Saturday, 22 April 2017

An update on our Foundations for Farming project

Towards the end of 2015, Arise launched a new farming project. It involved working with a charity called The Dawn Community Care Trust and aims to teach Foundations for Farming methods, which were developed on the ground in Africa for African people, but can be used anywhere in the world. It is a model based on the Bible which focuses on putting God and the gospel at the heart of restoring the land to God’s intended purposes.

Foundations for Farming in action at Kaniki

Foundations for Farming is based on four key principles:

1. On Time - Effective farming requires tasks (such as planting and weeding) to be done promptly at the right time.

2. At Standard - Effective farming requires tasks to be done to a standard of excellence with exact measurements.

3. No Waste - Effective farming requires avoiding wasting resources, energy and opportunities.

4. With Joy - Effective farming requires a good attitude and a joyful heart.

Joyful John, the Kapumpe gardener who helps teach Arise guardians

A year and a half on from the launch of the project, we have been able to review and reflect on progress so far. It has been fantastic to see how well the farming has been going – the maize growing, the plot extended, soya beans, tomatoes and cabbages added and most of all, the enthusiasm of the volunteers and guardians and the pride they have in their work. 

Growing cabbages

Growing corn

However, changing traditional ways of thinking and working is a very long-term process. The small group of guardians who have been involved in our farming project have been enthusiastic and pleased with what they’ve grown, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have replicated what they have seen in their own plots of land. This is definitely the next big challenge for the project. The fact that we have a nearby water tap makes it easier for guardians working on our demo plot compared to irrigating their own land. It has provoked us to carefully consider the conditions that they are working in. 

Working hard on the plot at Kaniki

Apparently if Zambians go against their traditional methods, other Zambians often talk and might suggest they are involved in witchcraft. This can mean the person is belittled, ridiculed or ostracised. This is why I believe it’s important that the people teaching the different methods are Zambians themselves, because they will understand the cultural challenges faced by those they are teaching. If I was teaching it (a rather unlikely prospect as I know nothing about farming!), then people in the local community might tend to think they were strange "muzungu" (white people) methods! 

It is certainly no small feat to challenge mindsets and to try to create change. We have suggested to the guardians that they try out the foundations for farming methods in a small area of their own fields, with the intention that better results would be the strongest way to convince them of the effectiveness.

Visiting guardians' fields

Recently we visited the fields of the guardians in the project. We saw a variety of results. For example, one of our most committed guardians told us she hadn’t tried the new methods because she didn’t have a way to collect the chicken manure Arise had purchased for her (even though she hadn't mentioned it at the time). Another guardian had used the new methods where she had planted quite a large area of maize and it was growing extremely well. Perhaps we need to encourage the other guardians involved in the project to come and see her plot for some inspiration and encouragement!
A guardian whose maize has grown extremely well
(with her husband who has passed away since the photo was taken)

There are definitely things we need to think about as we consider how we develop the project further. We really want to help our guardians transition from using the foundations for farming methods at our demo plot to applying them in their own fields, and to see them have greater ownership, rather than always being reliant on our volunteers or the trainer.

One idea that has come from the initial project is how these methods could be taught as part of the curriculum at Kapumpe Christian Primary School. With children generally being more open-minded and less tied to traditional ways, we think they will make a receptive audience.

Kapumpe children enjoying corn grown by Arise guardians

I am really pleased that overall the project has got off to a positive start. It’s one small step in helping to empower people in their local communities, which is what Arise is all about.

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