Originally published at: http://humidtropics.cgiar.org/humidtropics-innovative-agricultural-practices-change-lives-and-bring-back-hope-in-drc/
Like many other rural areas in Walungu sub-district and beyond, across the South Kivu Province in Eastern DRC, Mushinga has been wrecked by various disasters, both natural and human. The most adverse factors that afflict the area is soil impoverishment and inadequate agricultural practices, as deprived populations can hardly count on the small land they own for their livelihood. Research-based approaches and processes were obviously lacking, making it almost impossible to reverse the trends, until Humidtropics and its Innovation Platform partners, notably the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), Food for the Hungry International (FH), National Institute for Agricultural Research (INERA), Development Support Project (PAD) and Diobass (a local NGO), started implementing innovative agricultural practices, ranging from training, technical support, follow up to provision of fertilizers.
A field in Lubona near Mushinga, with application of innovative intercropping systems mixing tree crops, fodder crops (also serving as hedge plants), and staple food crops.
Last May, the significant changes that are taking place in this rural county and in some neighboring areas prompted South Kivu's provincial Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery, HE Adolphine Muley to organize a tour of this area once branded as ‘agriculturally unworthy’, to witness the promising outcomes that are gradually turning the land into a source of hope for the dwelling populations.
HE Adolphine Muley, South Kivu's Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery.
According to Minister Mulay, Walungu was once one of the main ‘granaries’ that used to supply neighboring cities with basic staple food and other agro-products; people should therefore reflect on factors that led to soils’ impoverishment, and get rid of wrong and obsolete agricultural practices. She indicated that advocacy action towards having inputs’ stores put up in the area would be undertaken, subject to the submission of a well-manned Business Plan specifying how best beneficiaries (the Mushinga community) are set to manage and sustain them once established. "There is need to fully apply and sustain the currently accessible agricultural innovative technologies, and to first duplicate these to the maximum space of the few lands so far available to small scale farmers, for optimal productivity. Successful scaling up of current innovative practices would – in a near future – assert the relevance for launching procedures to acquire extra land in their favor."
One of the beneficiaries, Nsimire M’Karubandika, recalls the past when her village and neighboring ones were faced with hunger, almost contemplating famine, especially after the combined effects of persistent armed conflicts, and the subsequent social instability which worsened the plight of the dwelling households. She points out to neighboring farms with poorly grown crops, and compares them to her healthy and well-maintained small farm – which is being used as a trial field where Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) methods are applied in addition to innovative practices related to both intercropping and mono-cropping farming systems – with greatly blossoming bush bean crops (auguring high yields).
Nsimire M’Karubandika explains her farming achievements and future plans.
"I expect to harvest the same as – if not more than – last season, when I got over 600 kg in the same space where I could hardly harvest 100 kg some time ago", Nsimire said. “Since farming was my only source of income, I went through hard times to sustain my family when my husband got crippled following a road accident, and all our houses had been burnt during armed conflicts: I was homeless. Three years ago, when I decided to get involved in agriculture, I didn’t succeed much, because I was proceeding haphazardly. I tried planting crops all over this plot and could not even afford buying a guinea pig after harvesting! Things changed drastically when I started applying ISFM techniques, after undergoing training and receiving technical support. I then started reaping great benefits of innovative practices stemming from the taught techniques: I experienced increased production and resulting boosted income, which allowed me to buy another field for farming purposes and, later on, a house.”
"My neighbors, who were skeptic when I first adopted Humidtropics’ recommended practices, are now envying my farming achievements, to the extent of coming to me for advice. Nowadays, I manage to save money to buy cattle, in addition to feeding my ten children (some of whom were once threatened by malnutrition) and paying school fees for some of them. I’m now quite comfortable … Can’t you see for yourselves how healthy my children and I are? To me, the next step is to also venture in livestock activity. This may help me secure a readily source of manure to apply according to ISFM directions.”
Nsimire feels that she now has reliable grounds to further commit to agriculture, confident that her production and income will increase, so long as Humidtropics and its partners continue providing training, as well as technical support and follow up. She is grateful to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), who leads the Humidtropics initiative in Mushinga, and Diobass and their partners, which brought ‘development’ to her village, and humbly requests to receive more fertilizer, in order to help her and her community to venture into livestock activities, not only for food diversification, but also for meeting some other farming needs.
Mushinga's Location Chief, Tito Obwir’oyunva.
Mushinga's Location Chief, Tito Obwir’oyunva said that he is personally reaping benefits from Humidtropics’ undertakings in the area in many ways, since he is also a farmer. He is involved in instilling among his governed people the merits of adopting Humidtropics’ innovative agricultural practices. He foresees lots of improvements in the area as a result of the activities of the Innovation Platform considering that both himself and his governed who adopted the new technologies are now gaining technical support, training, and provision of appropriate agricultural inputs (although yet in limited quantity). He praised Humidtropics, as one of the few programs that bring together the maximum partners possible – thus promoting synergies – and ensure a steady follow up of their activities once initiated, sending their experts in the field at various levels of implementation to guide farmers, and building among them a strong sense of ownership of the various initiatives and processes.
"I would request Humidtropics not to give up on us, he said, but to keep providing support of all kinds to ensure that we gradually and fully internalize the taught practices and attitudes, and make them a routine in our daily farming practices. We believe that the agricultural practices that are being popularized here will lead to food security and wealth in our households. I thank Humidtropics’ researchers and partners for all their achievements that are now becoming visible in my location. As Chief, I commit to facilitating Humidtropics’ tasks by sensitizing my community members to adopt its innovative technologies, hoping that its activities will be extended to other areas and households to help them improve their lives.”
Blog by Gabriel Dunia, Communication Specialist, IITA, edited by Valérie Poiré, Communication Officer, Humidtropics. Photos by DR, and by Gabriel Dunia/IITA.