October 15, 2012 by Shannon Sutherland Smith / Topics: Shannon Sutherland Smith, Sustainable Agriculture
As harvest concludes under a low-slung moon in Mozambique, planting will soon begin again in anticipation of the rains. Harvest may look a little different from one continent to the next, but the joy and satisfaction of taking off a good crop knows no borders or barriers.

Istifanus Gimba, program consultant for World Renew in Mozambique, is thrilled to see that the gratification that comes from a great growing season is now feeding families and fostering food security thanks to sustainable farming techniques taught through a World Renew partnership with IRM-RDD (Igreja Reformada em Mozambique - Relief and Development Department).

Gimba says the program is bringing new hope through conservation farming techniques that have been taught through the implementation of solutions such as treadle pumps for irrigation and compost manure and mulching to enhance soil fertility. Properly equipping farmers is essential to food security in a country where 97% of the 3.9 million hectares that are farmed are cultivated by smallholder farmers, according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“The communities were organized into 12 Learning Centers or demonstration plots of 14 ‘champion farmers’ each, and they met weekly for training on conservation agriculture,” says Gimba. He says while there was some hesitation and doubt at first, the results testified to the true value of the program. “Farmers started having good harvests from their conservation agriculture plots, and before we knew it, farmers started developing group conservation agriculture plots and embarking on irrigation,” he says. “Today many farmers not originally in the program have started copying what the champion farmers have learned and shared.”

In one community, Joana Binzi Oliveira, a leader of the champion farmers, said that working with fellow farmers in the demonstration plot taught everyone involved how to sustainably boost their production and protect future yields as well. “She explained that the group usually distributed their harvests in the following way:  Sell the produce to pay off the group’s input loans and share excess cash to members to meet domestic needs such as food, clothing, and medical care,” says Gimba. “Joana further explained that some of the produce is also set aside to support orphans in the community. Thus conservation farming has enabled them to help one another become food secure.”

World Renew has been working with small-holder farmers in southern Africa for 22 years, and for the last 10 years, the organization has focused on improving food security by increasing production, says Peter Timmerman, World Renew’s South African team leader.  “During my recent visits to Zambia and Mozambique, I witnessed firsthand the difference our work has made,” he says. “In the Mutarara region of Mozambique, I visited community group after community group, and they all shared the same message: ‘We are no longer hungry, and we have some extra now.’”

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