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Giving hope to child mothers October 29th, 2023 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

Teenage girls are vulnerable and when they become pregnant societies deal with them in different ways. In Uganda, they are called all sorts of names, such as a bad person, a disgrace to parents, and even a prostitute. No one wants their children to associate with them because they are considered a bad influence. Parents often expel their daughters from the family and tell them that their life has come to end. Rebecca Akullu experienced this at the age of 17. But Rebecca is not like any other girl.

After giving birth to her baby, she saved money to go to college, where she got a diploma in business studies in 2018. Rebecca soon got a job as accountant at the Aryodi Bee Farm in Lira, northern Uganda, a region that has high youth unemployment and is still recovering from the violence unleashed by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a rebel group. The farm director appreciated her work so much that he employed her.

“Over the years, I developed a real passion for bees,” Rebecca says, “and through hands-on training, I became an expert in beekeeping myself. Whenever l had a chance to visit farmers, I was shocked to see how they destroyed and polluted the environment with agrochemicals, so I became deeply convinced of the need to care for our environment.”

So, when Access Agriculture launched a call for young entrepreneurs to become farm advisors using a solar-powered projector to screen farmer training videos, Rebecca applied. After being selected as an Entrepreneur for Rural Access (ERA) in 2021, she received the equipment and training. At first she combined her ERA services with her job at the farm, but by the end of the year she resigned. Promoting her new business service required courage. Asked about her first marketing effort, Rebecca said she informed her community at church, at the end of Sunday service.

“I was really anxious the first time I had to screen videos to a group of 30 farmers. I wondered if the equipment would work, which video topics the farmers would ask for and whether I would be able to answer their questions afterwards,” Rebecca recalls. Her anxiety soon evaporated. Farmers wanted to know what videos she had on maize, so she showed several, including the ones on the fall armyworm, a pest that destroys entire fields. Farmers learned how to monitor their maize to detect the pest early, and they started to control it with wood ash instead of toxic pesticides.

Rebecca was asked to organise bi-weekly shows for several months, and she continues to do this, whenever asked. Having negotiated with the farm leader, each farmer pays 1,000 Ugandan Shillings (0.25 Euro) per show, where they watch and discuss three to five videos in the local Luo language. Some of the videos are available in English only, so Rebecca translates them for the farmers. “But collecting money from individual farmers and mobilising them for each show is not easy,” she says.

The videos impressed the farmers, and the ball started rolling. Juliette Atoo, a member of one of the farmer groups and primary school teacher in Akecoyere village, convinced her colleagues of the power of these videos, so Barapwo Primary School became Rebecca’s second client, offering her another unique experience.

“The children were so interested to learn and when I went back a month later, I was truly amazed to see how they had applied so many things in their school garden: the spacing of vegetables, the use of ash to protect their vegetable crops, compost making, and so on. The school was happy because they no longer needed to spend money on agrochemicals, and they could offer the children a healthy, organic lunch,” says Rebecca.

As she grew more confident, new contracts with other schools soon followed. For each client Rebecca negotiates the price depending on the travel distance, accommodation, and how many children watch the videos. Often five videos are screened per day for two consecutive days, earning her between 120,000 and 200,000 Ugandan Shillings (30 to 50 Euros). Schools will continue to be important clients, because the Ugandan government has made skill training compulsory. Besides home economics and computer skills, students can also choose agriculture, so all schools have a practical school farm and are potential clients.

While she continues to engage with schools, over time Rebecca has partly changed her strategy. She now no longer actively approaches farmer groups, but rather explores which NGOs work with farmers in the region and what projects they have or are about to start. Having searched the internet and done background research, it is easier to convince project staff of the value of her video-based advisory service.

As Rebecca, now the mother of four children, does not want to miss the opportunity to respond to the growing number of requests for her video screening service, she is currently training a man and a woman in their early twenties to strengthen her team.

Having never forgotten her own suffering as a young mother, and having experienced the opportunities offered by the Access Agriculture videos, Rebecca also decided to establish her own community-based organisation: the Network for Women in Action, which she runs as a charity. Having impressed her parents, in 2019 they allowed her to set up a demonstration farm (Newa Api Green Farm) on family land, where she trains young girls and pregnant teenage school dropouts in artisan skills such as, making paper bags, weaving baskets and making beehives from locally available materials.

