Before the Primeiras & Segundas Project reached the community of Boila where Alberto Assane and his wife Amina Alide live with their son and grandchildren, their small machamba (cultivated plot of land) was barely producing enough crops to provide food for the family. During the dry season – known by many around here as the ‘hungry season’ – the family was forced to depend entirely on fishing, which is unreliable at best. The daily catch of fish in the Primeiras and Segundas zone is getting smaller and smaller each year, a result of the climate change and the effects of commercial and illegal fishing. When CARE and WWF began working in their community, Alberto and Amina decided to see if the project could help them achieve greater food security. They have now been involved with the Primeiras & Segundas Project for over a year, during which they and their neighbors have changed the way they farm – and they are already seeing the results. Here are some of Alberto’s reflections on the past year, in his own words (translated from Koti, the local language):
“The fact that Boila is a part of the project has improved the life here, both for us as a family, and for our neighbors in the village. It feels like a privilege that our community, which never received any assistance from any organization, has been chosen as one of the participant in the program. In the project training we got to learn a lot of different techniques, which help us using our machambas in a more effective way. It’s great that we also are starting to get some results of the work. For example, this year we have seen how the technique of planting in rows really got us better harvest. That gives us hope!
“The project has also been very quick in responding to the problems caused by the disease affecting our cassava. We all were very scared in the beginning of 2009, because the disease affected the roots of the cassava and made it impossible to eat. A disease like that can destroy a whole crop. The project started to distribute new and fresh cassava stock, so we could grow them. The idea is that in the future we will pass on cuttings to other farmers, who will keep on multiplying them, so that we always will be able to obtain a stock of healthy cassava. Our new Cassava is growing without disease so we haven’t been starving.
“Another improvement we’ve seen from the program is that we are learning to work with ajuda mutua (mutual assistance), where our family goes together with other farmers in the area to form a sort of collective. We help each other out with the rough work during the soil preparation and planting. As a group, we are more effective and we are able to make changes fast. This also makes working on the machamba more fun.
“This year has been important for us. With the help from the Primeiras & Segundas Project, we are hoping to turn a profit on our crops. We now want this to been done on a bigger scale, so that more people can benefit next year. In this way we won’t remain so dependent on the fishing. We fish from 6 pm until 11 pm, and then after resting for the night the whole family starts working at the machamba or preparing charcoal. With my family I prepared 1.5 hectares of new land, close to our machamba. We divided it into three parts, where we are going to plant peanuts, sesame and maize! I want us to start selling our crops in the city. We hope that the profit will be enough to improve our house, so that it gets more resistant to the rains and cyclones. That would improve our lives a lot. However there are still a lot of things I hope to learn. I hope that the program will continue to support us for another couple of years.
“With the money I earn from the harvest, I will build an improved house; I will buy some furniture, a good fishing net and a bike; but I will also cultivate more land. If I manage all this, I will feel… accomplished!”