Notes to broadcasters
Many small-scale farmers are having difficulties these days because of climate change and degraded or eroding soil. But conservation agriculture shows that it is possible for them to succeed in this challenging situation.
Conservation agriculture, or CA, offers simple practices that farmers can use to address the negative impacts of climate change, build good soil, and learn how to “farm with nature.” This sometimes involves adjusting or changing traditional ways of farming to take maximum advantage of poor or erratic rainfall and other water available for crops.
Many small-scale farmers think CA can only be understood and practiced by educated people. But CA is suitable for farmers with any level of education.
Important practices in CA include minimal disturbance of the soil, crop rotation or crop associations (meaning effective intercropping), and maintaining soil cover with mulch and/or living plants throughout the year. For resource-poor farmers, CA involves minimal financial input, including less dependence on chemical fertilizers.
When farmers change farming practices, they often try out the new practices on small areas of land. This is true of CA practices too. This script interviews two women farmers who use conservation agriculture to better prepare their fields. The farmers discuss how they are overcoming challenges related to land preparation, and they talk about the different tools required in CA and the best ways to use these tools. The two women also talk about the costs involved when comparing conservation agriculture with traditional farming.
You might choose to present this script as part of your regular farming program, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
You could also use this script as research material or as inspiration for creating your own programming on women in CA or similar topics in your country.
Talk to farmers and experts who are practising CA or are knowledgeable about this type of farming. You might ask them:
- Have women in your area been involved with CA? If not, what are the barriers?
- If women have been involved with CA, what were the results? Do the women use hand tools or power equipment to prepare their land?
- What problems have they encountered practising CA, and how have they addressed them?
Estimated running time for the script: 15 minutes, with intro and outro music
(PAUSE) Women make a vital contribution to agriculture and to rural economies, contributing more than half of agricultural production in Africa. There has been a big increase in the number of small-scale women farmers who are practising conservation agriculture, or CA, to improve their food security and make ends meet. But these women face a number of challenges implementing CA practices.
Today, we’re fortunate to meet Ms. Jemima Josephat and Ms. Ester Kitojo, farmers in Mchemwa village, about20 miles from Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital city. One of the challenges they face is that there is a shortage of labour to help prepare land for CA. These women are addressing the labour shortage by training more oxen. We will also hear step-by-step practices for land preparation, and learn what farmers should and should not do when getting ready for conservation agriculture.
Wherever you are, stay tuned for more. My name is Sylivester Domasa, and I will be your host.
When CA was first introduced in this village by people from the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, I took it serious. Although I have been farming traditionally for many years, shortly after I started practising CA with sorghum, I noticed a huge change in my yields.
Our CA specialists advised us on land preparation and on equipment to be used, and ever since, I have kept an eye on both those things in order to get good yields.
As a conservation farmer, you need some land to farm, a tape measure, a rope, a hand hoe, sticks, mulch—dried grass and/or leaves—ashes, composted manure, and seeds. And, depending on the size of the farm, you may also need either a Magoye ripper, power tiller, or tractor to prepare your land. If you use a Magoye ripper, you will also need a minimum of two donkeys or oxen.
When you have these tools, you can start preparing your field.
To prepare your land for planting, you use two sticks to mark the end points of the farm. You take the rope and stretch it tight from one stick to the other. This gives you clear and straight rows. Next, you use the hand hoe to till small planting holes inline with the rope.
When we have done this throughout the farm, we spread mulch between the rows. We then plant sorghum in the basins and cover the seed with clod-free soil when there has been adequate rain.
I should say that we’re advised not to burn the mulch because it contain nutrients for the soil. Mulching helps prevent weeds. If we are short of maize or sorghum stalks to act as mulch, we intercrop the sorghum with legume cover crops such as cowpeas, because the cover crops also help manage weeds.
If you are using hand hoes to make planting basins, this will take more time than simply gathering and burning residues. But using oxen in CA takes far less time than making hand basins.
Another factor is that our children who are supposed to assist in farm work go to school. So farm work is difficult when you don’t have money to hire some youth in the village to help. We used to have oxen that helped the village when we used the Magoye ripper, but the owner decided to sell them, and thus we have all gone back to using hand hoes.
We work on the farm and have to struggle to work as farm labourers to get money to support our families, and sometimes even to buy seeds. Last year was not a good season, and so we have to work tirelessly to make ends meet.
I just want to remind the listeners that, although oxen are used with the Magoye ripper, the animals should not be allowed to eat the crop residues or mulch in the fields. The presence of cattle in the fields, especially when it has rained, also compacts the soil, and this should be minimized.
We are at the end of today’s program.
My name is Sylivester Domasa, and I was your host throughout the program. I wish to thank you for tuning in and listening. Until next time.
Contributed by: Sylivester Domasa, writer, Dar es Salaam.
Reviewed by: Saidi Mkomwa, Eng., Executive Secretary, African Conservation Tillage Network, Nairobi, Kenya.
This work was created with the support of Canadian Foodgrains Bank as part of the project, “Conservation Agriculture for building resilience, a climate smart agriculture approach.” This work is funded by the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca.
Mr. Samwel Elinuru, extension officer, Mchemwa village, December 2017
Ms. Jemima Josephat, farmer, Mchemwa village, Dodoma Municipal, December 2017
Ms. Esther Kitojo, farmer, Mchemwa village, Dodoma Municipal, December 2017
Ms. Hellena Mazoya, farmer, Chihanga village, Dodoma Municipal, December 2017
Ms. Faith Kusenha, farmer, Chihanga village, Dodoma Municipal, December 2017