We’re finalizing our winter plans. We’re excited to spend Christmas with our son and his wife in Switzerland. It will be the first time our family has been together for Christmas in six years. Somewhere in January/February we’ll head to Zambia again for a few months to continue working with our agriculture projects.
Bukuumo Cooperative finally got their cheque from the Zambian government. Their truck distributed the government’s subsidized seed and fertilizer to farmers last November. It took a full year to recover their fuel and salary expenses! We were worried they wouldn’t get paid at all – just as some farmers never got paid for the corn they sold to the government food reserve agency.
The long dry season in Zambia – no rainfall between April and end of October – is coming to an end. People are getting ready to plant corn, their staple food. Most subsistent farmers wait until a rain has softened the soil before plowing it, usually by hand with a hoe. If they’re lucky, they use oxen. The usual practice is to burn the trash from the last crop after harvest (May/June), so the soil is exposed to the merciless heat of the sun for months, making it even harder.
Sometimes the first rains become quite lengthy, so planting is delayed. Research shows that every delay in planting is a substantial reduction in yield. Together with farm consultants in Zambia we try to show farmers a better way – conservation farming (CF). CF uses a form of no-till – leave the trash on the field, make permanent planting holes before the rains, put in fertilizer or manure, then seed after the first good rains.
CF also stresses the importance of rotating corn with legumes. Farmers who use this method have much better yields and lower expenses.
We’ve made it a stipulation to the Mpongwe farmers receiving our loans for seed and fertilizer that a part of their land must be prepared and planted using the CF methods. Several men and women were trained in the CF methods at a nearby farm training institute and are to train others. It will be interesting when we go back to see how successful the implementation was.
Pastor Jessy, Mpongwe, emailed us that there is much excitement this year concerning agriculture. Most of the plots we gave a loan to last year yielded well. The loans were paid back with a good profit. That’s good news. More important to us is that they are learning better ways of farming – sustainable ways that will increase profit so they can feed their families, educate their children and enable better health care.