Tag Archives: Farming

More Chances, More Change: Water-Smart Agriculture in East Africa.

“It’s funny”, muses filmmaker Andrew Johnstone of film company Wild Dog, “but its rare to work on an international development project where you can actually see policy changes being actioned as a result of the work that you do”.

Producer/Director Andy Johnstone and reporter William Odinga on assignment near Lira in Northern Uganda.

For the past two years Wild Dog has been working with the Global Water initiative East Africa to deliver a series of media outputs to highlight the work that the Kampala based agency has been working on. “We have produced a series of fours films for GWI EA as part of this media project and the worry is that the important issues that projects like GWI are attempting to highlight through the films we produce will simply fall on deaf ears and be ignored. So when you actually see that some of these fresh ideas are being adopted, it renews your faith in the importance of the work that so many development agencies do and also in the power of documentary film to help deliver these messages”, says Johnstone.

“The water that we need to survive comes in many forms”, says GWI EA Program Director Dr Alan Nicol. “Domestic water supply is most commonly the ‘World Water Day’ focus and global rallying point. Yet a full 70% of all water extracted from the hydrological system is used in agriculture to maintain our food security. Rarely getting the attention it deserves, the Global Water Initiative East Africa has, however, spent the last two years privileging understanding of this key agricultural resource and how best to use it effectively and efficiently in smallholder farming across Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda.”

GWI EA has established series of research activities and communications outputs (blogs, films and podcasts) that have helped raise attention and driven forward a new approach to ‘Water-Smart Agriculture’. GWI EA’s groundbreaking work has only been possible because of partnerships with local, national and international stakeholders — including Wild Dog Media.

“As we transition to a new source of funding, we wish to mark World Water Day 2015 by thanking all the champion farmers, local government officials, researchers and research institutions, national ministries and media stakeholders and others who have ridden with us since late 2012″, says Nicol. “The journey has not ended, we are simply changing vehicle. Our recently-launched Sourcebook on Water Smart Agriculture will be showcased at the World Water Forum in Korea on the 14th April and we hope to develop further this important resource as a centerpiece for advocacy and awareness-raising.”

In this new film More Chances, More Change, the Wild Dog production team, including Ugandan Science Journalist reporter William Odinga travelled back to Northern Uganda to see if the prospects of farmers in rural communities had improved. “We were very pleased to find that some of the ideas that GWI EA had been developing are now being enthusiastically adopted by these farming communities and that these ideas and techniques are now being shared within these communities”, says Odinga “and furthermore, we found evidence of government backed projects adopted key Water-Smart Agriculture techniques as well.”

“To see ideas being adopted and projects making progress is really heartening”, says Johnstone. “To think that in some small way our films may be helping to drive these changes by helping persuade policy and decision makers to adopt new practices and invest in change for agriculture is very rewarding.”

The film is now being released to mark World Water Day on 22 March 2015 and is available to view here:

Enjoy the film and please share with your network!

Please continue to visit this site for regular updates and don’t hesitate to join our journey as we progress through 2015.

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

World Food Day

Making a change where it Counts: Celebrating World Food Day at IWMI’s “River of Learning” Share Fair

October 16 was World Food Day and GWI EA attended celebrations in Addis Ababa. This year’s theme announced by FAO was ‘Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition’.
In Addis Ababa, the day was celebrated with a ‘River of Learning’ Share Fair at the ILRI compound, convened by IWMI as a way to mark the 10th anniversary of IWMI East Africa’s office establishment in Ethiopia. There was a rich turn-out of research institutions, private sector organizations, NGOs and donor agencies, sharing their work and achievements on water for agriculture over the past decade, but also asking important questions about where to go next. GWI East Africa was invited to participate, convening a stand and making several contributions to the discussion and debate.
One of the key achievements, mentioned during the fair, was the recognition that agriculture water management is a cornerstone for growth in the region – and none more so than in Ethiopia. Community based integrated watershed management is adapted as a strategy in all of Ethiopia’s regions and funded by the Sustainable Land Management program run by the Ministry of Agriculture. More recently, water-centered development is adapted as a key strategy in Ethiopia’s growth corridors.

Bethel Terefe and Tesfaye Ewnetie on GWI East Africa's stand.
Bethel Terefe and Tesfaye Ewnetie on GWI East Africa’s stand.

Many actors shared their work during the fair. The Nile Water, Land and Ecosystems program (NLWE) of the CG system – IWMI’s flagship research program – focuses on sustainable agriculture, water and livelihoods, and emphasized the need for sustainable intensification as part of a paradigm shift from the green revolution era and its unintended impacts on water and ecosystems. The aim of the NWLE project is scaling up sustainable innovations through joint platforms in the Nile corridor in East Africa. The project will address multiple and complex issues of land and water management, ecosystem strengthening and human development over a 12-year period, focusing on issues including small-scale irrigation and rain-fed farming, including in the highlands of Ethiopia, around Lake Victoria and in complex development environments including the Sudd in South Sudan. GWI EA has been invited to contribute its thinking into developing the program, and, in particular, how to exploit synergies between research activities and how to reach out to and influence key decision makers.
In a session on achievements, GWI-EA flagged its program approach and the development of the regional charter in Morogoro Tanzania this August. The charter engages government, civil society, academic institutions and practitioners from Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania in undertaking to increase political attention and investment levels in water for smallholder agriculture. For more information and to download the charter please go here.
Highlighting the multiplicity of actors and efforts in sector represented at the Share Fair and yet the scattered knowledge and learning in the region from the many research and implementation programs, the GWI-EA Program Director,  Dr. Alan Nicol, suggested that the gathered organizations should commit to a synthesis of existing knowledge and learning in the sector in the coming year. The suggestion was seconded and followed up on by others, including from the CG system, and subsequent discussions are now shaping the process by which this can take place in 2014.
During the event, we were reminded that Sub-Saharan Africa has made significant strides in reducing hunger in recent years. In July of this year, African Union member states set an ambitious target to eradicate hunger completely by 2025. Ten of the AU state countries are showing agricultural growth rates of more than 6% per annum and allocating more that 10% of their GDP to the agriculture sector, as per the  Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework agreement. Yet a grim reality remains that by 2015 a quarter of the world’s poor will be from sub-Saharan Africa. African states therefore still have a long way to go.
Arguably, one of the most important messages of the day came at the close and from one of the participants, a farmer from Tigray. While appreciating all the mentioned achievements of the sector and all the projects and future intentions, he noted, “Measure your achievements by the change you make on the lives of individual farmers, not by the amount of research and learning documents generated by your programs. Make a change in the lives of farmers, because that’s the change that counts.”

Please see GWI EA’s new film Harvesting our Futures that was launched on World Food Day.
Bethel Terefe, Tesfaye Ewnetie and Alan Nicol