Traditional beehives are made from tree trunks, clay pots, and woven baskets smeared with cow dung that are hung in the trees. To collect the honey, farmers climb the trees and destroy the colonies. From one of the videos made in Kenya, the members of the association learned how to smoke out the bees, and not destroy them.

From another video made in Nepal, Making a Modern Beehive, the women learned to make improved beehives in wooden boxes, which they construct for farmers upon order. From the video, they realised that the currently used bee boxes were too large. “Because small colonies are unable to generate the right temperature within the large hives, we only had a success rate of 50%. Now we make our hives smaller, and 8 out 10 hives are colonised successfully,” says Rebecca.

Young women often have no land of their own, so members who want to can place their beehives on the demo farm. “We also have a honey press. All members used to bring their honey to our farm. But from the video Turning Honey into Money, we learned that we can easily sieve the honey through a clean cloth after we have put the honey in the sun. So now, women can process the honey directly at their homes.”

The bee business has become a symbol of healing. Farmers understand that their crops benefit from bees, so the young women beekeepers are appreciated for their service to the farming community. But also, parents who had expelled their pregnant daughter, embarrassed by societal judgement, begin to accept their entrepreneurial daughter again as she sends cash and food to her parents.

“We even trained young women to harvest honey, which traditionally only men do. When people in a village see our young girls wearing a beekeeper’s outfit and climbing trees, they are amazed. It sends out a powerful message to young girls that, even if you become a victim of early motherhood, there is always hope. Your life does not end,” concludes Rebecca.

 

Kindermoeders weer hoop geven

Tienermeisjes zijn kwetsbaar en als ze zwanger worden gaan maatschappijen vaak op verschillende manieren met hen om. In Oeganda worden ze allerlei namen gegeven, zoals een slecht persoon, een schande voor de ouders en zelfs een prostituee. Niemand wil dat hun kinderen met hen omgaan omdat ze als een slechte invloed worden beschouwd. Ouders verstoten hun dochters vaak uit de familie en vertellen hen dat hun leven voorbij is. Dit is wat Rebecca Akullu meemaakte op 17-jarige leeftijd. Maar Rebecca is niet zoals ieder ander meisje.

Na de geboorte van haar baby spaarde ze geld om naar de universiteit te gaan en haalde in 2018 een diploma in bedrijfswetenschappen. Rebecca kreeg al snel een baan als boekhouder bij de Aryodi Bee Farm in Lira, in het noorden van Oeganda, een regio met een hoge jeugdwerkloosheid die nog herstellende is van de opstand van Lord’s Resistance Army, een gewelddadige rebellengroepering. De directeur waardeerde haar werk zo erg dat hij haar in dienst nam.

“In de loop der jaren ontwikkelde ik een echte passie voor bijen,” vertelt Rebecca, “en door praktische training werd ik zelf een expert in het houden van bijen. Telkens als ik de kans kreeg om boeren te bezoeken, was ik geschokt om te zien hoe ze het milieu vernietigden en vervuilden met landbouwchemicaliën, dus ik raakte diep overtuigd van de noodzaak om voor ons milieu te zorgen.”

Dus toen Access Agriculture een oproep deed voor jonge ondernemers om landbouwadviseurs te worden met een projector op zonne-energie om trainingsvideo’s voor boeren te vertonen, schreef Rebecca zich in. Nadat ze was geselecteerd als Entrepreneur for Rural Access (ERA), ontving ze de apparatuur en de training in 2021. Aanvankelijk bleef ze part-time werken, doch tegen het einde van het jaar nam ze ontslag om volledig op eigen benen te staan. Om haar nieuwe bedrijfsdienst te promoten was moed nodig. Gevraagd naar haar eerste marketingpoging, zei Rebecca dat ze haar gemeenschap in de kerk informeerde, aan het einde van de zondagsdienst.

“De eerste keer dat ik video’s moest vertonen aan een groep van 30 boeren, was ik echt bang. Ik vroeg me af of de apparatuur zou werken, naar welke video’s de boeren zouden vragen en of ik hun vragen na afloop zou kunnen beantwoorden,” herinnert Rebecca zich. Haar bezorgdheid verdween al snel. Boeren wilden weten welke video’s ze had over maïs, dus liet ze er verschillende zien, waaronder die over de fall armyworm, een ernstige plaag die hele gewassen vernietigt. Boeren leerden hoe ze hun velden in de gaten konden houden om de plaag vroegtijdig te ontdekken en ze begonnen houtas te gebruiken in plaats van giftige pesticiden om de plaag te bestrijden.

