Farmer-to-Farmer: Southern Africa & Moldova

Farmer-to-Farmer: Southern Africa & Moldova

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Overview:

The USAID-funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program (2018-2023) is implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) in Southern Africa (Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and the Eastern European country of Moldova. CNFA’s current F2F program aims to connect 394 mid-to senior-level U.S. volunteer experts with farmer groups, agribusinesses, trade associations, agricultural finance providers and other agriculture sector institutions to facilitate sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production and marketing.

The F2F Program was initially authorized in the 1985 Farm Bill with the primary goal of generating sustainable, broad-based economic growth in the agricultural sector through voluntary technical assistance. A secondary goal is to increase the U.S. public’s understanding of international development issues and programs as well as international understanding of U.S.-sponsored development programs. For more information on the activities of the program worldwide, please visit https://farmer-to-farmer.org.

Volunteers:

CNFA recruits highly-trained, exceptionally qualified volunteers — with years of experience in their respective fields — who offer their time and energy to provide technical assistance to farmers and entrepreneurs. Volunteers are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Volunteers should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. See our Volunteer Page for more information on how to become a volunteer.

Program Approach:

CNFA’s approach builds on USAID’s continuous learning from the F2F program since its 1985 inception and CNFA’s decades of experience in F2F implementation. In each country, focal value chains are analyzed to identify critical leverage points for improvements in incomes and food security through volunteer technical assignments.

  1. Increase Agricultural Sector Market-Driven Productivity and Profitability: The Program promotes the adoption of innovative agricultural techniques and technologies and supports improved marketing and business skills.
  2. Improve Conservation and Sustainable Use of Environmental and Natural Resources: The Program leverages conservation agriculture and other practices to produce higher and more stable yields while reducing environmental degradation. It also focuses on efforts to control Fall Armyworm, a significant pest of diverse crops in Africa, and to mitigate aflatoxin.
  3. Expand Agricultural Sector Access to Financial Services: The Program’s efforts strengthen the financial management and business-planning skills of farmer organizations and agribusinesses.
  4. Private Sector Engagement: The Program also partners with government and private sector stakeholders and supports organizational development by building local markets and networks.

 

Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity

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Overview:

Over the past 20 years, Rwanda has made remarkable progress and the country’s economy has been growing steadily at roughly eight percent since 2001.[1] The agricultural sector plays a central role in Rwanda’s economy, accounting for 39 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), 80 percent of employment, and 90 percent of the country’s food needs.[2]

Despite this impressive growth, significant challenges to agricultural productivity and market participation remain, including constraints on land availability for cultivation, degradation of the country’s soil and natural resource base, lack of access to agricultural inputs and mechanization, and recurring extreme climatic events. The performance of the agricultural sector is closely linked to Rwanda’s overall nutritional profile and undernutrition remains a pervasive problem, further impacting Rwanda’s economy. About 33% of children under five are malnourished.[3] Stunting in children is attributed to food insecurity and poverty, inadequate feeding (poor complementary feeding practices) and inadequate environments.

The Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity is a five-year, $32.6 million USAID-funded activity that aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women of reproductive age (15-49) and children under two, and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.

Program Approach:

Hinga Weze works through holistic interventions that target the interrelated issues of undernutrition, food insecurity, barriers to agricultural productivity, and other challenges. Specifically, the activity focuses on the sustainable intensification of Rwandan smallholder farming systems, with emphasis on climate-smart, nutrition-sensitive approaches and social behavior change to the production and consumption of five value chains including nutritious foods: high-iron beans, Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP), Irish potato, maize, and horticulture.

The activity will support over 733,000 smallholder farmers to sustainably enhance productivity, increase incomes to purchase nutritious foods and improve household nutrition outcomes in the following ten target districts: Gatsibo, Kayonza, Bugesera, Ngoma (Eastern Province); Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, and Karongi (Western Province); and Nyamagabe (Southern Province).

  1. Increasing Sustainable Agricultural Productivity: Hinga Weze focuses on interventions that support an integrated systems approach to agriculture productivity and that follow the principles of sustainable land and water use, with particular attention to climate-smart technologies of relevance to Rwanda, facilitating the resilience of farming systems by improving water management, preventing soil erosion, and maximizing the effectiveness of input use.
  2. Expanding Farmers’ Access to Markets: In order to enhance farmers’ competitiveness and expand access to markets, Hinga Weze increases access to post-harvest equipment and facilities, market information, and credit and financial services.
  3. Improving Nutritional Outcome of Agriculture Interventions: Hinga Weze is focused on strengthening the link between agriculture and nutrition to improve the nutritional status of its communities and families.

