Tag Archives: Champion Farmer

Bosco, a Champion farmer leading by example

Champion farmer selection was one of the initial and important steps in the implementation of Water Smart Agriculture by GWI EA across the three programme countries, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. Findings from an internal programme evaluation in Same district, Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania, indicate a major transformation in farmers’ efforts to improve their livelihoods by raising food production and increasing household income, through the adoption of water smart agriculture practices as a sustainable remedy to the unfavourable climate and environment.

Bosco garden
Bosco in his maize garden

Bosco Masawe, 54, a champion farmer in Ruvu Mferejini village is fondly called “Tyson” not only because of a well built body structure, but also his efforts in practicing water smart agriculture. During our focus group discussion, his peers singled him out as an outstanding champion farmer in the area.

Located some 28km from Same town, Bosco’s farm is the embodiment of Water Smart Agriculture practices including ridges, made through double digging, crop residues applied as compost manure, agroforestry fruit trees, to serve as boundaries on his farm and irrigation through tapped water from River Pangani. As other farmers struggle to cope with the unfavourable climatic conditions and the environment, Bosco’s 2-acre farm is ever green and never short of crops to harvest. He hires labour to support him especially in preparing the land for cultivation and, on average, pays Tshs30,000 ($18) for work done on half an acre. He keeps records of all quantities and costs of inputs applied, including harvests attained.

A stream from River Pangani used by Bosco to irrigate his crops

With all these efforts, productivity on his small farm has improved from 7 bags of maize per acre to 12 bags, thus raising his income per season from Tshs600,000 ($364) to 1,500,000 ($910). Most recently, he earned Tsh100,000 ($61) from his small vegetable garden. Through savings and using part of his farm income, he has constructed a modern toilet facility for his family, the only one of its kind in the village, setting him back some Tshs3,000,000 ($1,820). In addition, he has also constructed a small shop for his wife along the village road to sell agricultural produce as it’s directly harvested from his farm.
A small shop constructed for sale of agricultural produce

His success can largely be attributed to the water smart agriculture interventions he received in form of trainings and exchange visits. In addition, GWI facilitated him and seven other champion farmers to attend the annual “Nane Nane Agricultural Show” in Arusha, which brings together motivated farmers from all corners of the country. At this event, participants are privileged to learn different things such as appropriate and modern farming practices and technologies. With exhibition stalls spread across several hectares of land, all forms of agriculture are represented including big and small scale farms sharing their successes and challenges from which farmers learn. Bosco used this opportunity to buy a tool kit at Tshs10,000 ($6) to supplement his water smart agriculture knowledge and skills. The information from the tool kit has enhanced his skills in quality seed selection and treatment. To demonstrate this, he was able to select and treat 20kgs of quality maize seeds from his own harvest for the next planting season.

Bosco is not selfish with his success; He is supporting farmers in his village and beyond to

Bosco's shop
Bosco’s shop constructed for sale of agricultural produce

adopt the best practices from which he has greatly benefited. He is among the many champion farmers who have strongly demonstrated that, through Water Smart Agriculture, productive farming is possible even in harsh climatic conditions and environments. His fellow champion farmers from Ruvu Mferejini village perhaps describe him best, saying, “His improvement in livelihood reflects his field efforts.”

Clement Mayanja
GWI EA, Uganda


Harvesting rainwater gives Otuke farmers better yields

Otuke district, in northern Uganda, is typically dry with poor soils. For long, farmers in the area concentrated on growing cereals because they doubted the possibility of cultivating vegetables in such semi arid conditions. However, with the support of CARE International, farmers adopted water smart agricultural practices such as the use of ridges, compost manure, harvesting rain water and have since  witnessed a change in fortune. Milton’s is one such story. Click here for more.



Casual labour wages couldn’t sustain Abraham’s family

For a long time, Abraham Pote worked as a casual labourer on farms around his community in Vudee on the slopes of the Pare Mountains in Tanzania. The 45-year-old earned between Tsh1,500-Tsh2,000 a day for his efforts, which earnings he used to buy the basic necessities for his family. That, however, was not enough to cover all the requirements.

