|Farmers’ Clubs is transforming rural lives|
Humana People to People started the Farmers’ Club Program in Zimbabwe in the year, 2006. Its mission is to increase food security and household income among rural populations by organizing smallholder farmers into clubs, training them in efficient and sustainable conservation farming techniques, enhancing their access to well managed water resources and improving their access to local markets.
By doing so, it provides small-scale farmers with the means to transform their own lives.
The beneficiary farmers have been successful in increasing and diversifying their crop yields, enhancing access to low-cost irrigation, improving their nutrition, and in creating significant extra income. This has led to doubling the area of cultivated land and tripling the farmers’ household income over time.
Humana People to People in developing the Farmers’ Clubs program aimed at developing rural communities of which the majority in the developing countries bases their living on subsistence farming. Building the capacity of the rural farmers in the areas of; increased productivity, increase yield per area planted, adopting environmental conservation methods, practicing perennial farming became key entry points in strengthening the development of rural agriculture. Humana People to People organizes the farmers into clubs of farmers, promotes co-operation among the farmers as well as co-sharing of farming experiences through extension farming.
The Importance of Joining Forces
The objective of the Clubs is to demonstrate the important advantages of being organized into associations: in addition to offering peer support, the Clubs provide an access to new information through training, new farming supplies and equipment through co-sharing, better negotiation power in the markets through joint sales activities and, eventually, access to external funds and other financial resources. The idea of the Clubs is not to be a rigid structure but an open forum for learning, cooperation and mutual support. In this way, the farmers whoare joining forces provide a practice-based and change-driven tool for the sustainable growth of the rural communities.
Each Farmers’ Club has 25-50 members and a Farmers’ Club Committee, which is composed of 5 local farmers, both men and women, who are trained in the management and planning of the clubs and in taking the responsibility of the long-term continuation of the program. Each group of 5 Farmers’ Clubs is supported by a Farming Instructor a specially trained extension agent that works and lives in the community where the program is implemented.
Holistic Approach to Sustainable Farming and community development
The objective of the training given in the Farmers’ Clubs is to provide the farmers with the necessary skills and knowledge to adopt various sustainable farming techniques, including Conservation Agriculture, use of composts, green manure cover crops, bio-pesticides, use of improved seeds, crops diversification, cash crops and vegetables, establishment of seed banks and introduction of permanent planting holes, mulching, crop rotation and intercropping.
Other components are installation of water pumps, construction of rainwater harvesting systems with construction of small water catching dams and irrigation systems, accompanied by training of the farmers in sustainable water management and irrigation. Animal husbandry is promoted and pass on animal systems are initiated. All techniques are put into practice in the demonstration fields in order to ensure sustainable learning results. Besides this the farmers are trained in improvement of household storing facilities and small scale processing of agriculture products, how to make year production plans and marketing.
Contacts are made to agro companies and markets for purchase of the products. Access to micro finance is established and systems for organizing the farmers in saving groups promoted.
The Farmers’ Club program also includes interventions in the crosscutting areas of health, literacy, gender and human and land rights, improving thus the wellbeing of entire communities.
Sustaining Rural Farming and Protecting the Environment
Conservation Agriculture (CA) is an approach to managing agro-ecosystems for improved and sustained productivity, increased profits and food security while preserving and strengthening the resource base and the environment.
CA principles are universally applicable to all agricultural landscapes and land uses with locally adapted practices. CA enhances biodiversity and natural biological processes above and below the ground surface. Soil interventions such as mechanical soil disturbance are reduced to an absolute minimum or avoided.
Farmers are being trained in Conservation Agriculture through demonstration plots where the techniques are being applied. This involve making of compost and use the compost manure to fertilize horticulture crops, intercropping of crops with legume crops like groundnuts, pigeon pea and cowpeas.
Farmers are being encouraged to adopt CA as an alternative method to cut and burn as they now can produce in one field and reduce the need to open new fields. This will reduce labor and farmers have more time to work on other activities.
The introduction of conservation farming method is improving the production of healthy farming products, increased income for the farmers and improvement of the soil quality.
Climate Change Mitigation
The farmers are also trained in climate change issues as a way to strengthening their capacities in mitigating and adapting to the negative effects of global warming and ensuring food security in the future.
Agro-forestry is promoted in the clubs and nitrogen fixing, fodder, firewood, shadow, fruit, bamboo, indigenous and moringa trees are produced and planted by the communities. The trees are planted in connection with the households, farmer’s fields and in surrounding areas.
The tree planting component combined with construction of small scale water harvesting systems and dams are fundamental for rain water catching and water circulation and will in the longer run improve the ground water level, vegetation and rainfall in the area.
The project is sensitizing the farmers on effects of Climate Changes and mitigation ways through promoting tree planting and discouraging deforestation and burning of crop residues. The project has trained farmers to construct and use firewood saving stoves as this will reduce tree cutting and save time for women and children from fetching firewood and concentrate on crop production.
Since the beginning of the program in 2006, the Farmers’ Club program has benefitted over 120,000 farmers in 10 different countries within the Humana People to People Movement and reached altogether over 1,000,000 people. Today, the Farmers’ Clubs are an integral part of the Sector Wide Approach for Agriculture in Mozambique.