Partners:

The Hinga Weze consortium includes a diverse group of both international and local Rwandan partner organizations, including Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), the prime, Rwanda Development Organization (RDO) and Imbaraga Farmers’ Federation. The activity achieves results by promoting household and community-level behavior changes through cost-effective interventions and a systems approach that prioritizes collaboration with stakeholders from the government, private and civil society sectors and the community.

Footnotes:

[1] NISR (2015) Rwanda Poverty Profile Report, 2013/14. National Institute of Statistics, Rwanda.

[2] Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (2013) Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda Phase III. Republic of Rwanda.

[3] Rwanda Demographic and Health survey 2020.

Feed the Future Nigeria and Nestle Maize Quality Improvement Partnership

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Overview:

The Feed the Future Nigeria and Nestlé Maize Quality Improvement Partnership (M-QIP) (2017-2020) enhanced the quality and safety of maize and soybeans available to Nestlé’s food processing factories while supporting USAID’s goals of revitalizing Nigeria’s agriculture sector and improving nutrition along these cereal value chains. The partnership utilized a “whole-of-supply-chain” approach to enhance the quality, safety, and transparency of the Nestlé supply chain.

Program Approach:

  1. Capacity Building of Smallholder Farmer Suppliers: To catalyze better conduct and performance in the maize and soybean value chains in Kaduna State, our activities focused on the three main stakeholder groups within the supply chains: smallholder farmers, intermediaries, and input retailers;
  2. Capacity Building of Local Organizations: With the support of the Nigeria Youth Service Corps program and local extension agents, M-QIP cataloged and mapped the many associations and cooperatives that play a role in improving the yield and product quality of smallholder farmers in the maize and soybean growing regions and along market routes, specifically near Nestlé’s current sourcing areas and storage networks. Through this process, CNFA kick-started and sustained engagement with the M-QIP program with all stakeholders, including Nestlé corporate employees, farmers’ associations, government extension service providers, and community leaders.

Partners:

  1. Purdue University

Feed the Future Guinea Strengthening Agriculture Value Chains and Youth

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Overview:

The CNFA-implemented Feed the Future Strengthening Agriculture Value Chains and Youth (SAVY) Program (2016-2021) aims to facilitate improved access to agricultural inputs, credit tools, and market information along the rice, horticulture, and livestock value chains in Guinea.

Program Approach:

The SAVY program falls under the Guinea Agricultural Services (GAS) project, funded by USAID and in partnership with six international NGOs focused on animal health promotion and animal disease outbreak mitigation, financial inclusion, and market facilitation. These three intervention areas have one major cross-cutting activity, the Apprentissage en Vulgarisation, Entreprenariat et Innovation Rurale (Apprenticeship in Extension, Entrepreneurism, and Rural Innovation- AVENIR) program, which aims to engage up to 320 entrepreneurial and ambitious young men and women, and provides the training, mentoring, and work experience needed to become successful entrepreneurs and change agents in a competitive agricultural sector.

  1. Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD): CNFA collaborates with the Strengthening Market-led Agricultural Research, Technology, and Education (SMARTE) program implemented by Winrock International (Winrock) to implement the AVENIR program.
  2. A Focus on Private Sector Engagement and Entrepreneurship: SAVY activities aim to increase positive risk-taking, the use of mobile money, and access to and use of affordable credit tools to facilitate new market linkages.
  3. Women’s Empowerment: SAVY activities facilitate opportunities for women in the horticulture and livestock value chains, and in processing and marketing activities. The project works to mitigate constraints faced by women and female youth, such as limited access to and understanding of credit, heavier work burdens, and limited ability to make decisions about agricultural production, expenditures, and division of land parcels.

Partners:

  1. Strengthening Market-led Agricultural Research, Technology, and Education (SMARTE) program implemented by Winrock International (Winrock International)
  2. World Food Logistics Organization (WFLO)
  3. Enclude Inc.