Rebecca werd gevraagd om gedurende een aantal maanden tweewekelijkse shows te organiseren en doet dit nog steeds wanneer haar dat wordt gevraagd. Na onderhandeling met de leider van de lokale boerenorganisatie betaalt elke boer 1.000 Oegandese Shilling (0,25 euro) per show, waarbij ze drie tot vijf video’s in de lokale Luo-taal bekijken en bespreken. Sommige video’s zijn alleen in het Engels beschikbaar, dus vertaalt Rebecca ze voor de boeren. “Maar het is niet gemakkelijk om geld in te zamelen van individuele boeren en hen te mobiliseren voor elke show,” zegt ze.

De video’s maakten indruk op de boeren en de bal ging aan het rollen. Juliette Atoo, lid van een van de boerengroepen en lerares op een basisschool in het dorp Akecoyere, overtuigde haar collega’s van de kracht van deze video’s en zo werd de Barapwo basisschool Rebecca’s tweede klant, wat haar weer een unieke ervaring opleverde.

“De kinderen waren zo geïnteresseerd om te leren en toen ik een maand later terugging, was ik echt verbaasd om te zien hoe ze zoveel dingen hadden toegepast in hun schooltuin: de afstand tussen groenten, het gebruik van as om hun groentegewassen te beschermen, compost maken, enzovoort. De school was blij omdat ze geen geld meer hoefden uit te geven aan landbouwchemicaliën en ze de kinderen een gezonde, biologische lunch konden aanbieden,” herinnert Rebecca zich.

Naarmate ze meer vertrouwen kreeg, volgden al snel nieuwe contracten met andere scholen. Voor elke klant onderhandelt Rebecca over de prijs, afhankelijk van de afstand die moet worden afgelegd, de accommodatie en het aantal kinderen dat de video’s bekijkt. Vaak worden er vijf video’s per dag vertoond gedurende twee opeenvolgende dagen, waarmee ze tussen de 120.000 en 200.000 Oegandese Shillings (30 tot 50 euro) verdient. Scholen blijven belangrijke klanten, omdat de Oegandese overheid vaardigheidstraining verplicht heeft gesteld. Naast huishoudkunde en computervaardigheden kunnen leerlingen ook kiezen voor landbouw, dus alle scholen hebben een praktische schoolboerderij en zijn potentiële klanten.

Hoewel ze contact blijft houden met scholen, heeft Rebecca in de loop der tijd haar strategie deels gewijzigd. Ze benadert nu niet langer actief boerengroepen, maar onderzoekt welke NGO’s met boeren in de regio werken en welke projecten ze hebben of op het punt staan te starten. Nadat ze op internet heeft gezocht en achtergrondonderzoek heeft gedaan, is het gemakkelijker om projectmedewerkers te overtuigen van de waarde van de op video gebaseerde voorlichtingsdienst.

Omdat Rebecca, inmiddels moeder van vier kinderen, de kans niet wil missen om in te gaan op het toenemende aantal aanvragen voor haar video-adviesdienst, leidt ze momenteel een jonge man en jonge vrouw van begin twintig op om haar team te versterken.

Rebecca is haar eigen lijden als jonge moeder nooit vergeten en heeft de mogelijkheden ervaren die de video’s van Access Agriculture bieden. Daarom heeft ze ook besloten om haar eigen gemeenschapsorganisatie op te richten: het Netwerk voor Vrouwen in Actie, dat ze als liefdadigheidsinstelling runt. Nadat ze indruk had gemaakt op haar ouders, gaven ze haar in 2019 toestemming om een demonstratieboerderij (Newa Api Green Farm) op te zetten op het land van haar familie. Hier traint ze jonge meisjes en zwangere schoolverlaters in ambachtelijke vaardigheden, zoals het maken van papieren zakken, het weven van manden en het maken van bijenkorven met behulp van lokaal beschikbare materialen.