Desperate to supplement his income, the father of four ventured into brick-making, for whoever was in need of material to construct a house. This tedious work requires one to wake up at dawn in order to rack up a high number of bricks and earn a decent wage. For each brick made, Abraham earned Tsh20. He made up to 300 bricks a day, which earned him Tsh6,000.

Although this was an upgrade from the wages as a casual labourer, Abraham frequently had to bargain for food on credit from the shops. The manual labour just was not cutting it for him. He needed to be able to provide frequent meals for his wife and children. Agriculture seemed the logical answer to his problems. He figured, with this, he would provide enough food for his family and have some left over for sale.

While he owned plenty of land, he lacked the necessary skills and knowledge to make it productive. This didn’t stop him from trying. He bought seeds from any supplier ignorant of quality differences. Soon, he planted onions using traditional methods of farming and waited on the rains to bail him out. Needless to say, his harvest was nothing to write home about. He reaped 3 bags of onions from one acre of land.

Perhaps 2013 can be described as Abraham’s turning point. He was selected as one of Same-Abraham.1more than 60 Champion Farmers from Same, a semi arid district in the Kilimanjaro region.

With training from GWI EA, Abraham learnt techniques such as double digging, cover cropping, mixed cropping and bench terracing, which enabled him practice water and soil conservation and produce higher yields. Armed with these new skills, Abraham gave onions a second go and produced 20 bags worth Tsh2m (USD 1,205) from half an acre of land.

From these earnings, he was able to pay school fees for his children and also purchase a truck of manure for his farm. In addition, he paid for the connection of electricity to his house.

Today, Abraham is a role model to other farmers in the village. They visit his garden regularly for continual lessons and have adopted his methods.

Elizabeth Agiro
GWI EA, Uganda

Gardening Made Easy

For quick food around the home, Rizaeli Samweli, a Champion Farmer in Mwembe village in Kilimanjaro region, got creative and set up a vegetable kitchen garden in front of her house. These usually come in handy for people living in apartments who lack the necessary land to grow crops. They hang pots from the roofs; make use of the balcony and whatever available space they can pack a pot.

However, it wasn’t for lack of land that Rizaeli planted spinach in a sack. Rather, it was for convenience. She wanted something close enough from which she could pluck vegetables for a quick meal in her home.

How did she do this?

All she needed was a sack, a mixture of fertile soil, sand and farmyard manure, gravel, a bucket and a big strong stick/pole.

For measurements, she mixed one bag of soil, half a bag of sand and quarter of manure. She fixed the strong pole in the ground, cut the sack at the bottom to create two gaping holes, and dressed the pole. Using a small bucket, also open at both ends, she placed it inside the sack to straddle the pole. Once the bucket was at the bottom of the sack, she filled it with gravel on the inside and the sand, soil and manure mixture on the outside. She then lifted the bucket out and repeated the process of filling gravel in the middle and the soil-sand-manure mixture on the outside. Once the sack was full, the pole was able to hold it in place.

Thereafter, she poked holes in the side of the sack and placed transplanted seedlings through the holes and into the soil on the side of the sack.

Rizaeli prepared this garden in May this year by planting spinach (locally known as sukuma wiki) and has already harvested three times. She intends to keep the garden for another eight months.


Rizaeli (in green) showing some farmers and GWI EA staff her garden

“The beauty about this garden is that it requires very little maintenance,” she says. “For water, I ask the children to wash their faces over the sack in the morning and their hands before meal times.”

This little water is all the garden needs to survive. Due to the gravel, there is very little weeding required.

Elizabeth Agiro
GWI EA, Uganda


Cultivating Against the Odds

Shrubs, thorny bushes, dry patched land and sandy soils characterise the terrain in the lowlands of Ruvu Jiugeni village, Same district, Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania. It hardly ever rains, considering it is on the lee ward side of the Pare Mountains. When it does rain, it floods; transport is a nightmare during such times since the roads become slippery, water logged and impassable.