Protecting and Regenerating the Soils of Ihamizua

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The Centro de Formacao Agro-Pecuaria de Siloe is an agricultural training center located in Ihamizua, about 10 miles from Beira, Mozambique.  The center has a strong focus on social and environmental responsibility and trains youth in vegetable production, entrepreneurship, and small livestock and poultry production. Each year, 25 youth graduate from the center’s training on environmentally minded horticulture practices, including organic cultivation methods, integrated pest management and basic composting. In addition to youth education, the center produces food for a local orphanage for about 100 children, and sells the surplus vegetables and chickens for revenue to help sustain the organization.

Despite its success, Centro de Formacao Agro-Pecuaria de Siloe continued to look for ways to increase its social and environmental impact in the community. USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, implemented by CNFA in Southern Africa, visited the center to explore ways the F2F program could strengthen one of the center’s key natural resources – the soil. CNFA fielded Ms. Matilde D’Urzo, a soil fertility expert who had previously volunteered with CNFA in Mozambique, to train the center on cost-effective and sustainable strategies to improve soil quality. Ms. D’Urzo provided the center with trainings on how to prepare compost and organic fertilizers, how to apply mulch to vegetable beds and how to increase production through the intensification and diversification of crops (soil management).

Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project

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Overview:

The Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project (G-HIP) is a $7.3 million five-year project (2015-2022) funded and implemented by the Global Development Alliance (GDA) (USAID, Ferrero and CNFA) to increase the sustainable capacity and private sector development of the hazelnut industry in Georgia.

Hazelnuts represent Georgia’s largest agricultural export by value and support the livelihoods of more than 50,000 growers and processors, but due to inconsistent quality and lack of market distinction, Georgian hazelnuts often sell at lower prices. The Alliance transforms and streamlines the hazelnut value chain to improve the quality of Georgian hazelnuts.

Program Approach:

  1. Capacity Building and Association Development: G-HIP provides training to beneficiaries such as the Georgian Hazelnut Growers Association (GHGA) and the Hazelnut Exporters and Processors Association (HEPA) to strengthen the capacity of the country’s existing drying and storage infrastructure and maximize impact in the sector.
  2. Increased Productivity and Competitiveness: G-HIP implements activities to mitigate inefficient value chain dynamics, including the introduction of a post-harvest quality incentive system, technology upgrades to post-harvest infrastructure and improved access to finance for value chain stakeholders.
  3. Infrastructure Development and Marketing: To expand export marketing opportunities for Georgian hazelnuts, GHGA initiates efforts to improve traceability and widen the use of soil testing to enhance hazelnut quality along the value chain.

For One Woman, Amalima Training and Eco-stove Offer a New Outlook on Life

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Esnath Tshuma, 45, lives in Tjompani village with her 13 year-old nephew, Tandana. Esnath is a strong-willed woman who has worked hard throughout the years, but her life irrevocably changed after sustaining a severe injury three years ago. In November of 2012, Esnath was repairing a fence in her field, when she turned and lodged her foot in the fence. She fell, twisting her leg and fracturing a bone in the process. The injury resulted in paralysis of her leg and impaired mobility of her right hand. She is now limited to walking with crutches, as well as a using a plastic yard chair in lieu of a proper wheelchair to maneuver around her compound.

Her husband travelled to South Africa to look for work in August 2015, but has not been able to find a steady source of income. She receives a bit of money from her brother who works in Bulawayo, but since her injury, she has been relying on the kindness of her neighbors and the sale of her own personal items, like used blankets and dresses, to make ends meet.

“After my injury in 2012, I felt like I couldn’t do anything and was spending a lot of time sitting around idle,” said Esnath. She explained that due to her disability, she was no longer able to perform most of her daily activities like fetching water, collecting firewood, and farming. Cooking over an open fire on the ground was a particularly uncomfortable task, but she was unwilling to give up this role.

Esnath was thrilled when in early 2014, her sister-in-law, Tshihomanana Tshuma, offered to build her a clay stove that would allow her to sit while cooking. Tshihomanana participated in an Amalima training to learn how to build an environmentally friendly, fuel-efficient ‘eco-stove.’ After learning how to work with the clay, she realized that she could easily build a platform for Esnath’s eco-stove to allow for cooking while seated. The results were perfect; not only is Esnath able to complete her daily chores with increased comfort, but due to the eco-stove’s fuel-efficiency, her young nephew saves time and energy searching for increasingly scarce firewood in the bush.