Traditionele bijenkorven zijn gemaakt van boomstammen, kleipotten en gevlochten manden besmeerd met koeienmest die in de bomen worden gehangen. Om de honing te verzamelen klimmen de boeren in de bomen en vernietigen ze de kolonies. Op een van de video’s die in Kenia werd gemaakt, leerden de leden van de vereniging hoe ze de bijen konden uitroken en niet vernietigen.

Op een andere video, gemaakt in Nepal, leerden de vrouwen houten bijenkasten te maken, die ze op bestelling voor boeren bouwen. Door de video realiseerden ze zich dat de huidige bijenkasten (Top Bar Hive) te groot waren. “Omdat kleine volken niet in staat zijn om de juiste temperatuur in de grote bijenkasten te genereren, hadden we slechts een succespercentage van 50%. Nu maken we onze bijenkasten kleiner en worden 8 op de 10 bijenkasten succesvol gekoloniseerd,” zegt Rebecca.

Jonge vrouwen hebben vaak geen eigen land, dus leden die dat willen kunnen hun bijenkorven op de demoboerderij zetten. “We hebben ook een honingpers. Vroeger brachten alle leden hun honing naar onze boerderij. Maar van de video’s hebben we geleerd dat we de honing gemakkelijk kunnen zeven door een schone doek nadat we de honing in de zon hebben gezet. Dus nu kunnen de vrouwen de honing direct bij hen thuis verwerken.”

De bijenteelt is een symbool van genezing geworden. Boeren begrijpen dat hun gewassen baat hebben bij bijen, dus de jonge imkervrouwen worden gewaardeerd voor hun diensten aan de boerengemeenschap. Maar ook ouders die eerst hun zwangere dochter hadden weggestuurd, beschaamd door het sociale stigma, beginnen hun ondernemende dochter weer te accepteren nu ze geld en voedsel naar haar ouders sturen.

“We hebben zelfs jonge vrouwen opgeleid tot honingoogsters, iets wat traditioneel alleen mannen doen. Als mensen in een dorp onze jonge meisjes in imkeroutfit in bomen zien klimmen, zijn ze verbaasd. Het is een krachtige boodschap voor jonge meisjes dat er altijd hoop is, zelfs als je het slachtoffer wordt van vroeg moederschap. Je leven is niet voorbij,” besluit Rebecca.

The kitchen training centre December 18th, 2022 by

Nederlandse versie hieronder

In an earlier blog, we wrote how indigenous women in Ecuador were trained by a theatre coach to improve their customer relations when marketing their fresh food at an agroecological fair. During our annual Access Agriculture staff meeting, this year in Cairo, Egypt, we learned about other creative ways to build rural women’s skills and confidence.

One afternoon, our local colleague, Laura Tabet who co-founded the NGO Nawaya about a decade ago, invites us all to visit Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre. None of us has a clue as to what to expect. Walking through the gate, we are in for one surprise after the next.

Various trees and shrubs border the green grass on which a very long table is installed. Additional shade is provided by a ramada of woven reeds from nearby wetlands. The table is covered with earthenware pots containing a rich diversity of dishes, all unknown to us. “One of our policies is to avoid plastics as much as possible in whatever we do with food,” explains Laura. But before the feast starts, we are invited to have a look at the kitchen.

Hadeer Ahmed Ali, a warmly smiling staff of Nawaya, guides the 20 visitors from Access Agriculture into the spacious kitchen in the building at the back end of the garden. Several rural women are frantically putting small earthen pots in and out of the oven, while others add the last touches to some fresh salads with cucumber and parsley. The kitchen with its stainless steel and tiled working space is immaculate and the dozen women all wear the same, yellow apron. Their group spirit is clear to see.

We are all separated from the cooking area by a long counter. When Hadeer translates our questions into Arabic, the rural women respond with great enthusiasm. One is holding a camera and takes photos of us while we interact with her colleagues. It is hard to imagine that some of these women had never left their village until a year and a half ago, when Nawaya started its Kitchen Training Centre.

Later on, Laura tells me that each woman is from a different village and is specialised in a specific dish: “We want each of them to develop their own product line, without having to deal with competition from within their own village. While the basis are traditional recipes, we also innovate by experimenting with new ingredients and flavours to appeal to urban consumers.”

