Foundations for Farming has over the past year been involved in the training of Tertiary Education students from several Agricultural Institutions in Zimbabwe. The objective of the trainings has been to introduce as well as complement any Conservation Agriculture (CA) teachings or programs, that may be in the educational curriculums in the institutions.
To date Foundations for Farming has trained close to 400 students and 60 staff members from the participating institutions. Most of the students trained have been women and girls with a percentage of 65% and men and boys contributing 35% of the students trained. This statistic shows how women contribute immensely in Zimbabwe’s Agricultural sector, which is considered the backbone of the country’s economy. Therefore, their role in the rebuilding of the Zimbabwean economy is undeniably significant.
More students are expected to be trained, as Foundations for Farming drives to eradicate hunger and poverty as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for Africa and the world. Hopefully, Climate Smart Agricultural practices such as CA will become part of policy to reduce environmental degradation as well as carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.
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.
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.
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