During May, over 500 Farmer Field School (FFS) members from 20 FFS and 200 other community members participated in 7 Farmer Field Days across Angoche and Moma Districts. These Field Days, organized by the CARE WWF Alliance partner AENA, provided an opportunity for people in the community who are not involved in the FFS to find out more about conservation agriculture and disaster resilience.
Farmer Field Schools serve as a place for members to experiment with different crops and techniques, comparing what they have traditionally used in their own fields, with new practices of conservation agriculture. During the field days, members of the FFS explained the results they have seen in their experiments to their neighbors.
They also demonstrated the benefits of conservation agriculture through practical experiments. One was an erosion test done using two different plates, one with mulching and the other one without, to show the benefits of mulching retaining nutrients in the soil and helping maintain the ground .
“Based on all that I learned today, I want to open my own FFS in my area,” Jose Alfredo from Canhaua in Angoche District said.
He also added that he was very impressed by a brigade of FFS members from Canhaua who went to the area where he lives to explain some of the techniques.
All of the invitees also agreed on two major things. The first is that they are concerned with how the climate is changing, and how this is affecting their yields. The second is that conservation agriculture is easy to do, and the benefits are clear – and that these benefits help them adapt to climate change.
Many of the people invited to the field days agreed that they know that the low food production from their fields is in part their own fault because they are burning potentially valuable organic matter in their fields and depleting their natural resources, especially by cutting down forest to establish new fields or get timber. They also agreed that they would now apply the lessons learned from the field days, such as using minimum tillage and increasing the amount of organic matter on the soil instead of burning it, to prevent this problem from getting .
“We didn’t know that burning my field had a negative effect in food production,” the community members invited to the Colocoto field day said.
They added that now they know better.
After the benefits of conservation agriculture were explained and to the people invited to the event, the members of the FFS shared food with the community. These were meals prepared by a large group of people using some of the products from their fields such as peanuts, cassava leaves and different types of beans.
After two years in the making, 63 members of 21 communities in the Moma estuary got together to create a single council aimed at creating a strong link between the local communities represented by the council and the government.
The establishment of the Moma Estuary Natural Resource Management Council is a big step for the P&S team because it represents important geographical expansion of a process that is already working well. There are two other councils that have already been established in Angoche District, one involving 12 communities around the Potone Sacred Forest, and a second one with 29 communities in the Koti Islands in the Angoche estuary. With the establishment of the Moma council, the P&S program is supporting community-based natural resource management through 3 councils in 2 districts, covering 62 communities. All these communities rely on sustainable use of important biodiversity, including coastal forest, mangroves and estuarine fisheries.
The council will not only help with the management of marine natural resources, but it will also include a component of terrestrial natural resource management such as improving sustainable soil use, coastal forest and mangrove protection. The goal of the management of both terrestrial and marine resources is to ensure that the interconnectivity between these helps improve livelihoods in the communities.
During the final meeting of this process on May 28, 2015, Cheamade Alide, Moma District Permanent Secretary, other local government leaders and representatives from various local organizations all joined the community members to elect the council’s leadership team and discuss some of the problems facing the communities in terms of conservation.
“We need to work in the communities to prevent people from continuing the use of harmful fishing practices,” said Jamal Paulo from Mucuto, the newly elected Vice-President of the council.
Arsenio E. Meneses from Minguirine, the newly elected Secretary of the Council, agreed with what Paulo said. He added that the biggest tasks for the council are raising awareness of the importance of mangrove replanting, not using mosquito nets for fishing, respecting the existing two marine no-take zones that were established in 2014, and establishment of additional no-take zones.
The newly elected president of the council, Mario Ibraimo from Tapua, has been a community ranger at one of the two marine no-take zones established in the Moma estuary. Ibraimo does this without any compensation and knows of the vital importance of the no-take zone to his community. He has been working to protect it since its establishment and has helped inform the community about the importance of respecting such no-take zones.
Members from 8 of the 21 communities are now part of the leadership team for the Moma Estuary Natural Resource Management Council. This goes out to show the great level of representation in the council and how interconnected every community is to the other.
The P&S team had been motivating the communities to create community based natural resource management committees, CBNRM, where people sharing common natural resources within the same geographical area make plans to protect their surroundings and educate other members of the community about the importance of conservation. After the establishment of these committees, the proposal to join forces within the greater estuary area was proposed to the communities. The idea was welcomed in all of the 21 communities in the Moma estuary and so the council was created.
“We have many groups that work independently,” Marcos Assane, terrestrial natural resource manager for P&S, said. “Our initiative in P&S is to join these groups to have more strength.”