Nasib Rashid, however, has overcome the odds to practice agriculture in the area. Coming from brown desolate scenery, his garden provides pleasant relief; lush green shoots stretching for several meters. On his one and a half acre plot of land, Rashid initially cultivated maize. Ignorant of any modern farming techniques at the time, he practiced only border farming, where he created borders around sub plots of land, where in the event of rain, water was trapped to keep the crops moist longer. This, however, did not save him from the disastrous harvests that followed. He harvested 5 bags of maize each weighing 100kg.

Champion Farmer Nasib Rashid

Last year, GWI EA recruited Rashid as one of the Champion Farmers who would benefit from training on new and improved agronomic skills, which would enable them not only conserve soil, but water as well and produce better yields. During the training, Rashid learnt about double tillage, where farmers dig twice as deep to enhance better water infiltration and moisture retention. A combination of the latter and his border methods soon produced better results for Rashid. With the addition of manure to his maize, Rashid realised 17 bags at his next harvest.

“I am very happy that I got very high yields since I received training from GWI EA,” he says.

His next attempt is with onions. On a recent visit to Same, Rashid boasted of one and a half acres of onions for which he has carefully followed instructions. A stream connecting from River Nyumba ya Mungu in Mwanga district flows on the outskirts of his plot. He benefits from this through the canals coursing through the small plots on his land, which in turn flow into the onion gardens thus irrigating them.

Nasib Rashid shares tips with other Champion Farmers


However, Rashid still faces some challenges; Poor road infrastructure perhaps is the biggest. Additionally, sometimes prices fall at the time of selling the produce, which cuts deeply into his profits, considering the expenses of investing in onions.


“It is very expensive in terms of the pesticides I buy to protect the crop against diseases.”

Other times, the crop is affected by diseases he is not familiar with. And yet, government extension workers are few and far between so he can’t get much needed technical advice in time to save his crop.
Despite the challenges, Rashid has vowed to continue adopting new practices to further improve his yields and ensure food security in his household.

Elizabeth Agiro
GWI EA, Uganda

The Makanya Gold Mine

Down a valley in the beautiful Pare Mountains of Tanzania, which form part of the Eastern Arc Mountains, lies a little village, Makanya. Located in the northern district of Same, the village is a gold mine; not a traditional underground mine of tunnels and heavy earth moving machines but a goldmine only two feet below the surface – fabulous top-soil – which when harnessed properly will make food insecurity, hunger and poverty a thing of the past.

Mwajabu Lusandi
Champion Farmer Mwajabu Lusandi

Mwajabu Lusandi lives here. She is a Champion Farmer working with four other members of her group to pilot double digging and Maboda farming techniques. These are simple techniques that improve water infiltration in the soil and increase soil moisture content and retention, thereby increasing the available water for crops.

These techniques do not require sophisticated machinery and science. Understanding the purpose of double digging using an ordinary hand hoe is the trick. All the farmer needs is the commitment and willingness to work with the advice and support provided by extension workers. These techniques are part of wider conservation agriculture practices being implemented by the Global Water Initiative (GWI EA) to encourage minimum tillage but also sufficient depth to break through the hard pan and increase infiltration rates, both increasing soil moisture and minimizing flooding in the long term.

In Makanya, at Mwajabu’s small plot where these technologies have been piloted, the crops are performing extremely well. There is a clear difference between Mwajabu’s maize garden and the adjacent gardens whose crop has dried up. Mwajabu’s small plot makes a powerful statement to other farmers – “tender care for mother nature will provide enough to feed at a minimum cost”. Mwajabu says she was worried as she awaited the results from her demonstration plot of half an acre. The community’s decision as to whether or not to adopt these new farming practices was dependent on the success of these trials in Mwajabu’s plot. The pressure was on Mwajabu to impress her peers! Now that the crops and maize cobs are well matured there is clear evidence of success and the community is now convinced that further gold can be mined by a number of other farmers too.