The women source from local farmers who grow organic food, and cater for various events and groups. In the near future, they also want to grow some of their own vegetables and sell their own branded products to local shops, restaurants and even deliver to Cairo.

The women have sharpened their communication skills by regularly interacting with groups of school children from Cairo. But becoming confident to interact with foreigners and tourists from all over the world is a different thing. Hence Nawaya engaged Rasha Fam, who studied tourism and runs her own business. She taught the women how to interact with tourists. Unfortunately, it is against Egyptian law to bring foreign tourists to places like this, because tour operators can only take tourists to places that are on the official list of tourist destinations. The tourism industry in Egypt is a strictly regulated business.

Rasha also confirms what we had seen: these rural women are genuine and when given the opportunity it brings out the best of them. The training program helped women calculate costs, standardise recipes, host guests and deliver hands on activities in the farm and the kitchen.

When we walk out of the Kitchen Training Centre, a few women are baking fresh baladi bread (traditional Egyptian flatbread) in a large gas oven set up in the garden. Large wooden trays display the dough balls on a thin layer of flour. One of the ladies skilfully inserts her fingers under a ball to transfer it to a slated paddle-shaped tool made from palm fronds  (locally called mathraha). When she slightly throws the flat balls up, she gives the mathraha a small turn to the left. With each movement the ball becomes flatter and flatter until the right size is obtained. With a decisive movement she then transfers the flatbreads into the oven.

Nandini, our youngest colleague from India is excited to give it a try. Soon also Vinjeru from Malawi and Salahuddin from Bangladesh line up to get this experience. We all have a good laugh when we see how our colleagues struggle to do what they just observed. It is a good reminder that something that may look easy can in fact be rather difficult when doing it the first time, and that perfection comes with practice.

Our appetite raised, we all take place around the table, vegetarians on one side. The dishes reveal such a great diversity of food. It is not every day that one has a chance to eat buffalo and camel meat, so tender that they surprise many of us. The vegetarians are delighted with green wheat and fresh pea stews.

Promoting traditional food cultures can be done in many different ways. What we learned from Nawaya is that when done in an interactive way it helps to build bridges between generations and cultures. People are unique among vertebrates in that we share food. Eating and cooking together can be a fun, cross-cultural experience.

Whether people come from the capital in their own country, or from places across the world, they love to interact with rural women to experience what it takes to prepare real food. Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre has clearly found the right ingredients to boost people’s awareness about healthy local food cultures.

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Het keukenopleidingscentrum

In een eerdere blog schreven we hoe inheemse vrouwen in Ecuador door een theatercoach werden getraind om hun klantrelaties te verbeteren bij het vermarkten van hun verse voedsel op een agro-ecologische markt. Tijdens onze jaarlijkse Access Agriculture stafvergadering, dit jaar in Caïro, Egypte, leerden we over andere creatieve manieren om vaardigheden en vertrouwen van plattelandsvrouwen op te bouwen.

Op een middag nodigt onze lokale collega, Laura Tabet, die ongeveer tien jaar geleden de NGO Nawaya mede oprichtte, ons allemaal uit voor een bezoek aan Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre. Niemand van ons weet wat hij kan verwachten. Als we door de poort lopen, wacht ons de ene verrassing na de andere.

Verschillende bomen en struiken omzomen het groene gras waarop een zeer lange tafel staat. Een pergola van riet uit de nabijgelegen wetlands zorgt voor extra schaduw. De tafel is gedekt met aardewerken potten die een rijke verscheidenheid aan gerechten bevatten, allemaal onbekend voor ons. “Een van onze beleidslijnen is om zoveel mogelijk plastic te vermijden bij alles wat we met voedsel doen,” legt Laura uit. Maar voordat het feest begint, worden we uitgenodigd om een kijkje te nemen in de keuken.

Hadeer Ahmed Ali, een hartelijk lachende medewerkster van Nawaya, leidt de 20 bezoekers van Access Agriculture binnen in de ruime keuken in het gebouw achterin de tuin. Verschillende plattelandsvrouwen zijn verwoed bezig kleine aarden potjes in en uit de oven te halen, terwijl anderen de laatste hand leggen aan enkele verse salades met komkommer en peterselie. De keuken met zijn roestvrijstalen en betegelde werkruimte is onberispelijk en de twaalf vrouwen dragen allemaal hetzelfde gele schort. Hun groepsgeest is duidelijk te zien.

