We took a few days off together before dropping Johanna and Harold at the Lusaka airport. Robert and I will be in Zambia for another five weeks.
Eva told me we should try to visit a farmer south of Lusaka. She heard he was a big inspiration to anyone interested in conservation farming. She heard right.
Moomba and the Conservation Farming (CF) fieldsman for the Kafue area, Saint Njovu, were waiting at the side of the road for us, beside Njovu’s motorbike. The farm was another 200 metres from the road. A model farm, it looks very much like the research plots at Golden Valley Agricultural Research Trust outside of Lusaka. We were impressed before we even got out of the car.
Moomba began using the CF methods about 11 years ago. “We had nothing, no animals. I have land but I was not getting anything, just two bags (of corn).” Then his wife took a course in CF farming with Program Against Malnutrition. She showed her husband what she had learned and life changed for the Moombas.
They didn’t stop with that first course 11 years ago. They both took more courses and continue to attend CF field days to learn more. That is unusual for a Zambian small farmer.
Now they have 16 animals – four oxen to plow and 12 beef cattle. They cultivate six acres, planting corn, beans, cowpeas, peanuts and sweet potatoes. Some women were harvesting in the bean field while we were there.
“You don’t expect hunger from Mr. Moomba,” Saint says. There is still corn left over from the year before. Moomba has successfully sent his six children to school, and started the foundation for a roomy new house. All of this was done from the profit of this small farm.
Why isn’t everyone around him farming the CF way? Says Njovu: “They come and say Mr. Moomba uses juju (witchcraft) in his field.”
Mr. Moomba tries to tell them the only juju he uses is cow manure and fertilizer. I think he should add the work of his own hands. This man is a committed farmer.
It does take commitment to do a good job of CF, which stresses the importance of timely land preparation and weeding while weeds are still small. The concern for those seemingly small details makes the difference in success or failure, as it does in farming all over the world.
I think the CF extension worker was right: “If a million Zambians would farm like this, there would be no hunger in Zambia.”