BENEDICT TEMBO, Mongu
MUHAU Matongo, a peasant farmer of Kalisowe village in Namushakende, south of Mongu, was contented to have been practicing conservation farming for a long time.
Mr Matongo took up farming in 1969 after leaving Bata shoe company, cultivated maize and rice as well as rearing cattle.
However, things changed in 2009 when Mr Matongo attended a demonstration camp in crop production at Namushakende Farmer Training Institute.
The 71-year-old was among 50 farmers who benefitted from the course in which they were taught them new farming methods.
After attending the conservation farming programme, Mr Matongo, a father of five, has diversified to growing other crops such as cassava, cowpeas and groundnuts, besides the maize and rice he had been growing.
Mr Matongo says the new farming methods have brought more money into his pocket besides securing food for his family.
â€œI have money and I do not buy food,â€ Mr Matongo says.
He says some non-governmental organisations organise refresher programmes for local farmers to learn new farming skills once a year.
Established 68 years ago, Namushakende Farmer Training Institute, situated about 27 kilometres on the outskirts of Mongu, has remained relevant to the countryâ€™s quest for agricultural development now more than ever before.
Located about one kilometre off the Mongu-Senanga Road in Chief Namutwiâ€™s area, the institute has no structured curriculum where graduates are issued with certificates.
â€œIn line with the set objectives for the instituteâ€™s existence, relevance is towards transformation of agriculture as a business where clients aim at market-oriented production,â€ says institute principal Chama Mwila.
Mr Mwila says farmers around Namushakende involved in sustainable agriculture, crop diversification and integrated soil fertility management as key to high productivity, have been the major beneficiaries of the instituteâ€™s existence.
The farm institute interacts with farmers by setting up agriculture demonstrations in food utilisation and preservation, crop production with emphasis to proven modern technologies through field days and farmer visitation to the institute.
Established in 1946, Namushakende Farm Training Institute, one of the nine in the country, has undergone transformation to modernise its operations.
The institute was established with the objective of training of staff â€“ including induction training for newly recruited staff and in-service training for serving officers in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
The institute is a training ground for farmers â€“ ranging from lead farmers, farmer groups, women and youths as well as establishment of demos for training purposes and income generating activities (farm management).
Apart from conducting demonstration camps on crop and livestock production, the institute, which has no full-time students, leases its hostels to holiday makers.
It also offers temporary employment to members of the surrounding community and is also used as a meetingsâ€™ venue.
The institute is also involved in the lease of facilities such as equipment to other government ministries/departments as well as non-governmental and private organisations.
â€œA farm training institute is a â€˜one stop services centreâ€™ where agricultural information can easily be accessible to both farmers and agriculture extension providers according to client needs,â€ Mr Mwila says.
Apart from the nine farm training institutes, there are 43 farm training centres, one of the two channels through which the Department of Agriculture delivers itsÂ extension services, the other being the agricultural blocks and camps.
Farm training institutes are found in every province of the country except for Muchinga.
Namushakende Farmer Training Institute, which sits on 129.5 hectares, has two classrooms, one hostel with bed space of 28, is a training ground for agriculture student practical experience attachment from colleges offering agriculture as course, such as trades training institutes (Mongu, Kaoma), Youth Resource Centre and Muwale in Southern Province.
â€œNamushakende Farmer Training Institute imparts practical agriculture in youths, hence developing their cognitive, psychomotor and changes their attitude so that they could take agriculture as a vocation for self-reliance,â€ Mr Mwila says of the institution surrounded by three villages.
* Agriculture technology practices .
* Support Institute by hiring out their labour
* Institute clears canals, which benefit communities in irrigation, provision of water for domestic use and small-scale fishing.
Apart from inadequate staff accommodation, Namushakende Farmer Training Institute has other challenges which include lack transport and poor access road from the main Senanga road.
The institute also does not have other infrastructure such as poultry and piggery which can be used for training as well as income generation purposes.
Namushakende Farmer Training Institute also has no accessories for its tractor.
BENEDICT TEMBO, Mongu