We zijn allemaal gescheiden van het kookgedeelte door een lange toonbank. Als Hadeer onze vragen in het Arabisch vertaalt, reageren de plattelandsvrouwen met groot enthousiasme. Eén houdt een camera vast en neemt foto’s van ons terwijl wij met haar collega’s omgaan. Het is moeilijk voor te stellen dat sommige van deze vrouwen nooit hun dorp hadden verlaten tot anderhalf jaar geleden, toen Nawaya zijn Kitchen Training Centre begon.

Later vertelt Laura me dat elke vrouw uit een ander dorp komt en gespecialiseerd is in een specifiek gerecht: “We willen dat ieder van hen zijn eigen productlijn ontwikkelt, zonder dat ze te maken krijgen met concurrentie uit hun eigen dorp. Hoewel de basis traditionele recepten zijn, innoveren we ook door te experimenteren met nieuwe ingrediënten en smaken om stedelijke consumenten aan te spreken.”

De vrouwen kopen in bij lokale boeren die biologisch voedsel verbouwen, en verzorgen de catering voor verschillende evenementen en groepen. In de nabije toekomst willen ze ook enkele van hun eigen groenten kweken en hun eigen merkproducten verkopen aan lokale winkels, restaurants en zelfs leveren aan Caïro.

De vrouwen hebben hun communicatievaardigheden aangescherpt door regelmatige interactie met groepen schoolkinderen uit Caïro. Maar vertrouwen krijgen in de omgang met buitenlanders en toeristen uit de hele wereld is iets anders. Daarom heeft Nawaya Rasha Fam aangetrokken, die toerisme heeft gestudeerd en een eigen bedrijf leidt. Zij heeft de vrouwen geleerd hoe ze met toeristen moeten omgaan. Helaas is het tegen de Egyptische wet om buitenlandse toeristen naar dit soort plaatsen te brengen, omdat touroperators toeristen alleen naar plaatsen mogen brengen die op de officiële lijst van toeristische bestemmingen staan. De toeristische industrie in Egypte is een streng gereguleerde business.

Rasha bevestigt ook wat we hadden gezien: deze plattelandsvrouwen zijn oprecht en wanneer ze de kans krijgen, komt het beste in hen naar boven. Het trainingsprogramma hielp de vrouwen bij het berekenen van kosten, het standaardiseren van recepten, het ontvangen van gasten en het uitvoeren van praktische activiteiten op de boerderij en in de keuken.

Als we het Kitchen Training Centre uitlopen, bakken enkele vrouwen vers baladi-brood (een traditioneel Egyptisch plat brood) in een grote gasoven die in de tuin staat opgesteld. Op grote houten schalen liggen de deegballen op een dun laagje bloem. Een van de dames steekt behendig haar vingers onder een bal om deze over te brengen op een schoepvormig werktuig van palmbladeren (plaatselijk mathraha genoemd). Wanneer ze de platte ballen lichtjes omhoog gooit, geeft ze de mathraha een kleine draai naar links. Met elke beweging wordt de bal platter en platter tot de juiste maat is bereikt. Met een kordate beweging schuift ze dan de platte broden in de oven.

Nandini, onze jongste collega uit India, is enthousiast om het te proberen. Al snel staan ook Vinjeru uit Malawi en Salahuddin uit Bangladesh in de rij om deze ervaring op te doen. We moeten allemaal lachen als we zien hoe onze collega’s worstelen om te doen wat ze net hebben gezien. Het is een goede herinnering aan het feit dat iets dat er gemakkelijk uitziet in feite nogal moeilijk kan zijn als je het de eerste keer doet, en dat perfectie komt met oefening.

Onze eetlust is opgewekt, we nemen allemaal plaats rond de tafel, vegetariërs aan de ene kant. De gerechten tonen een grote verscheidenheid aan voedsel. Men krijgt niet elke dag de kans om buffel- en kamelenvlees te eten, dat zo mals is dat het velen van ons verrast. De vegetariërs zijn blij met groene tarwe en verse erwtenstoofpotten.

Het bevorderen van traditionele eetculturen kan op verschillende manieren gebeuren. Wat we van Nawaya hebben geleerd is dat wanneer het op een interactieve manier gebeurt, het helpt om bruggen te slaan tussen generaties en culturen. Mensen zijn uniek onder de gewervelde dieren omdat we voedsel delen. Samen eten en koken kan een leuke, interculturele ervaring zijn.

