We live in Mwanza, Tanzania, serving with Emmanuel International helping local churches in physical and spiritual ministry.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Difference in Drought

Spot the Difference!
Dry. Hot. As I sit here in the relative cool of the house, the sun is burning down on the ground outside. Flies are buzzing and the stench of an unfortunate dead dog rotting somewhere on the road outside is wafting in on a breeze. 

As I mentioned in the last post (When you're Down in a Ditch), people are saying that this is the worst year for rain in over fifteen years and everyone is talking about it. Indeed, the situation isn't good but if you look at the photo above, you can see it's not all bad! What's the difference? Read on!

As Tim drove out to Kayenze with Peter last week, they drove by field after field of dead and dying crops. Each field represents a farmer and a family. A year's worth of food for a family now gone. It is a terrible and depressing sight.

They went first to meet Shija in Kagee (this new village joined the project in July). Despite, the difficulties, it is amazing and encouraging to see the difference made through the project. Shija followed the basic conservation agriculture (CA) principles of sowing early, using compost and plenty of mulch and the difference is staggering. Last week he harvested his maize and beans! He did this this without any watering whatsoever ... just making the most of every drop of rain by timing and conserving moisture in the soil through mulch. 

Jeneroza (who is also our beekeeper group secretary) also joined the agriculture group this year. She has worked hard, using the principles taught and even carried water from the lake 3-4 times a week to water her field by hand. And she is seeing the difference; she has already been able to harvest maize and beans!
Jeneroza and Peter
Tim and Peter went on to Lutale (you may remember our Lutale farming mamas) Even without watering, these women have been able to get a harvest. The jack beans did really well despite the conditions and through intercropping with the maize, they have provided an amazing cover crop or blanket to hold in the moisture and keep off the sun (as well as replenish the soil).
Mama Aneth's is being harvested. You can see the mulch and the cover crop
of jack beans helping this maize survive just long enough in order to harvest!
Tim and Peter shared chai with Mama Naomi (one of the Lutale farming mamas) and were pleased to see how well her jack beans had done and that she also had been able to harvest something. It wasn't much, but a great deal more than everyone else who lost entire crops.
Mama Naomi's jack beans (see the difference from November here!)
It isn't all bright stories. Samson (who is also one of our beekeepers) has lost everything. He was too late. He did get mulch down, but he was far too late to plant and he has learnt his lesson the hard way. Missing those early rains, has made all the difference. His maize is tasselling early and none of it will now survive. But he knows now. And he is already encouraged and excited to make the changes and do better next year!
Samson's maize farmed his usual way
Samson's CA section of field, planted far too late.
It's not good, but you can still the difference the mulch made!
It is also sad to see our Demonstration Farm at Kisesa struggling. Even doing everything we could, it has been drier there than anywhere and there is a very small harvest. The pigeon peas seem invincible like ours at home (our girls are really tired of eating pigeon peas!) and the canavalia beans doing well, but the mukuna beans are drying out and the jack beans not spreading the cover we need. But despite it all, Joseph has been faithfully putting out water for the bees, and they are all still there!

When we work with farmers on this project, we ask them to practice these principles of conservation agriculture on a section of their land. Many are naturally wary and do not want to risk their whole shamba (field) and so will continue to farm as they usually do on the rest of their land. This year, our farmers got nothing at all from the rest of their land. The difference is dramatic.

And that is the difference you see in the photo of Jeneroza's field at the top of this post. The section of land on the right was farmed with CA methods. The plants are tall, green and strong with a harvest of maize. The section on the left was farmed at the same time in the same field, but it's all now dead. The difference is also starkly evident at Mama Aneth's farm.

Peter stands where Mama Aneth harvested her crops farmed with mulch and intercropping
Immediately adjacent is the maize she lost at the same time from farming conventionally
This last picture is true for most people in this area. A bleak picture with nothing to harvest this year. But looking at the CA group farms, the people in the community can see the difference. Many people are now very keen and excited about joining the conservation agriculture project!

So, while the drought across Tanzania this year is still a terrible thing, in these little fields in these small village communities, there is hope making a difference!

Incredible maize for this year!
May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face shine on us
so that your ways may be known on earth,
    your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you rule the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, God;
    may all the peoples praise you.

The land yields its harvest;
    God, our God, blesses us.
May God bless us still,
    so that all the ends of the earth will fear him

(Psalm 67)

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