It is initiatives such as this that GWI EA seeks to promote through working with a Learning and Practice Alliance in Same, through which Champion Farmers like Mwajabu catalyze change by undertaking joint problem identification, working on solutions, adopting new working models, and scaling up new approaches in partnership with other farmers, government and other agencies. Documenting the lessons learned is also a key consideration for the programme, not only for dissemination of new ideas, but also for informing policy formulation and implementation at a national level.

Without the support of a committed agriculture officer, however, and a committed Champion Farmer, this small plot would not stand out in Makanya.

“If every smallholder farmer in Makanya and across East Africa, adopted one of the many simple technologies that we are trying to promote, food could become more available and accessible to all and the devastating affects of highly variable rainfall could be reduced. Champion Farmers such as Mwajabu are invaluable in this process. There really is “gold in them there hills” – we are committed to helping people find it,” says Dr Alan Nicol, GWI EA Programme Director.

Violet Alinda
GWI East Africa, Uganda

Meet Mrindoko, A True Champion Farmer in Bangalala

Champion Farmer Ali Mrindoko

Ali Mrindoko, 55, lives in Bangalala village, in the South Pare Mountains, Same district, in the north east of Tanzania. Like majority of the people in Bangalala, he lives off his land where he grows both food crops and cash crops. But something makes his plot of land stand out—during a typical dry spell his crops are greener.

In 2005, Mrindoko started implementing the conservation agriculture technique of stone terracing. This involves digging terraces and building stone embankments along the contours. It reduces run-off and in effect controls soil erosion while increasing the soil’s water retention capacity.It is hard and labour intensive but the result is better yields.

Stones and trees
Mrindoko’s homestead is surrounded by healthy, green crops. We ask him why the farmers around him are not applying stone terracing.

Stone Terrace
Mrindoko’s stone terraces

“It is labour intensive. The flat stones needed for the work can be challenging to produce,” he tells us. “Otherwise I am always happy to help other farmers implement the method and to share my knowledge.”

The other farming techniques Mrindoko uses are intercropping and agro-forestry. The careful selection of crops and trees to mix on his farm helps him produce a variety as well as reduce soil erosion.

Mrindoko works on his farm with his wife and son. His other children, six in number, are in school or working elsewhere. When asked what his biggest challenge as a farmer is, Mrindoko says “access to enough water for production.”

Although terraces can hold water when it rains, their capacity is limited when droughts set in. Mrindoko has suffered the impact of drought before to the extent that in 1999 he was forced to migrate to a place known as Kabuku in search of food because Bangalala had become extremely dry.

As we exchange pleasantries and prepare to leave his impressive farm, Mrindoko surprises us with sugarcane. “Take this with you,” he says as he hands us the sugarcane. His wife and child come quickly to bid us farewell.

Stone terracing ensures food security
Stone terracing is an efficient and sustainable agriculture technique for smallholder farmers. It helps in soil-water retention and reduces erosion. The terraces also protect the crops from stray animals. A few cows could severely damage crops if they crossed a field which has not been stone-terraced. Bringing techniques and technologies for food security to more farmers is what drives GWI EA.

Mathilde Merolli

Harnessing Irrigation for Improved Food and Income Security

Workie Tarekegn, 55, lives in Shimie Kebele, Dera Woreda, Ethiopia, with his wife and five children. The youngest is under five years of age. His eldest son is a civil servant, another, a mason. The other three children are attending elementary and high school. He is a farmer.

Champion Farmer Workie with wife

Workie started irrigation by digging a well in his compound 15 years ago. He planted vegetables and trees such as Gesho (a plant whose leaves are used in making local brew). Today, he uses surface water to irrigate his field which borders a river.

Workie is a model farmer to the village and has received recognition from the local government; it has given him two pickaxes, a shovel and a spade as reward for setting a good example in his community. Workie says that learning from his experience, other farmers in the village have started to practice irrigation.

“We used to experience months of food shortage. I was not able to feed my family. This was before I started practicing irrigation” Workie says. “With irrigation I have been able to feed my family and to send my children to school.”

