Many of the poorest farmers in the Aweil District of South Sudan still plough by hand. This is an exhausting and time-consuming task. You might remember our local partner, Christian Mercy International (CMI), has been working with farmers in this area. Before, CMI had been providing oxen and ploughs to farmers to help them improve their productivity. This was a way to help improve livelihoods and food security.
The introduction of ploughs and oxen did increase returns for farmers. But it wasn’t without problems. The oxen and ploughs were expensive, meaning it was difficult to give ploughs to all the farmers who wanted them.
So, when this project was evaluated, a new approach was imagined.
CMI still wanted to support these farmers, help improve food security and livelihoods.
CMI Director, Paulino Malou, was also looking into a tree planting project (Return the Rains), which prompted interest in a new approach. We decided to pilot a new approach called Conservation Agriculture
Conservation farming can double or even triple farming production! This is without having to increase the area being farmed. It improves the soil, promising ongoing increased returns for the future. It is also more cost effective than funding traditional ploughing which reduces the productivity of the soil over time. Conservation farming is much better for the environment.
CMI will work with subsistence farmers, to pilot new methods of farming that are more sustainable for the future. This will help improve their food supply and income.
The CMI team had a week of training in Jinja town, Uganda, with Pastor Thomas of Life Gospel Ministries. The training, held in January, was on the Foundations for Farming method of conservation farming. This is a new technique that is better for the environment and is more productive. Two CMI staff and four farmers from Aweil completed the training, which they will bring back and test in the Aweil environment and share with other farmers there.
The training covered many topics. These included Principles of Farming, Soil and Rainfall, Vegetable Production and Herbs. It also included practical farming work in the field – learning how to test soil, sow seed and cover the ground with mulch.
The team also completed Agroforestry and Pfumvundza topics. Pfumvundza is a conservation farming strategy where maize is planted in a very precise way with the aim of providing a bucket of maize each week – enough to feed a family.
A major challenge is conservation agriculture is not common in rural South Sudan. There are a lack of technologies in general available in the country’s agricultural sector.
CMI’s first task is to show that conservation agriculture works well in Aweil. As other farmers see it working, training will be offered so that they can benefit from conservation farming too.
The Conservation Agriculture Pilot will enable CMI to help make conservation farming accessible. Communities in need will gain valuable skills. Creating acceptance around sustainable farming will help encourage sustainable practices. Farmers will benefit by getting better results that continue to improve over time.
Once the pilot is complete, CMI plans to roll out conservation farming to more groups. This will provide twenty-five communities in need with new skills and a better future.