Of mensen nu uit de hoofdstad van hun eigen land komen, of van plaatsen over de hele wereld, ze houden van interactie met plattelandsvrouwen om te ervaren wat er nodig is om echt voedsel te bereiden. Nawaya’s Kitchen Training Centre heeft duidelijk de juiste ingrediënten gevonden om mensen bewust te maken van gezonde lokale voedselculturen.

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Innovating with roots, tubers and bananas January 16th, 2022 by

A new book edited by Graham Thiele and colleagues of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) highlights research over the past decade on a remarkable group of crops that are grown from vegetative seed (such as cuttings and roots). Crops include potato, sweetpotato, cassava, yam and bananas, all of which were domesticated in the tropics and are a big part of the daily diet in many developing countries. Continued research on these crops is important to keep family farmers competitive, and to keep producing food locally in tropical countries.

One chapter of the book describes how cassava is becoming an ever more important crop in West Africa, both for food and for manufacturing (flour, starch and alcohol), yet this has led to a new problem. Cottage processors and food manufacturers are creating mounds of peels, rotting in the open air. Nigerian researcher Iheanacho Okike and colleagues describe their innovation to turn garbage to gold by converting peels into livestock feed. Various feed makers are now making cassava peels into meal, as a substitute for imported maize.

The potato currently enjoys high demand across Africa, where it can be grown at higher altitudes. But a bottleneck has been getting access to disease-free seed, especially of new varieties that farmers want. A chapter by Elmar Schulte-Geldermann and colleagues discuss techniques that can be used by national agricultural programs or local companies to produce lots of seed quickly, using aeroponics and rooted apical cuttings (two methods for growing potato plants from cuttings in nurseries). This seed is distributed to seed producers, who rear and sell seed for farmers.

Margaret McEwan and colleagues describe Triple S (storage in sand and sprouting), a way for smallholders to conserve sweetpotato seed roots during the dry season in nothing more complicated than sand pits lined with mud bricks.

Agricultural researchers have been urged for years to work more closely with farmers, but often with limited guidance about how to do so. This book fills some of that gap. Vivian Polar and other gender experts have a chapter on methods that plant breeders can use to ensure that new crop varieties meet the needs of women and men.

Jorge Andrade-Piedra and colleagues discuss methods for studying seed systems, usually managed entirely by farmers, with little outside influence. These practical study methods would be beneficial to any development organization or project interested in understanding local seed systems before engaging with them.

These and other chapters feature the agronomy and social innovations of yams, sweetpotatoes, cassava, potatoes and bananas. Few books compile the results of agricultural research over ten years, by such a large group of scientists. The results show the value of publicly-funded research to benefit smallholder farmers in the tropics.

Further reading  

Thiele, Graham, Michael Friedmann, Hugo Campos, Vivian Polar and Jeffery W Bentley (Eds.) 2022. Root, Tuber and Banana Food System Innovations Root, Tuber and Banana Food System Innovations: Value Creation for Inclusive Outcomes. Springer, Cham.

The book will be out soon, and can be pre-ordered online from various book-dealers.

Youth don’t hate agriculture June 20th, 2021 by

Rural youth are moving to the cities by the busload. Yet counter to the prevailing stereotype, many young people like village life and would be happy to go into farming, if it paid. This is one of the insights from a study of youth aspirations in East Africa that unfolds in three excellent country studies written by teams of social scientists, each working in their own country. Each study followed a parallel method, with dozens of interviews with individuals and groups in the local languages, making findings easy to compare across borders.

In Ethiopia many young people grow small plots of vegetables for sale, and would be glad to produce grains, legumes, eggs or dairy. Youth are often attracted to enterprises based on high-value produce that can be grown on the small plots of land that young people have.

Young people are also eager to get into post-harvest processing, transportation and marketing of farm produce, but they lack the contacts or the knowhow to get started. Ethiopian youth have little money to invest in farm businesses, so they often migrate to Saudi Arabia where well-paid manual work is available (or at least it was, before the pandemic).