Workie adds:“One of my neighbors, who started irrigation after seeing what I was doing, now has more money than I have. He has made significant progress. I am happy to be a model to him and many other farmers in the village.”

Besides his orchard and vegetable gardens, Workie has a eucalyptus plantation worth 20,000 birr (about 1000 USD). He is food and financially secure because he produces with rain as well as irrigation.

Workie says that the lack of technologies to lift and convey water to farms is the major reason why many farmers in his village are unable to irrigate their crops. To counter this challenge, he recommends that farmers be provided with water lifting technologies, conveyance structures, gully crossing structures and small weirs construction to raise the water level of the stream for easy diversion into the canals.

GWI EA is supporting small-scale farmers such as Workie to access appropriate technologies that can efficiently lift and deliver water on farms to increase yields. Among these are water lifting pumps, plastic hoses and water saving technologies such as drip irrigation.

Tesfaye Ewnetie

GWI East Africa, Ethiopia


Shallow Wells for Household Irrigation

Using Shallow Wells for Household Irrigation Changes the Lives of Women Farmers:

The Case of Muchit, Champion Farmer in Dera


Life is harder for women farmers and we are always lagging behind male farmers. But, my eyes are now opened to the possibilities that lie ahead”, says Muchit, a 37 year old single mother of three. Muchit is determined to change her family’s living conditions through improved use of water for agriculture.

The farmer, who lives in Munaya village of Korata Kebele, in Dera district, has 1.5 hectares of farm land. Some of it is adjacent to the Gumera stream. She rents a motor pump from a neighbouring farmer to irrigate her farm. Muchit relies on rainfall to grow rough pea, teff, finger millet and maize. She grows potatoes and onions using irrigation. Muchit is now shifting to growing crops that have high market value. This year, she has planted rice, understanding that demand for it is high and it fetches a higher price. In her backyard Muchit has planted coffee, gesho (a tree whose leaves are used in making traditional brew) and various fruit trees.

MuchitMuchit’s children, 17, 13 and 11 years old, two of them boys and the youngest a girl, help out on the farm when they are not at school. Since it is taboo for women to plow the land using oxen, Muchit relies on her male relatives to do the plowing for her in a labour exchange arrangement. On her farm land, she does the seeding, preparation of irrigation canals and furrows, as well as harvesting and selling the harvest in the nearest town, Hamusit.

Muchit says the different meetings and discussions she has attended in her village have helped open her eyes to the possibility of changing her life using better agriculture water management practices.

“There is a stream next to my farm land but I have never used it. I want to start using it in order to improve the lives of my children. I want to improve my own life. After seeing what other farmers are doing my eyes are now open,” says Muchit.

Muchit has to fetch and transport on her back water from a village well for the crops in her backyard.


“We’ve been told the GWI program is here for five years. I expect support from the program to buy my own motor pump, instead of renting and borrowing from others. If I get a hand dug well for irrigation in my back yard, I believe I will be able to cover fully our household food needs. If I find water nearby, I can plant all kinds of vegetables in my back yard. What I need is support in digging a well,” Muchit says.

Muchit earned 1,200 birr (about 60 USD) last year from her coffee. She sells the gesho leaves for up to 100 birr (about 5 USD) every month. She earns 4,200 birr (215 USD) per year from rough pea. She uses the Teff, Sorghum and Finger Millet she grows for household consumption. Muchit estimates a total income of 6,600 birr (about 340 USD) annually from her produce. Of this, she spends about 2490 birr (about 128 USD) on fertilizers, herbicides and seeds.

Muchit says that life is especially tough for women farmers; that they don’t find enough time to work on their farms as the men do.

“Life is much harder for women farmers. Unlike the men, we cannot water our farms at night,. And on top of working on the farm all day, it’s the woman’s responsibility to look after the livestock and water the crops in the backyard in addition to all the house chores,” Muchit says.

Bethel Terefe

GWI East Africa, Ethiopia