Field Days for Farmers
A Way to Share and Promote Learning About Improved Agricultural Practices
As part of the Resettlement livelihood restoration program, the Project has engaged the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to develop and implement an integrated agricultural program for resettlement-affected communities and households. The program involves household gardens, backyard agriculture, conservation agriculture, improved crop production, cultivation of fruit trees and perennial cash crops, post-harvest storage and improved cook stoves.
While component programs will be implemented at different times for different households based on the resettlement schedule, over the last two years the implementation partner has established demonstration plots in several resettlement-affected communities on the Afungi peninsula. The demonstration plot initiative promotes improved agricultural practices and techniques among famers and involves periodic field days during which lead farmers host visiting farmers. In March this year, one of the lead farmers from Patacua – Mr. Juma Sumail – hosted a farmers’ field day at his demonstration plot, or “machamba”, outside Patacua.
Each field day is a unique event. The days are popular and draw quite a crowd. IITA helped Mr. Sumail prepare for the day by coaching him to share what he has learned to inspire visiting farmers. In attendance at Mr. Sumail’s field day were fellow female and male farmers from Patacua, Senga and Quitunda, technicians, extensionists and representatives from Palma District Government.
During the event, Mr. Sumail proudly walked the attendants through his demonstration machamba and generously shared his knowledge about the benefits of exploring new farming techniques and practices. One such practice is conservation agriculture. This technique is aimed at improving soil organic carbon which in turn boosts micro-organism activity and improves soil fertility. Covering the soil with dried grass or crop residue also improves soil water content through minimizing soil moisture evaporation and enables crops to absorb the necessary nutrients that, in turn, maximizes growth potential. Since the soil is covered, soil integrity is protected and erosion by wind or rainwater is minimized. Conservation agriculture also serves as an alternative to the traditional “slash and burn” practice. Other new techniques Mr. Sumail demonstrated were intercropping, i.e., planting different crop types to improve soil cover and nitrogen fixation while also preventing and mitigating pests and diseases; and planting in rows at optimal crop spacing.
Field days give farmers participating in the demonstration plot initiative an opportunity to showcase the results of the new practices they have adopted, while fellow farmers are encouraged to observe and get first-hand exposure to the results of the new practices. Sometimes a series of field days are convened at different intervals throughout the cropping season, from planting to harvest, by which farmers get the opportunity to witness the gradual transformation of a demonstration machamba.
Several bigger and smaller demonstration plots have been established in Senga, Mondlane, Macala, Mangala and Patacua. Field days will continue to be hosted by lead farmers as there is considerable uptake for these days, with some lead farmers having accumulated a devoted following eager to watch, learn, witness progress and benefit from exchanging ideas and good practices. The demonstration plot initiative will expand to the recently allocated replacement agricultural land (RAL) plots in the coming months. Soon after the first downpour and the commencement of planting at the RAL plots, a proud farmer will surely host another farmers’ field day.