Tshihomanana learned about Amalima’s Community Health Clubs (CHC) through the eco-stove training, and asked Esnath to join her in participating. CHCs promote increased awareness of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices in communities through completion of a 20 module Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE) training. CHCs foster learning for change through promotion of practical improvements at the household level to change the behaviors of community members in favor of a more hygienic environment. In March 2014, 16 women and one man from Tjompani village established the Mukani CHC and began receiving lessons from Nosizo Dube, their neighbor and Community Based Facilitator (CBF).

“After joining the CHC, I realized that I could stand up for myself and do something with my life,” noted Esnath. The lessons highlighted vital steps to improving hygiene that Esnath was capable of completing at home, such as sweeping, washing hands at critical times, using a 2-cup water system, rubbish disposal and cleaning dishes. Perhaps more importantly, belonging to the club gave her a special comradery with her group members. The members proved to be more than just a social outlet; recognizing her needs, the group pitched in to build Esnath a tippy-tap hand washing station, a private bathing area, and a rubbish pit at her homestead.

Mukani Success Story CNFA

Left: Esnath and Tshihomanana with her private bathing area. Right: Mukani members wash hands at Esnath’s tippy-tap.

After completing the PHHE sessions, all 17 Mukani CHC members graduated at a community-wide ceremony. After this milestone, the members recognized a positive momentum with their initiative and made the decision to continue working together as a Village Savings and Lending (VS&L) group. To make this transition, they received training on VS&L methodology from Amalima, including group formation, constitution development, group fund development, loans and loan appraisal, and record keeping.

Mukani group held its first VS&L meeting in August 2015. Their objective is to save for short-term needs such as food, kitchen utensils and school fees, as well as to pool financial resources for larger, higher-impact income generating activities. The group’s long-term goal is to establish a poultry business with their savings. At each meeting, hosted by a different member on rotation, members make a $10 contribution. Each month $10 is set aside for group savings and investment in their poultry business, which they hope to establish later this year. The remaining cash is used to provide the hosting member with kitchen utensils and a goat valued at approximately $35. The balance is then shared out evenly among members for their household use. The group has $70 saved to date.

mukani

Tandana and Esnath together at home.

Esnath already has plans to grow her small livestock herd with the goat she received from hosting the December 2015 meeting. She is also looking forward to being involved in the poultry income generating activity to become economically self-sufficient; the group considered her accessibility when selecting where the chicken coop will be located.

After receiving her eco-stove and joining the Mukani club, Esnath recognized her ability to lead a full life. The training Esnath received from Amalima is invaluable, yet the support and friendship from her group members has been as vital to her livelihood. She is grateful for the opportunity to join the CHC. “It has given me a sense of purpose,” she says.

Healthy Soil for a Better Harvest – Conservation Farming in Tsholotsho

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The majority of farmers in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe rely on rains for their agricultural activities. When rains are poor or erratic, crops fail, harvests suffer and people don’t have enough food to eat. Tsholotsho district in Matabeleland North is no exception. This area is characterized by low, unpredictable rainfall during the farming season and year-round arid conditions. Farmers are often forced to rely on alternative coping strategies, including remittances, paid casual labor and craft-making, to make it through the lean season. However, cultivation methods based on low-till conservation agriculture (CA) promoted by the USAID-funded Amalima program are improving harvest yields in this dry environment and influencing many households in the process.

Cecelia NcubeCecilia Ncube, 66 years old, is a smallholder farmer in Zenzeleni village of Tsholotsho. She is a widower and lives with her three daughters and five small grandchildren. Several of her children are in South Africa and send back remittances on a monthly basis, which, combined with income from basket-making, is how Cecelia survives. Concerned about her family’s precarious livelihood and food security situation, she decided to participate in the Amalima program’s CA training. “I am so excited that I am taking part in this conservation farming intervention. Before the Amalima program arrived, I would use draught power to till most of my land. I would have to wait for other villagers to finish ploughing their fields before they would let me borrow their oxen. I realized that every time I was ploughing too late, well after the planting rains had gone, and more importantly, this method made the soils quickly dry off,” says Cecilia.

Amalima builds on existing communal initiatives in order to improve household food security and nutrition status through initiatives like conservation agriculture and livestock trainings, improving access to agricultural inputs and strengthening community resilience to economic and climatic shocks. The Amalima program draws its name from the Ndebele word for the social contract by which families come together to help each other engage in productive activities such as land cultivation, livestock tending, and asset building.

