“As much as farmers call me a breeder, they are breeders as well, ” said Wills Munthali, from ICRISAT Malawi, during a farmer’s field day in Njoro, in Kiteto district Tanzania). “In Africa RISING we are working hand in hand with farmers in the selection of improved varieties. They are breeders as well.”
“Previously, we carried out most of our research in the stations and developed high yielding varieties. But when they were released, their rate of their uptake by farmers was low. This was simply because farmers, who are the end users, were not sufficiently involved,” he said. “Africa RISING is emphasizes on the importance of farmers involvement in its research and development activities . Their feedback is important in ensuring the technologies we develop are appropriate, acceptability and will be adopted.”
One of the ways the project is ensuring the farmers are involved in its research activities is through organizing Farmers Field Days. They invite farmers to the project’s demonstration plots to see and compare the new various technologies being researched and or being promoted with their own in their farms. They are also able to help the researcher in selecting the improved varieties which meet their needs and preferences.
This year’s first round of farmers field days in Kongwa and Kiteto Districts in Dodoma region were held from 12 – 15 May 2014 in Njoro village (Kiteto district) and Lakaila, Mlali and Moleti villages (Kongwa district). They were attended by farmers, village and district officials and researchers from IITA, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, and Hombolo Agricultural Research institute.
Some of the varieties they were looking at included improved groundnut, sorghum, pigeonpea, millet and maize. Also being demonstrated were practices to reduce soil erosion such as formation of uphill and downhill ridges/terraces (fanya juu,fanya chini) and intercropping legumes – which fix nitrogen from the air into the soil – with other crops.
The farmers were full of praises for the new technologies on display and insome villages they welcomed the researchers with songs and dances.
For Hamisi Shabani from Njoro village, this year’s Farmers Field Day was indeed a turning point in his farming life. It was the first time he was visiting a demonstration plot and to see some of the new technologies being demonstrated through the project.
“I have a small farm where I grow maize, pigeon peas and groundnuts. I have been farming for almost four years now but this is my first time to visit a demonstration site to see and learn about improved farming methods. Many thanks to all the organizers of this program. I will be a brave farmer and implement what I have learned from the demo plots,” he said. .
Samuel Mujoweni, the Chairman of Jitegemee Farmers Group, Lakaila in village in Kongwa is one of the farmers on whose farm AR project has a demonstration plot “We have seen ways to increase the production of our farms through use of improved varieties which are early maturing and use of fertilizer. I encourage farmers to use fertilizer and make the terraces, (fanya juu, fanya chini technology) on their farms to improve the fertility of their soil.”
Prisca Safe from Moleti Village in Kongwa district saw the technologies being piloted as a way to free herself and her family from hunger. “I will use the new technologies of intercropping and application of fertilizers as a way of freeing myself from hunger, “ she said.
Taraque from Njoro village was also very positive of the new technologies being introduced. “I receive this technologies with joy. These modern seeds are drought resistance, they mature early and have high yield and good quality. Being involved in this variety selection through seeing and tasting different varieties is a very good idea. I believe they will bring a positive impact to the future generation, “ he said.
Watch a short clip of Prisca Safe on the benefit she has so far received from Africa RISING
Story and photos by Eveline Massam, IITA Communications intern