Thirty-two representatives from farmer associations that partner with AKSM attended the capacity building sessions and were equipped with adequate skills for proper soil management. In turn, they were required to go back and train other farmers from their associations, thus creating a ripple spread of knowledge. The training sessions were interactive and incorporated both theoretical and practical components. They were led by highly skilled professionals ranging from university professors to representatives from Pungue - Manica’s faculty of agronomy.
The training sessions were organised in response to the numerous cases of reduced production faced by smallholders who have in the past abandoned their farms due to incorrect land use to find new cultivation areas. The sessions sought to demystify certain myths and enlightened the representatives on various topics such as the importance of soil for agriculture and the factors that cause soil degradation. The facilitators advocated for conservation agriculture which involves minimal soil disturbance. The farmers were informed that keeping the soil covered as much as possible with minimum tillage, practicing crop rotation and intercropping were proven solutions to mitigating soil depletion. Additionally, farmers were encouraged to practice liming, a cost-effective method of reducing acidity in the soil while improving oxygen levels. All these measures help to increase productivity which in the end translates to higher yields.
To ensure proper understanding by the representatives, the practical classes were held in the smallholder agricultural fields. Several agricultural techniques were demonstrated, some including but not limited to the management of pests and diseases, the construction of terraces in level curves, direct planting and mulching with organic produce.
“We did not know about soil conservation before attending the training sessions. We often abandoned our fields because of the reduced production results. We burnt our crops instead of rotating them and never practised intercropping. We now understand the mistakes we made, and we are ready to correct them. We are now confident that we can apply fertilizer appropriately and practise minimal tilling. I’m confident that once we apply all that we have learnt, we will drastically improve our production,” remarked Mr. Tomas Tagarira, a horticultural producer.
Kwaedza Simukai Manica Association (AKSM) is one of the six implementing organizations working with the FAR programme in Manica Province to strengthen activities by smallholder farmers in the region. AKSM has been implementing a portfolio of interventions to address food security in the face of climate change.