Conservation agriculture (CA) is a set of soil management practices that minimize the disruption of the soil’s structure, composition and natural biodiversity. CA has proven potential to increase crop yields, while improving the long-term sustainability of farming. As part of land preparation, farmers dig planting basins rather than plowing the whole field and lay manure fertilizer in the basins before planting. This method of field preparation minimizes soil disturbance, consequently reducing erosion and increasingmoisture retention when the rains fall. Specific spacing guidelines also promote maximum yields. Amalima CA training covers land preparation methods, fertilizer application, planting, pest management and post-harvest handling.

“At first I thought this process was too labor intensive and I didn’t see how I would be able to till a reasonable piece of land. But our mentors, Amalima field staff and AGRITEX [GoZ Agricultural Extension] Officers encouraged us to work in groups of ten so that we could assist each other with land preparation. Working this way, we were then able to work on one plot a day,” she explained. Cecelia is now part of a conservation farming group made up of 10 women in her village who also participated in the Amalima training. Soils around Zenzeleni village are sandy and the group had to collect cow dung around the nearest watering borehole to place in their planting basins to enhance soil fertility and reduce the loss of soil nutrients from water run-off. According to Cecelia’s group’s constitution, members provide assistance preparing 0.5 hectare of each members’ field using CA techniques. As a result of this cooperation, Cecelia managed to complete the millet planting on her plot before the first rains in the 2014/2015 season and was excited to compare the results of her CA and conventional plots.

In January 2015, Cecelia explained, “With good rains this year, I am expecting to harvest 300kgs of millet on this 50m by 50m (0.3 ha) piece of land. On the same piece of land I used to get around 150kgs of millet using conventional farming.” A few months later, the sorghum in her CA plot was a lush green in comparison to the crops in her conventional plot. Cecilia lamented that if she had known that the millet in the CA plot would do so much better than in the conventional farming plot, she would have dug CA planting basins throughout her fields herself.

Cecelia Ncube combined

At left, Cecilia with her lush CA millet plot in January of 2015. Right, she stands with her conventional farming millet plot on the same day.

The 2014/2015 season did not bring good rains – rainfall was 40 percent below normal in Tsholotsho – but Cecelia’s small CA plot yielded 200kgs of millet despite the drought, which is more than double the yield of neighbors who used conventional methods on the same sized land. On her 1.7 ha conventional farming plot, Cecelia yielded 650kgs, which is only 3.5 times the yield on an area of land almost six-times larger. Six months since her harvest, Cecelia still has 100kg of millet available for her family’s consumption.

After witnessing the increased yields from Cecelia and her fellow group members’ CA plots, many new farmers from Zenzeleni village eagerly participated in CA training in July and August, and formed several new CA farmer groups for the upcoming growing season. Cecilia’s CA farming group plans to expand their area of cultivation in the future using draught power and mechanized CA to prepare planting basins.

Cecelia is using CA techniques on her entire 2 hectare plot this year, explaining, “Since adopting CA, my yield was better even during a poor and erratic rainy season. CA is the best technology that I urge all community farmers to adopt. It has come as a revelation in addressing the challenge of food security both at household and community level especially for us households without any means of earning an income to feed the family.” As of early October, Cecelia had already prepared 75 percent of her plot using CA techniques.

The San Move From Seclusion to a Healthy and Food Secure Community

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Known as Abathwa in Ndebele and Basangwa in Kalanga, the San inhabit remote areas of southern Africa, including Tsholotsho district of Matabeleland North province in south-western Zimbabwe. By tradition, the San are a nomadic people of hunter and gatherers who value seclusion from the rest of the world as a way to avoid disturbance and preserve their culture. Historically, this mobile and insulated lifestyle has made the San hard to reach for development assistance programs and has contributed to higher levels of illness and food insecurity. The Amalima program partners with San communities to improve health and income while respecting their desire to maintain traditional values.

In Tsholotsho, San communities are largely found in Ward 10 where the Amalima program is building on existing communal initiatives and solidarity to address food and nutrition insecurity and strengthen resilience to shocks. Through an introductory communal meeting with an Amalima Field Officer, members and leaders of Mtshina village San community became interested in the program’s trainings, particularly conservation agriculture and the Amalima Community Health Club (CHC) concept. Both adults and children were frequently ill with diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, and the village at large was motivated to improve their community’s livelihood and food security. Traditional leaders noted that San communities in the area have felt left out of many development initiatives because they are perceived as ‘outcasts’ in local society and have historically been marginalized by the sedentary, agricultural communities. As a result of the meeting, twenty-five community members (13 males & 12 females) representing households from half the village decided to establish the Siyazama Community Health Club (CHC).