In addition to the power of collective action, Moma Estuary Natural Resource Management Council will be able to count on the technical support of a task force through a working group created by the government through the CARE WWF Alliance and other NGOs.
Mr. Alide, the Permanent Secretary of Moma District, also highlighted the importance of creating a district-level forum that would bring together communities from across multiple areas in Moma. This would promote a healthier environment in ways that promote the well-being of the people.
The Primeiras & Segundas program received a visit from two members of the CARE US Food and Nutrition Security team and Roland Bunch, a conservation agriculture expert.
Emily Janoch, knowledge management specialist, and Tonya Rawe, FNS policy analyst, who supports the CARE WWF Alliance work, visited Angoche seeing both the land and the seascapes.
The objective of the visit was to go to the field and see the work that the CARE WWF Alliance P&S program has done with our partners in the area of conservation, food security and risk reduction.
In Mucocoma, the visit saw mangroves destroyed by the community as a result of human-wildlife interaction.
“Even though mangroves provide storm protection, prevent erosion, and provide the habitat for small shellfish that form a large part of the local diet and income basis for the farmers in this area,” said Emily Janoch, “the monkeys stealing and destroying crops felt like a bigger immediate problem than possible storm damage in the future, so farmers burned down the mangroves.”
The team visited two other communities in the Angoche estuary where they discussed the potential establishment of a no-take zone in Polizica, the important role of mangroves in minimizing disaster and the concerns of the community over the dwindling number of fish.
“Seeing the estuary and mangroves first hand is just always helpful for being able to understand and then articulate to others the challenges communities face and the role that biodiversity and ecosystems play in their livelihoods and lives,” Tonya Rawe said. She explained that this is especially important in terms of the mangrove’s role in minimizing storm surge and as habitats for some sea species.
Roland Bunch, consultant and expert in conservation agriculture, joined the team to visit the landscape and three Farmers Field Schools (FFS) in the area. In Canhua, the team saw the fields planted with cassava, corn, mucuna, lab-lab and other types of beans. The members of the FFS explained the intercropping combinations of the different plots based on which was conservation agriculture and which were the farmer’s practices.
“ [FFS] gives farmers an immense opportunity, enabling them to have a place where they can learn and experiment,” said Tonya Rawe. “It is easier for farmers to feel free to experiment with different cultures and techniques when their livelihoods are not completely dependent on the field.”
She added that she was struck by the pride farmers feel towards explaining all the details of their work and what they have learned.
In Mussuceia the guests were welcomed in song by the members of the FFS. Some of the members were wearing the green shirts and caps, which proudly heralded that the person wearing them is a Graduado da Escola de Machamba do Camponês, or graduate from the Farmer Field School. The FFS members had invited other farmers interested in finding out more about conservation agriculture. Also, some of the graduates from the program are still practicing their skills and teaching what they have learned to others in this field. The senior members of the FFS played motivational games to entice the potential new members.
The members of the Mussuceia FFS shared local food from produce grown in the area with the guests. Matapa, a stew made of cassava leaves, was served with xima de caracata, a starchy meal made of dried cassava – a true sampling of conservation agriculture.
The techniques of Conservation Agriculture (CA) are geared to help crops survive during times of draught. This is done by building organic matter in the soil, which speeds up the rate of water infiltration into the soil and reduces evaporation. Now, the Primeiras & Segundas program, AENA (our local partner, the National Association for Rural Extension) and the Ministry of Agriculture have some evidence that CA is also helping farmers be more resilient to another common disaster in the area – flooding. From January 2015 until mid March, heavy rains affected Northern Mozambique. They destroyed infrastructure, people’s houses and many hectares of agricultural land. In the Primeiras & Segundas Protected Area, the especially heavy rains that started on March 1 until March 8 devastated houses and crops in the districts of Moma, Larde and Angoche. The Farmer Field Schools seem to have endured the flooding thanks to the CA techniques that farmers are using. When program staff visited three FFS after the rains, the comparison of the fields using CA and the ones using traditional practice showed the clear advantages of CA in helping to mitigate the negative effects of flooding.
“You can see for yourself,” Amina Momade from the Mussuceia FFS said. “I planted this maize under CA and if it wasn’t for that this maize wouldn’t have withstood the flooding. I am sure that the harvest will not be much affected in this field.”
The use of mulch to cover the soil clearly helped protect the fields from the excess of water by absorbing it instead of drowning the crops, and then evaporating once the rain stopped. Albertina Augusto Chale from the FFS in Canhaua agrees with Amina Momade. She regretted not having the information about mulching protecting crops from the rains before. She was able to see it herself in the plots at the FFS, but she did not use the same techniques in her field.
