain. Then a fence is constructed to keep out domestic animals, pests, and thieves.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
In case some recent blog entries had you confused, we do in fact know that food is not synonymous with corn. (Though in the local language Chichewa, there is a significant overlap in common usage of the terms). Food of course is what is necessary for a person to have good health, energy, and growth. Corn alone is not sufficient. Beans go a long way toward fulfilling the spectrum of nutrients required for a balanced diet. Beans contain high levels of proteins, especially those lacking in rice and maize.
The seeds loaned out for our beans seed-bank at Chibanzi are now producing fruit. Farmers began the harvest this month, yielding around 33 times the weight of the seed. The 6 kilograms of seed per farmer is coming in at 200 kilograms of harvest. Another way to look at it is that on average each bean planted produces 33 beans at harvest.
The onion nurseries pictured here will play a big role in making sure no one suffers malnutrition or hunger at Chibanzi this year.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
What is food security? Well, if you ask "what's for dinner?", and what you mean is "should we eat spaghetti or rice?"; "lamb or fish?"; "potatoes: baked or mashed?", then you have food security. But if "what's for dinner?" means "where will we find our next meal?", that's food insecurity.
Farmers at Chifuchambewa came in large numbers to discuss food security and pick up some new tools to help them plan for the future. This community produces enough to be food secure, but the food is not available at the right time. This can all change in just a single season if farmers reserve food for lean months.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Last year we started working with farmers at Nasala, Lilongwe. We identified this group through NAPHAM, which is an organization that supports and advocates for people living with HIV and AIDS. One of our founding ideas at AWP is that people with AIDS need better nutrition to allow them to continue on powerful ARV medication, stay healthy, and support their families.
Our program last year at Nasala was a minimal training, a testing of the water so to speak. This year we ramped it up by including more members and training them a various locations closer to their homes. Being close to home is a big help for some members whose health would be effected by long walks.
On Friday last week we conducted nursery establishment trainings. Effective nursery establishment allows the farmers to 1) achieve high germination rates, 2) estimate seed population and scale the gardens appropriately, 3) share seedlings evenly among 5 or more farmers. Basically, we use good nursery practices to avoid wasting money on seeds and wasting labour on oversized gardens.