Looking Back at Phase I – Through the Eyes of the Staff
The first phase of the P&S Project is coming to a close, but here in Mozambique we’re still moving full-speed ahead. As we wrap up our first three-year project cycle and head into Phase II, we’ve asked the project staff to identify success stories corresponding with each of the main components of Phase I.
To kick off the series, we begin with a story about Abilio Alte Julmeia, whose participation in conservation agriculture trainings is a fantastic example of what we were hoping to accomplish through Objective 1: To improve the quality and quantity of foodstuffs produced by the population while maintaining or improving ecosystem productivity. The story was written by Arlinda Beirão (see profile at left), edited and translated by Rachel Mason.
Success Story: Abilio Alte Julmeia, Community Demonstrator for Agricultural Techniques
By: Arlinda Beirão, P&S Project Staff
At 40 years of age, Abilio Alte Julmeia has already tried a wide variety of fishing and agricultural activities to support his wife and seven children.
A native of Pilivili – a remote coastal village in Moma District – Mr. Julmeia is known in his community for his creativity and drive. Every year, in addition to sowing the usual agricultural crops, Mr. Julmeia would also plant income-generating trees such as coconut palms, orange trees, and guava trees, albeit with limited success. He also maintains a small boat, which he uses for line fishing when he has the time.
When the Primeiras & Segundas Project began activities in 2008, Mr. Julmeia’s community requested technical assistance from the project. The project, in turn, asked the community to choose a local volunteer to receive training to help promote the conservation agriculture practices that the project’s local implementing organization, AENA, would introduce.
Naturally, the community chose Mr. Julmeia for his distinctive dedication, vision, and leadership skills.
Through his participation in this project, Mr. Julmeia has learned to help his community by spreading the message about good techniques and practices to ten groups of producers, with a total of about 160 participants engaged in activities of agricultural production and fishing. Many of the groups are in the process of creating a formal structure so that they can become legally recognized associations.
In an interview, Mr. Julmeia said, “Ever since I received my first training with the technicians, I’ve learned many things. Before, I had difficulty transplanting seedlings from a nursery, then the technicians taught me to use the plastic bags from sugar for the seeds, and that made it easier to transport them to the field and transplant them. Before, I planted coconuts and fruit trees in a disorganized manner, not using the space well, but I learned to plant them in rows and now I’m doing it that way in my farm plots. With the techniques of conservation agriculture that they taught, I now leave a grass cover around the plants, and in the last growing season it really made things easier for me because I didn’t have nearly as many problems with weeds as I used to.”
Of course, it’s not just Mr. Julemia who has benefited from the trainings. “All of the farmers who used conservation agriculture,” he explained, “covering their fields with grass mulch instead of burning them, said that their yield was greater than in the fields that they burned or those without conservation agriculture.” In addition to boosting yields and reducing labor for weeding, the reduction in burning helps preserve the surrounding forest from uncontrolled fires.
Mr. Julmeia also noted the benefits of improved post-harvest techniques. “I learned – and also taught groups – to dry their peanuts on slanted peanut racks, and those peanuts came out with a higher quality without rotting. We have problems with pests in our crops, but now we use neem [a plant that has natural insecticidal properties], which has helped reduce the pests in our crops and in storage.”
On the topic of storage, Mr. Julmeia credits a project-sponsored experiential learning visit with further helping his community improve their techniques. “Last year, I traveled to Chiure with the project and we saw new types of silos called thethere. After I got back, I did a demonstration in my community about how to construct the silos to protect the seeds.”
While strongly committed to his role as a community demonstrator with a sincere desire to see his friends and neighbors in Pilivili strengthen their livelihood security, Mr. Julmeia nevertheless stresses the impact that the trainings have had on his own life. “In addition to helping the others in the techniques of production, I have my own fields of peanuts, cassava, and nhemba beans, in an area that totals about 3.5 hectares. With the improved production, I’ve bought new land – now I have about 15 hectares.” The land that Mr. Julmeia acquired, which was previously used for agriculture or livestock but abandoned because it was not productive enough or its owners did not have the means to sustain agricultural activities there, will soon benefit from the improved techniques that Mr. Julmeia will begin to employ there in the next growing season.
Mr. Julmeia now has about 300 coconut palms and 259 fruit trees. He also used some of his profits from the past season to rebuild his house, and his seven children no longer worry about having enough food or basic school supplies. One of his sons is enrolled in the high school in the district capital of Moma, and he is finally able to pay the monthly tuition. And, of course, he understands the value of saving of saving seeds and some of his earnings to get his family through the lean months and help him get started with the next growing season.
Looking to the future, Mr. Julmeia is starting to think big. “Right now I use a bicycle, but I’m saving up money to buy a motorbike to help me get around more easily. I’m going to increase the area of my coconut palms and fruit trees, and another farm plot that mostly has cassava will go up from two hectares to four hectares.”
“With the techniques that I’m learning,” he concluded, “I’m going to help improve my own production and also put to rest any doubts of other community members, who are now following me. As everyone starts seeing the advantages, every day more people come looking for me to explain these techniques.”