“During the rains, the excess rain passed on top of the mulch and allowed the plants to grow,” Albertina said. “I am learning that a field without mulch doesn’t produce anything.”
Farmers across the Angoche, Moma and Meconta Districts are starting to see the benefits of using Conservation Agriculture techniques in their fields.
Using the basic principles of minimum labor, intercropping and soil coverage, Farmers Field Schools in the area have been improving crop yields for cassava, maize, lab-lab and different types of beans.
Thanks to the efforts of the CARE-WWF Alliance, AENA and IIAM (Ministry of Agriculture’s National Institute of Agronomic Research), the 32 field schools in these three districts are using said principles to have higher yields, putting more food on their tables.
A recent study based on a methodology developed and implemented in our Farmer Field Schools by IIAM (National Institute for Agronomic Research) provided very encouraging results.
In this study, 13 FFSs were chosen from the 32 FFS in the P&S area. In each FFS, each particular plot has used either conservation agriculture or standard farmer practices (such as burning off organic matter from the previous year and then hoeing) for 1, 2 or for 3 years.
All plots in all 13 FFS used improved cassava varieties, such as such as Eyope and Nziva. The continuity of practices in each plot and the comparison over the years is important because benefits of conservation agriculture build over time. It takes time to improve degraded soils, rebuild soil fertility and improve the capacity of soil to absorb water. Our assumption was that plots using Conservation Agriculture would improve every year. The study provides evidence of these two main findings:
- Improved varieties help improve crop yields: Farmer in this area normally get around 3MT/ha using local varieties under local farmer practice. Just by using improved varieties of cassava, which were made available by the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers can more than double their yields in the first season. At the field school plots we use improved varietiesthat were grown using local farmer practices, resulting in yields of over 7MT/ha. This improvement was pretty consistent over three seasons.
- The combination of improved cassava varieties with conservation agriculture practices improves the yields even further: In fields where improved cassava varieties were grown in plots that had used Conservation Agriculture for 3 consecutive years, the average yield was 13.4MT/ha. This is over 4 times the 3 MT/ha that farmers are getting when they use local varieties and local farming practices and 85% higher than the 7.4MT/ha yield in plots that used improved varieties grown under standard farmer practices.
The program is currently working with CIMMYT, the International Center for Maize and Wheat, to develop an even more rigorous methodology. We will use this to assess the yields in October, at the end of the 2014—2015 season, when we’ll be able to see the results of 4 straight years of conservation agriculture in the same fields.
The results of this survey show that cassava yields are growing exponentially in the region.
Nampula Province is known throughout the country for its xima de caracata, dried cassava, which is also a staple food present in most meals. So the success of using Conservation Agriculture principles to improve yields is proving to be beneficial for farmers in the region.
Now they have more efficient farming techniques, facilitating positive outcomes and improving the livelihoods of people in the region. Farmers are learning about conservation agriculture through over 60 Farmer Field Schools established throughout Angoche and Moma districts. With the support of the technicians from AENA, more than 1,800 farmers are learning valuable skills.
“I am taking what I learn here [Farmer Field School] to my field,” said Deolinda Amade, president of the Mahile Farmer Field School near Angoche.
Deolinda Amade is a mother of 9. She is one of the 14 women who are members of the FFS of Mahile. She has her own field nearby and is simultaneously working on the FFS’s field and her own.
The Mahile FFS has 18 members, 14 women and 4 men. Members agree that conservation agriculture is helping them. People in the community want places like this one to learn, said Mauricio Momade, secretary of the Mahile Farmer Field School.
With the additional money members make from selling the crops they are now able to afford school materials and uniforms for their children to go to school.
Members of other FFS agree. In Mussuceia the 16 members like the use of intercropping and what they have been learning about soil preparation. They plant different plots to compare conservation agriculture with their own practices, so they can see the difference between the plots after the campaign ends. The producers also learn how to keep track of the number of plants and how to monitor their development. Most of them agree that the techniques they are learning are very helpful. They say that knowing how to prepare their fields has been one of the most important skills they learned. Before they used to burn the organic matter, but now they are using it to cover the soil and retain humidity. Members also agree that intercropping cassava with different types of beans is really helpful to improving the soil and getting more food. When asked why some of the members come back after having participated in previous campaigns, the president of the Mussuceia FFS replied:
“At school, when you go on tot he next level you don’t stop studying. You must continue studying so that you learn more things,” Ancha Arranqua said.
Para ler uma versão do texto em Português, faz click aqui