Tag Archives: film

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.

Making Movies – Journalist William Odinga on filming with farmers from Same, Tanzania

Same, a town in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro region, sits in a basin on the leeward side of the South Pare Mountains.

Dawn has broken and from the compound of my hotel, Nzoroko, I see sunrays pierce though the mountains, forcing the dark morning mist to fade away rapidly.

I am in Same to find out how farmers are able to produce food in semi arid conditions, where annual rainfall can be as low as 400 millimetres.

With my crew, including James Mbiri, Liz Agiro, Dosteus Lopa, Donath Fungu and Bakari the driver, we set off for the villages.

We arrive at the home of a woman farmer, Rizaeli Samueli, in Mwembe village, a little after 9:00am and as soon as I step out of our air conditioned car the real Same welcomes me.

It is hot, windy and dusty. The land is bare; shrubs, rocks and thorny bushes stretch out as far as the eye can see. Every tree or grass is shrinking.

Hot, Windy & Dusty: Water-Smart Agriculture in the Dry Zone from Andy Johnstone – Wild Dog Ltd on Vimeo.

Farming is an uphill task, but, the population must eat. And so they practice agriculture.

At the moment no crop is growing on Rizaeli’s home farm, which is on a slope. It is too dry. She keeps a few cows which are now eating away at dry maize stocks from the previous harvest. They look unbothered by our presence, neither are they concerned about Rizaeli’s creaking wheelbarrow. It is Rizaeli’s duty, after all, to feed them if she is to get any milk out of them.

During this time Risaeli manages another garden in the adjoining valley, a few metres away from her home. With a bit of irrigation from a small stream, her beans and vegetables are growing very well, a sharp contrast to the trees and grasses uphill.

“It is difficult to farm here because of little rains,” Rizaeli tells us. “But we have been taught to do it better so these days we get good yields.”

Rizaeli is one of 63 farmers in this district that were selected by the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI EA) to practice soil and water conservation techniques in order to produce more food with less water.

The techniques include terracing, which reduces run-off and increases water infiltration into the soil, mulching which preserves soil moisture and supplementary irrigation where conditions allow.Same film shoot

GWI EA refers to the application of these techniques as “Water Smart Agriculture” and Rizaeli is a “Champion Farmer,” a farmer from whom others can learn and adopt these techniques.

In the blazing afternoon heat we drive off to see another farmer, Ali Mrindoko, in Bangalala village.

Mrindoko’s garden is one to behold. Using a technique known as stone terracing, where stone embankments are made for every terrace, Mrindoko is able to keep moisture in his garden for far much longer, to the extent that he can even grow sugarcane, a heavy consumer of water.

“We receive very little rain in this area. Building this stone wall terrace is a big task but the benefits are enormous. I get very good yields. My family cannot starve,” Mrindoko tells us.

Mrindoko and Rizaeli are on steep hills but in terms of altitude, they are much lower compared to Vudee, up in the Pares.

Traveling to Vudee is not for the fainthearted. The road, cut through hard rock, is so narrow, the climb too steep and the bends very sharp. Bakari and Fungu, the GWI EA agronomist covering this area, have been doing this route many times so I imagine they are used to it. To me, sometimes it feels like driving at the edge of a cliff.

Initially, people living in these highlands trekked long distances to the lowlands to farm and went back to the highlands to sleep. This they called seasonal farming.

But now, with better farming techniques and practices, they can use very little of land and water to grow so much. They farm near their homes.

With the help of government farming trainers, and programmes such as GWI EA, farmers have learnt techniques and practices such as bench and stone terracing, crop spacing, planting in rows, mulching, minimum tillage and inter cropping.

We find a group of women planting potatoes at a very steep slope, assisted by a government employed trainer, Ibrahim Ndumbalo.

“We are planting potatoes on terraces. This helps to manage soil erosion, controls nutrient loss and increases the soil’s capacity to trap and retain water,” Ndumbalo tells us.

As evening approaches, we start our descent to Same town. A photo shoot in the town, just for fun, caps our 2-day trip here. It has been a wonderful experience especially for me and James, the Wild Dog crew based in Kampala, Uganda.

William Odinga Balikuddembe

Science Journalist

Watch the film here.

Informal Film Screenings

As a journalist and filmmaker you don’t often get the opportunity to revisit the people and the communities where you have worked to share the content they have contributed to with them in person.

UGD00384For many communities, this is less of an issue as contributors are usually able to access the content  you have created via a newspaper, on TV or  over the internet. However, for poor, remote, rural communities, access to these media outlets is often non-existent, so the only way for them to see the content they have contributed too is to screen it for them yourself.

This month, I had the opportunity to return to Otuke in Northen Uganda to film an update with the rural subsistence farming communities there. The idea behind this return trip was to try to find out how the project that the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWIEA) is leading has impacted on peoples’ lives, to find out what had changed and learn more about how the challenges that the community is facing are being addressed, particularly as they try to adapt to rainfall variability and the changing climate.

Otuke is a 7 hour drive north from the Ugandan capital Kampala. Otuke district lies on a flat plain, about an hour west of the main town in the region Lira. The villages where GWI EA is working are only accessible on foot or in a 4×4 vehicle. The un-metalled roads are rough and often flooded  and muddy after a rain storm or bone dry and rutted, baked by the hot African sun. There is no internet or TV here.

I traveled up with my colleague William Odinga from the Uganda Science Journalists Association and in a break in the shoot schedule, we took the chance to pull out William’s UGD00379laptop to set up informal screenings for the Champion Farmers. We were able to screen the film Harvesting Our Futures to Lilly Obua, Sophie Acen and to Charles Dickens Emol, all of whom had featured in the piece we made last year.  I was delighted by their reaction and it was a joy to be able to show them just how much their contributions to the films that we have made have helped others understand the issues that their community faces.

Media outputs are a crucial component for many development agency projects, but most often these films are made only to connect with international donors or with  development agency workshop groups. Using the media to connect directly with the communities whose lives agencies are hoping to change is a logical extension to the work that we as producers do and as access to the internet improves, delivering educational and information media content direct to these communities is becoming much more feasible. But for Lilly, Sophie and Charles, living out in the bush, the only answer was to set up these informal screenings in person.


Andrew Johnstone, Producer/Director, Wild Dog Limited