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INT06 - Foundations for Farming: Partnership Reports



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Report Date: April 23, 2024

Foundations for Farming Training Report from ACLUP, DR Congo (DRC08)

Introduction

food securityDuring the year 2023, ACLUP had sent two people (Mr Paulin and Pastor Jean Pierre) to the Foundations for Farming training centre in Zimbabwe as part of strengthening capacity in conservation agriculture. This was a request from Paulin who was concerned to see his community emerge from poverty. Note that the DRC has plenty of land, but it is poorly cultivated, and production is becoming increasingly poor. To this end, we have taken the initiative to begin to provide various training and orientation on agricultural techniques with a view to producing more. To succeed, we distributed corn seeds and asked that the population use them for the pilot field. Alongside pilot fields, Paulin has his own fields where rural activities are carried out.

In our region, we can grow and produce everything, but the biggest problem is our cultural policy. Some cultures that we have learned for a long time did not open us towards a creative mentality. In the case of corn production for example, farmers produce corn, but this corn is prepared fresh in pots and used barrels and is consumed by entire families. This same family sometimes can decide to go and sell this corn at the market, and then find only a few kilograms of corn flour for the consumption of the whole family. Given that this constituted a problem and malnutrition for populations ACLUP has chosen to be ambitious. Its ambition is to help the population first of all to understand the role of corn, a change in mentality regarding the final consumption of this corn, etc.

great cropThe objective is to get the population to abandon this method of consuming fresh corn and preserve it for processing into corn flour. My entire region consumes maize dough, made from maize flour imported from Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and Tanzania. The population eat their corn produced fresh and this is a big issue. Training was carried out in several villages of Kabare, Katana, Kalehe, Kalonge, Nyangezi and Kamisimbi. For Season A (September to January 2024), ACLUP popularized corn cultivation. Seeds were distributed to 25 families in Kalonge, 25 families in Katana, 10 families in Kabare and 5 families in Chikera. Thus, we launched season A in September 2023 by first growing corn.

The idea is to encourage the population to think about how to create an agricultural cooperative in each environment where the activity is taking place. We had thought that from the cooperative, farmers could bring their corn production, which will be purchased at an affordable price by the cooperative and then transformed and then resold, already being corn flour ready to be consumed. The cooperative, by selling the flour, can sell it at a reasonable price to farmers through canteens set up in villages.

Activities

getting readyField Preparation

During the month of August 2023, we asked all the beneficiaries to prepare their fields for the sowing season A. For this exercise, we had to prepare compost and cover fields. We found it very difficult to explain to the beneficiaries that the covered field is more productive and advantageous.

They showed us the difficulty of finding mulch to cover the fields. At this level, a lot of effort was made to cover certain fields and we rented a truck to bring some mulch from the bush and the fields were thus covered.

Compost
For the beginning we trained people about composts that are to be used for Season A. Trainings were organized to over 125 people. When the agricultural season arrived, we led a new survey to evaluate how this activity was assimilated by the beneficiaries.

God's blanketDuring the training, we had insisted on the composition of the materials in the compost (fresh leaves, dead leaves, pieces of wood and animal dung as well as other kitchen residues). During different visits, we noticed that some did not respect and even went to constitute the waste piled up in their gardens and called it compost. Others, simply, did nothing.

Mulching
Conservation agriculture has as a particular point: the coverage of the field also called "blanket of God". This method has been so popularized, and we have found it to be so productive. Beneficiaries only complained that mulch was difficult to find in the forest. Before ACLUP began this project, it was known in every village that wood and dead grass residues are used as firewood. ACLUP first used training and awareness raising to ask farmers to leave this method and that everything found on the field should not be destroyed since it constitutes its cover for the field.

new wayDuring this season, given the difficulty raised by our beneficiaries regarding the lack of mulch to cover the field, we opted to provide these mulches by the truck which made shuttles in the forest to bring us these mulches. We then asked the beneficiaries to maintain this system in their fields assuming that the field coverage and the best way from now on will be used throughout the other seasons. 

Sowing

ACLUP has provided corn and bean seeds to more than 125 families for preparations for growing season A. The seeds were selected and certified by a cooperative in Burundi, where we had placed the order. After the distribution, the beneficiaries informed us that they proposed that they cultivate corn for season A of this year. To this, we all accepted their proposal, and we authorized that the seed be organized during this September season. Many families have cultivated, and others have put forward reasons.

good growthAt least 94 families out of the 125 who had received corn seeds managed to cultivate. 94 corn fields, as an experiment, were cultivated to the admiration of the entire population. The villagers who had cultivated said they were satisfied with the support of the ACLUP.

After planting our seedlings, a few weeks later, we noticed with joy that the plants grew well. Each time, I went around with certain community members trained to guide the others. 

Harvest

Initially, we thought that our adventure would eventually catch up with us since most of the villagers wanted to observe us by presenting us with a fact accomplished. 

In certain fields, in Kabare and Chikera, we noticed that there was a difference between the harvests. For example, in the field shown, there were not good yields. We are going to poor croprework the fields and the fertilizer so that we have very good yields. Contrary to what we had observed in the fields of Kabare and Chikera, other fields of Katana, Kalonge and even Kamanyola, we have seen a very good harvest. Our visits to the different fields were encouraging.

We thank the Lord who has blessed the work of our hands. All of our fields were able to wither, and we produced good corn, and we are proud of that.

During visits, I visited some fields of Kalonge, Katana and were proud to have dared. The corn grew well and gave good seeds. The population expressed the wish to have a mill so that they could make corn flour to feed families. Many have consumed more than 200 kg of corn just to eat them fresh. The field that harvested more than others was that of Katana with 350 kilograms compared to 60 kilograms harvested in our field of Kabare.

After the harvest, we noticed that the crop was productive in the area, and we proposed that each household contribute 2 kilos of seed which is saved to be redistributed for season A in September. This is the only season we can plant corn here at home in our region. From now on, we will increase awareness about maize cultivation.

  

Conclusion

foodWe thank the Lord God Almighty, who guided us during this experience which was a success among the beneficiaries. We had unforgettable moments with the villagers. Several recommendations were made:

1) That ACLUP alone can organize other trainings on conservation agriculture because we see that the villagers do not like to be trained by other villagers.

2) Land is available for several crops and therefore we request other additional training and experiments to effectively fight against poverty.

3) Given that corn cultivation existed but the population did it poorly, now we need its popularization in all the villages so that we can create a corn cooperative and from this cooperative, ACLUP will be able to buy corn in the fields to transform it into flour and resell to beneficiaries. The availability of mills will encourage the population to farm corn.