05
Oct

2016 Annual Report : Empowering youth through promotion of tissue culture banana technology in schools in Kagera region in Tanzania

Charles Bosire in his banana farm. The bananas in his farm are healthy and green despite the dry conditions Kisii County was experiencing when this picture was taken. This is because he used compost manure he made in his farm after the training he received in his group under the INFAS project.
Charles Bosire in his banana farm. The bananas in his farm are healthy and green despite the dry conditions Kisii County was experiencing when this picture was taken. This is because he used compost manure he made in his farm after the training he received in his group under the INFAS project.

Empowering youth through promotion of tissue culture banana technology in schools in Kagera region in Tanzania

Rukuba Primary School is in Nsuga Ward in Missenyi District in Tanzania. It is one of the schools that has received training in soil water conservation technologies. The management of the school received the training after being introduced to TC banana technology through a nursery entrepreneur who established a nursery with the support of IFAD, through INFAS project. The nursery donated 15 TC banana seedlings to the school as a way of promoting the technology to the surrounding community. A few students, together

with their teacher, Mr Mzamero Kweyabiamali, who is in charge of self-reliance studies (elimu ya kujitigema) on the benefits of TC banana seedlings, were trained on banana husbandry. The rains were not sufficient during the planting season and the students used to irrigate each of the 15 seedlings every other day. Through training by the local Extension Officers in charge of the INFAS project, the school realized that they can conserve soil water by using mulch. They have covered the entire banana orchard with a carpet of dry grass, and now only water the orchard once a week, down from three times a week.

The teacher in charge has been using the banana orchard as a field school to train pupils, parents and the school management committee. The focus has been on the benefit of using TC bananas in the establishment of new banana orchards and the management practices such as mulching, a key practice in conservation agriculture. The school is looking forward to expanding the orchard to about 100 seedlings and to develop it as an agribusiness unit that will increase their revenue streams.

Empowering farmers in natural resources – focus on compost making for soil fertility enhancement

Although soils in humid and semi-humid tropical areas are generally fertile, here they have been over-used by farmers and most of the areas are not as productive as they used to be. The situation is normally exacerbated by poor soil management practices, which, together with the high rainfall in many of these areas, leads to serious soil erosion. The result has been poor soils that are not tillable, contain less essential elements and have poor physical characteristics. Under the INFAS project Africa Harvest implemented in Burundi, Tanzania and Kenya, this challenge has been addressed bytraining farmers on simple soil fertility enhancement methods.

Farmers were also trained on how to make and use compost. This is the process of turning any plant matter into manure. It involves the recycling of a mix of fresh and decomposing organic materials into a rich soil. Compost aids in soil moisture retention and improves both sandy and clay soils and allows for slow release of soil nutrients. Under the INFAS project, the farmers are taught to use materials such as wood ash, green leaves, farm yard manure and topsoil that is easily available in their environment.

The training was done in a pre-selected household, whose owners belonged to a farmer group. The compost heap should not be more than 1.5m in height for easier management. The compost takes three months to get ready, with the farmer turning the heap upside down once every month to ensure the decomposition happens evenly. After three months, the compost is ready to be used in the farm.

How compost-making transformed Charles Bosire Ndara’s farm

Charles Bosire Ndara, 58, from Kenya’s Kisii County, is one of the farmers who was trained in compost making. He depends on his two-and-a-half acre farm to feed his family of five. However, the farm has not always produced enough to feed the family and there is hardly any surplus for sale. Charles grows maize, bananas, local vegetables and Napier grass.

He has always heavily relied on organic fertilizer to boost production, but productivity was not as expected. The training in compost-making for his group, Nyakeiri Self-Help Group, was an eye opener to him. Once the group went through several sessions, Charles, who is a fast learner, immediately started making his own compost manure.After successfully making compost three times, he began assisting others and at the time of writing has assisted more than 20 farmers.

He says organic manure is better than inorganic fertilizer because he is now getting more Napier grass by volume, and which is greener and healthier than before. In 2016, Charles also used the compost manure to farm KK15 beans, one of the improved bean varieties that the INFAS project promoted in Kisii and Nyamira counties. He had planted half a kg of KK15 beans and harvested 8 kg of bean seed. He sold 5kg of the bean seed to group members, and replanted 1kg, while his family consumed 2 kg.

He attributes the good harvest of beans to application of compost manure. He also applies
compost manure on maize and local vegetables. Charles indicates that when he applies compost on his farm, it lasts for two seasons before he has toapply it again. In the past, he used three bags of 50 kg fertilizer during the planting season, but he is currently using only one bag of fertilizer for top dressing.

As a committed member of the Nyakeiri Self-Help Group, he trains members of the group as well as the rest of the community on composting. He foresees a time when he will be able to make enough compost for his farm and also start selling the excess to other members of the community.