Train Primary Teachers in Conservation Agriculture

by Zimbabwe Educational Trust (ZET)
Train Primary Teachers in Conservation Agriculture
Train Primary Teachers in Conservation Agriculture
Train Primary Teachers in Conservation Agriculture
Train Primary Teachers in Conservation Agriculture

Between November 2018 and January 2019, trainers conducted two technical support visits to Nest Literacy to monitor the progress in initiatives outlined in the training conducted in August 2018. These included: supervision of teachers in the students’ allocation of a demonstration plot land area that would exhibit the four core principles (minimum soul disturbance, mulching, crop rotations and high management) and the joint effort of teachers and students to construct a compost pile that would fertilise the soil, thereby improving its nutrition content and facilitating a texture that would better hold in moisture.  

First School Technical Support Visit – 16th November 2018:

School staff that attended the August 2018 training gave a presentation on the following findings: 

Demonstration plot: Despite the fact that the allocation land area had been divided into two due to evasion of land by community members, the students successfully established demonstration stations on both halves of the plot. One of the expectations outlined in the training was that the pupils would perform land preparation activities e.g. mulching the plot. However, they struggled to gather the needed mulch to do this.  

Compost pile: Unfortunately, a severe shortage of water disabled the students and teachers to build the compost pile. Additionally, some of the material resources supplied to pupils to plant maize crops was stolen due to low security at the school. 

Challenges they face:  

  • Lack of financial resources to support most school programs. This particularly affects the school’s ability to acquire a security fence that clearly demarcates the boundary of the school property 
  • Unstable water supply limiting the school’s irrigating (and drinking) water  
  • Lack of buy-in of the project by the local community or other influential community members 

Trainers to the rescue: 

The trainers helped soften the blow of these challenges by distributing inputs for the demonstration plot and maize seed for the teachers’ personal plots. Not only were the students and pupils thrilled, but it motivated them to work hard to ensure that the tasks be fulfilled. Additionally, in order to address the lack of community involvement, the trainers encouraged the teachers to carry out community workshops to educate members of the community about how this cause can positively impact their lives too.  

Second School Technical Support visit – 24th January 2019 

We are glad to report that when the trainer met with the teachers to assess progress, the maize in both plots had germinated well; it looked natural and healthy. However, having no security fence around the school was still obstructing them from carrying out their tasks. The mulch that the pupils had laid in the demonstration plots continued to be stolen. The trainer emphasised the importance of persisting, as well as offering advice abut how to engage the community, hopeful that appreciation of the initiative would reduce cases of theft.  

Persisting challenges: The school still suffers from inadequate water supply. Currently, they cannot cater for both the children’s water needs and that of the field. This continues to pose a problem for compiling the compost.  

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Conservation Agriculture Learning Progress
Conservation Agriculture Learning Progress

This quarter 4 new participants had their initial training in Agriculture and Agroforestry. They were all from the Nest Literacy Centre and; 1 Head Teacher, 1 Project Coordinator and 2 Teachers.

The participants learned about building composts in such a way as to maximise yield and minimise cost. They were also taught about cereal and vegetable production as a way of improving food security in their school, allowing them to support the feeding schemes they have for the students at their school.

The training also included broader elements of Leadership and Teambuilding which will be key to their maintaining what they have learned within their school. They took on the responsibility to take their learning back to school staff and share it. Some there have already attended FfF courses so this will serve as a reminder and re-energiser. For others it will be the first they have learned and will hopefully start them on a path of supporting sustainable farming methods.

Foundations for Farming will continue to support the school with site technical support visits to ensure they are successful in putting theory in to practice.

Conservation Agriculture Training Underway
Conservation Agriculture Training Underway
One Happy Group
One Happy Group

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Foundations for Farming (FtF) successfully trained a variety of groups during the last quarter, including pastors, widows, university students, boys, girls and the elderly. In addition to learning about effective farming methods, participants were also taught financial management, family stewardship and leadership. Overall, FfF staff were successful in managing to share the vision of the organisation with the participants, that of seeking to alleviate poverty in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole.

More specifically, the participants were taught how to dig planting stations and apply lime, fertilizers, thinning and plant seed in the correct way. It is common for farmers in communal areas to just plant seed without consideration of the importance of spacing and soil condition. This was a very important part of their lessons as it taught the participants how to carry out their farming activities to a required standard in order to achieve the good yields. Theoretical presentations were accompanied by practical demonstrations highlighting the negative effects of ploughing compared with using mulch to cover the bare soil. Participants were particuarly intrigued by the demonstration of how soil erosion takes place on ploughed land after the rain falls.

