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Shamba – Garden in Africa

Afroho’s agricultural project in Kowuor

 

As a joint initiative of Afroho, Sare SEEP and Mon jardin! we launched an agricultural project in Kowuor from April, 2016 to educate local people on new agricultural work methods and yet unknown edible vegetable varieties.

 

For further details of the background of the project and our preliminary plans, please click here >>

 

In lack of financial support the project was implemented with a significantly narrower scope, and the costs were covered solely from the fund’s reserves.

 

Project results

 

The Mon jardin! expert spent almost six weeks on site (between April 15 and May 23). During this period he worked together with the local people on soil preparation and seeding.  During summer – until harvesting – he will visit the site on several occasions to assess the results and the impact of the project. He promised to continuously update us on the results.

 

For the purpose of the project we were given an approx. 1 hectare piece of land from the local partner organization which was cleaned for us from acacia bushes. The land in question has alternating flat and slightly sloping sections, the soil is a mixture of black clay and humus, in certain areas resembling of European grey and brown forest soil. It turned out during the project that a big part of the land is very dense, low activity clay soil. The surface hardens very quickly and there are not much living organisms in the soil.

In these circumstances – upon the recommendation of the expert – we primarily focused on ensuring proper quality soil in the current phase of the project so instead of starting to grow plants we embarked on soil improvement efforts. We started to grow crops on approximately 20% of the land as a pilot project and started to work on the improvement of soil quality in various parts of the remaining area with various methods.

 

The crops were as follows: hybrid corn, Teff grain, water melon, musk-melon, corn, dill, white mustard, coriander, peas, tomato and aubergine.  The above crops can be grown without extensive agricultural expertise, the main objective was the implementation of certain crop varieties in the given environment and to ensure efficiency.

We employed the following soil improvement methods: peanut shell coverage, hey mulch and planting 11 soil improving plants.

We have water containers and a compost area in the land. We also started to build shade houses to grow plants in plant beds, ensuring a continuous supply of new crop-plants during the year.

There are other locations too where we started to grow plants in plant-beds (pepper, chili, tomato), to ensure retroactive control.

 

Results (May 23 status)

 

Towards the end of May the results of the project were quite mixed (the hybrid corn and the Teff grain grew spectacularly whereas other plants did not grow and some of them were damaged by rodents, insects and birds).  Based on information from the local people some of the crops were attacked by some kind of crop infection but this was not yet confirmed by the expert – he returns to the area in July.

 

Lessons learned:

  • Local people tend to expect some “miracle”, i.e. immediate and very effective results and can not think in the long-term (note: our experience in the project and Kenya shows that planning, and thinking ahead in not part of the local culture).
  • They do not know ho to cope with experiments and can not manage failure or unsuccessfulness. If there is no water in the first well they do not start digging a second one.
  • Voluntary work and long-term planning are incomprehensible for them. Although we agreed in advance that due to the lack of financial resources they support the project with their work, it was hard to make them do some actual work.
  • Without external control – i.e. continuous expert support – they quickly loose their enthusiasm and return to their proven (though ineffective) agricultural methods.

 

Based on the above and to ensure the success of future projects the following considerations must be taken into account:

  • We need efficient preliminary preparation and education to make local people understand the individual steps of projects, the expected results and the necessary timeframe.
  • We need a resolute project manager who is continuously present during the entire project and works together with the locals.
  • Besides/instead of volunteer work it would be worth employing paid workforce who would do the majority of work to make locals  convinced and encouraged by the results.
  • The financial resources must be managed by the project manager to ensure the efficient use of funds.

 

Further steps

 

The project will be closed after harvesting. Until then the expert will monitor the project and if necessary takes further action.

 

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