As part of Amalima’s efforts to improve nutrition and health among pregnant and lactating women and children, CHC’s aim to increase awareness of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices in communities through completion of a 20 module Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE) training. CHCs foster learning for change through promotion of practical improvements at the household level (e.g. washing hands at critical times, and establishing latrines, “tippy tap” hand washing stations and rubbish pits) to change the behaviors of community members in favor of a more hygienic environment. The CHC members began receiving lessons in September 2014 from Grace Moyo, their neighbor and Community Based Facilitator (CBF), who was trained herself by an Amalima Field Officer and Ministry of Health Environmental Health Technician (EHT). After each week’s lesson, members conduct practicals at home with family members where they put their training to use.

CHC member, Anna Madhumane, acknowledged how health unconscious her community was prior to the formation of the CHC. Of the widespread disregard for cleanliness she said, “People were not hygienic and, they used open defecation.” But Anna quickly pointed out that behaviors changed after the trainings: club members adopted the recommended practices. They built tippy taps, pot racks, rubbish pits, began to keep clean yards and wash their hands. “The CHC also gives us a platform to share ideas,” she said. “We talk about moulding bricks and getting more men involved to help dig pits for latrines.” The general community at large began to adopt some of the hygiene standards too – like digging a hole for ‘cat’ sanitation method for defecation and tippy taps for handwashing – which resulted in a noticeable reduction in cases of illness.

After completing the PHHE sessions, all 25 Siyazama CHC members graduated at a community-wide ceremony with songs, dramas and poetry about the importance of WASH practices. The MoHCC EHT, who works with Amalima, noted that this ward was generally regarded as a health unconscious community. “The San people were always looked down up on,” she said, “but now with this graduation and the change that has happened they have attained better status in local society.”

At the ceremony, Anna was awarded the first place “model home” award for adopting and maintaining hygienic practices at her homestead where she lives with her 16-year-old son, two grandchildren and a 3-month-old great-grandchild. She constructed a tippy tap, rubbish pit, pot drying rack, and practices clean dish-washing. Anna indicated that she is happy with the way the community has changed and she is determined to be a champion of hygiene standards—especially after receiving her award. “The certificate is a source of motivation for me. If am lazy to clean the yard, I am motivated to keep the cleanliness of my home when I see the certificate,” she said.

However, the club members recognized that their efforts to improve their community shouldn’t be limited to hygiene alone. In fall of 2014 while the CHC was at its early stages, the 25 members also participated in an Amalima conservation agriculture (CA) training to learn methods to increase yields in the arid area where they live. Most people in Mtshina rely on casual labor in the surrounding villages as a source of income, which generally goes towards buying corn meal and paying school fees. With CA, members hoped to become more independent and capable of feeding their children year-round. The training covered land preparation methods, fertilizer application, planting, pest management and post-harvest handling. After working together as a CHC group, the transition to CA was a natural process, noted Ana. In the spirit of Amalima members worked together to prepare the land and dig basins for each other’s fields—a practice which sped up the time it would take one household to do the work alone and resulted in each plot being ready for planting before the first rains.

On her 0.5 hectare plot, Ana planted maize, millet, sorghum, round nuts and groundnuts. Despite the severe 2014/2015 drought, Ana’s plot achieved above average yields for the season with 150 kgs of millet, 75 kgs of sorghum and 18 kgs of ground nuts and round nuts each, of which she has 50kgs of millet remaining. Of the maize, she said “it completely dried out. You could have lit a match and burned the field to ash.”

The CHC members recognized that their CA plots had much higher yields than farmers who practiced conventional farming and had a very poor or failed harvest. With this in mind, the members have already started preparing land for the upcoming cropping season. Each household plans to use CA methods, focus on planting millet and sorghum (small drought-tolerant grains) and avoid the more water-dependant maize. With the support of Amalima, Mtshina village is also establishing a nutrition garden where kale, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and other vegetables will be grown for consumption and sale, generating income and improving dietary diversity for 50 households.

“A few years ago,” Ana started, “if Amalima had approached our community, we would have fled, or hid, wishing to avoid contact with outsiders.” But now, Mtshina village is showing a commitment to hygiene and food security, which will benefit themselves, their children and grandchildren.