Composting also featured heavily in the training, with participants taking part in building a compost pile, which they then monitored for the anticipated heat effects predicted by the theory they had learned in the classroom. The participants were truly amazed at how costly compound fertilizers may be easily and effectively substituted with readily available organic materials piled together to make a compost pile.

Overall, the training was a revelation in shedding light on why farmers of all types had achieved low yields in the past and how a natural and affordable solution exists within the reach of all farmers.

Thank you for all your continued support!

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Foundations for Farming Training Course
Foundations for Farming Training Course

Foundations for Farming have had an exciting quarter, expanding their work both in Zimbabwe and wider Africa. Foundations for Farming ran training courses on conservation, climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry and farming principles and methods for community leaders from every region of Zimbabwe last quarter. Foundations for Farming identified that poor farming methods and an overdependency on cash crops have led to food insecurity and poverty in local communities, where even farmer’s families do not have enough food on the table or money to pay for education or healthcare. As a result, they ran an intervention training teaching community leaders and farmers in better water conservation, land use and time management to produce more crops and more income.

There was also a specialist training for a group of refugees to learn farming methods, so they are not reliant on refugee camps and hand outs but could provide food security and income opportunities for themselves. All the training was extremely successful, and feedback after the sessions revealed that all participants were extremely passionate about the training and had retained the information well.

ZET was lucky enough to visit Foundations for Farming and one of the schools we have worked with since 2018 this quarter to see the incredible progress they have made. We were extremely impressed with the Foundations for Farming office, which is surrounded with test plots and nutritional gardens so they can practice and enhance their teachings and projects. The gardens and plots were blooming and it was almost impossible to believe that such simple farming methods and changes could have such a drastic change on outputs.

We also visited St John’s Primary School, the school we have been supporting through GlobalGiving for 3 years. The school is thriving, having successfully implemented and maintained the Foundations for Farming approaches. This has meant they have produced enough maize and vegetables to set up a Food Aid programme, giving free school meals to disadvantaged students, and even surplus on top to sell at local markets to have more money for books and school resources. It was a pleasure to see how the project had worked so successfully, not only to improve farming and food production, but to benefit the whole school and community.

Thank you for all your continued support!

St John's Primary School
St John's Primary School
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Foundations for Farming (FfF) faced a difficult quarter, as school examinations and the end of the school year made it difficult to engage with schools. In addition, the wider shifts in Zimbabwe led to a short period of uncertainty for our work, dependent on travelling in and around Harare. Despite this, FfF managed to successfully visit and work with several schools in the area, conducting technical visits to assess each schools progress, and providing additional training and resources to each partner school.

In total, Foundations for Farming contacted over 60 schools through telephone and written questionnaires regarding their experiences, and visitied 10 in person to see the plot’s progress and the teacher’s efforts. Many schools had struggled this year with reduced budgets and poor weather, but each had showed real enthusiasm and had taken on board the farming methods advocated by Foundations for Farming and showed continued commitment to the project. The vast majority of teachers were able to recite key conservation agriculture principles, their importance, how to implement them and the aims of the project – which was considered a real success as for many it was over a year since they had initially been trained in this. As a result of each school’s continued commitment to this work in the face of adversity, project officers were glad to help the schools by providing expert technical advice for how to yield better crops, including new farming methods and different crops to try. As additional support, FfF offered schools new tools and new supplies to kickstart their land plots.

As a final follow-up, the staff at Foundations for Farming ran several refresher courses for primary school teachers from participating schools from 2015, 2016 and 2017 in climate-smart, conservation agriculture. These training courses covered the principles of conservation agriculture and its benefits, farming methods and activities, but also had interactive sessions where teachers lead their own practical lessons and discussed their experiences in the programme. The aim of this refresher course is to not only increase teachers’ knowledge so that this may help their own schools, but to empower them to go on and advocate conservation agriculture in their wider communities. This means that whole communities can be touched by the work of FfF, leading to genuinely community-led farming reform, leading to more effective, efficient and resilient approaches.

Foundations for Farming have had a very successful quarter, concluding their 2017 projects; running additional training and support to continue long-term project effectiveness and impact;  and reaching out to a number of new schools and beneficiaries. FfF are optimistic that the schools they have worked with will continue to grow, improve and make a success of the project as many of them had at the last technical visits – and in turn can teach these methods to their students, their parents, and their wider communities. 

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Organization Information

Zimbabwe Educational Trust (ZET)

Location: LEEDS, West Yorkshire - United Kingdom
Website:
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Twitter: @zet_uk
Project Leader:
Steve Besford
LEEDS, West Yorkshire United Kingdom
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