CHRISTOPHER CHIPEMBA, Pemba
BISHOP Mweene of Pembaâ€™s Sikwake village in Southern Province is a father of 23 children whom he has with several wives.
Farming is Mr Mweeneâ€™s main source of income to support his family.Â But for the second consecutive season, the rains have not been favourable for crop production. By mid-January this year, the maize crop which should have been chest high was barely at knee level.
Mr Mweene is a lead farmer in his village who has adopted conservation agriculture. So, he is not worried about completely losing out due to drought because all the farmers who are on the Rural Resilience Initiative (R4) project are also covered by the weather index insurance.
â€œI ripped my field early in September, applied lime and manure to enable the soil to conserve as much moisture as possible. This is how my crop has been able to withstand this dry spell, as you can see it still looks better.
â€œWe have been given a rain gauge which has been installed on my field, so, we are now measuring the amount of rainfall that we receive. If there will be no rains for more than 20 days, the loss will be compensated by the insurance company,â€ Mr Mweene said.
Lillian Mwiinga, 42, is another farmer who lives in Hajamba village, which is also in Pemba district.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â As the lead farmer for Hajamba farmers club, Ms Mwiinga has always looked forward to a time when she can buy assets from her savings without using borrowed money. She is now delighted that within seven months, her club managed to save as much as K950, of which K550 has been used to buy fertiliser. The remaining K300 was used to hire a tractor which ripped their fields.
â€œTwa kommana kaambo ta tuna njila mu nkongole kuula ma fertiliser.Â Kuzwa mu K950 yo twa bikila kuzwa mu mwezi wa March kusika mu September last year, twa ka gwisha K550 kuula ma fertiliser, mpoona K300Â yaka shalaÂ twa badelaÂ tractor ku ripinga my mwiunda yesu.
â€œ(We are now happy because we have not borrowed money from anywhere but we have managed to buy fertiliser from our savings. Out of the K950 we saved from March to September last year, we used K550 to buy fertiliser and K300 to hire a tractor that ripped our fields),â€ Ms Mwiinga said.
Mr Mweene and Ms Mwiinga show the expected outcomes of the R4 project under which the Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have partnered to increase the resilience of 2,000 rural households in Pemba by 2017.
The project activities are expected to address the causes of food and income insecurity among small-scale farmers which have been compounded by increased climate risks over the last two years.
WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin visited the R4 project area recently to assess the impact of drought on small scale farmers who account for most of the regionâ€™s agricultural production. On this visit, Ms Cousin met government officials, community partners and entrepreneurs who shared their insights about the challenges and opportunities being created by the R4 project.
Pemba district commissioner Reginald Mugoba cited drought, livestock diseases and land degradation as the main challenges facing farmers in the district.
â€œFarmers in Pemba are still at subsistence level, so they still depend on crops and livestock for their livelihood. Therefore, when disease and drought strike, the food security of these people is compromised,â€ he said.
Mr Mugoba commended the R4 project for targeting to touch the lives of 2,000 households in the district, saying this intervention will enable the farmers to become more resilient to climate shocks.
Provincial agricultural co-ordinator Max Chombe said the R4 project has come at the right time to compliment governmentâ€™s efforts in promoting conservation agriculture.
â€œCurrently, we are receiving poor rains due to the El NiÃ±o weather pattern and the effects of climate change, and so through this project, we are promoting conservation agriculture which will enable the farmers make optimum use ofÂ the moisture that is available,â€ Dr Chombe said.
Southern Province meteorological officer Darton Nanja said the rain gauges that have been provided will offer farmers climate information services. Dr Nanja said farmers will be able to use the information to increase their resilience to climate shocks and also become more productive because they will be able to plan for their activities like cultivating, planting, weeding as well as applying herbicides and fertiliser.
Due to lack of access to services such as savings, crop insurance and credit, small-scale farmers have been vulnerable to climate shocks. As a result, their resilience is compromised in the short term while in the longer term, the farmers become vulnerable to poverty, malnutrition and have short life expectancy.
Thanks to DAPP which has partnered with WFP to intervene through the R4 programme which will integrate the resilience and risk management aspect into the farming activies of 2,000 households by 2017.
DAPP co-ordinator of agricultural programmes Nevers Nsansaula said the R4 project will also address the challenges farmers face, such as access to inputs and market for their produce.
â€œFurthermore, in order to transfer and also reverse the risk of loss by farmers, weather index insurance has been included among the services available to the farmers.
â€œThrough the savings and credit committees facilitated by partners like World Vision and the Department of Community Development, the farmers now have access to finances and will be able to implement their activities on time,â€ Mr Nsansaula said.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) consultant Samuel Gondwe said the intervention by his organisation through scaling up conservation agriculture has created a platform for the R4 project take-off.
â€œSince farmers have been trained in conservation agriculture, their production capacity has already been built, creating a platform for the R4 project to take off. And so, the services being promoted by the R4 project will blend in well to increase the resilience of farmers to climate shocks,â€ Mr Gondwe said.
The R4 project, which is currently implemented in Pembaâ€™s Kanchomba South agricultural camp, is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC).
DAPP has mobilised farmers through creation of farmersâ€™ club platform and linked them to the conservation agriculture lead farmers model as an entry point.
According to the project document, up to 2,000 households in Pemba will have access to markets, savings, credit and insurance services through the R4 project.
CHRISTOPHER CHIPEMBA, Pemba