In northern Uganda, researchers found that many youths wanted to get an education and a good job, but unwanted pregnancies and early marriage forced many to drop out of secondary school. If dreams of moving to the city and becoming a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher don’t work out, then agriculture is the fallback option for many young people. But, as in Ethiopia, young Ugandan farmers would like their work to pay more.

In Tanzania, many youths have been able to finish secondary school and some attend university. Even there, young people go to the city to escape poverty, not to get away from the village. Many youths are even returning, like one young man who quit his job as a shop assistant in town to go home and buy a plot of land to grow vegetables. Using the business skills he learned in town, he was also able to sell fish, and eventually invested in a successful, five acre (two hectare) cashew farm.

These three insightful studies from East Africa lament that extension services often ignore youth. But the studies also suggest to me that some of the brightest youth will still manage to find their way into agriculture. Every urban migrant becomes a new consumer, who has to buy food. As tropical cities mushroom, demand will grow for farm produce.

If youth want to stay in farming, they should be able to do so, but they will need investment capital, and training in topics like pest management and ways to make their produce more appealing for urban consumers. Improved infrastructure will not only make country life more attractive, but more productive. Better mobile phone connectivity will link smallholders with buyers and suppliers. Roads will help bring food to the cities. A constant electric supply will allow food to be processed, labeled and packaged in the countryside. New information services, including online videos, can also help give information that young farmers need to produce high-value produce.

Further reading

These three studies were all sponsored by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). You can find them here.

Boonabaana, Brenda, Peace Musiimenta, Margaret Najjingo Mangheni, and Jasper Bakeiha Ankunda 2020. Youth Realities, Aspirations, Transitions to Adulthood and Opportunity Structures in Uganda’s Dryland Areas. Report submitted to ICRISAT.

Endris, Getachew Shambel, and Jemal Yousuf Hassan 2020. Youth realities, aspirations, transitions to adulthood and opportunity structures in the drylands of Ethiopia. Report submitted to ICRISAT.

Mwaseba, Dismas L., Athman K. Ahmad and Kenneth M. Mapund 2020. Youth Realities, Aspirations and Transitions to Adulthood in Dryland Agriculture in Tanzania. Report submitted to ICRISAT.

Related Agro-Insight blog stories

Teaching the farmers of tomorrow with videos  

Videos to teach kids good attitudes

The next generation of farmers

Some videos of interest

Access Agriculture hosts videos to share information about profitable, ecologically-sound agriculture. Farmers of all ages can download videos on their smartphones in English and many other languages, for example:

For Ethiopia, check out these videos in Amharic, Oromo, Afar, and Arabic, Oromo,

For Tanzania, 122 videos in Swahili (Kiswahili), and others in Dholuo, and Tumbuka

For Uganda, Ateso, Kalenjin, Kiswahili, Luganda, Lugbara, Luo (Uganda), Runyakitara

To find videos in a language of your country, click here.

A Greener Revolution in Africa May 2nd, 2021 by

After settling in the USA in the 1990s, Isaac Zama would visit his native Cameroon almost every year, until war broke out in late 2016, and it became too dangerous to go home. About that same time a new satellite TV company, the Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation (SCBC), was formed to broadcast news and information in English. (Cameroon was formed from a French colony and part of a British one in 1961).

In 2018, Isaac approached SCBC to start a TV program on agriculture to help Southern Cameroonians who could no longer work as a result of the war, and the thousands of refugees who sought refuge in Nigeria. The broadcasters readily agreed. With his PhD in agriculture and rural development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his roots in a Cameroonian village, Isaac was well placed to find content that farmers back home would appreciate. “I did some research on the Internet, and I found Access Agriculture,” said Isaac. “I liked it so much that I watched every single video.”

Isaac soon started a TV program, Amba Farmers’ Voice, which began to air every Sunday at 4 PM, Cameroon time. It is rebroadcast several times a week to give more people a chance to watch the program. With frequent power cuts many are not able to tune in on Sundays.

The program is broadcast live from Isaac’s studio in Virginia. He starts with a basic introduction in West African Pidgin. “If I’m going to show a video on rabbits, I start by explaining what a is rabbit,” Isaac explains. “And that we can learn from farmers in Kenya how to build a rabbit house, and to care for these animals.” After playing an Access Agriculture video on the topic (in English), Isaac comments on it in Pidgin, for the older, rural viewers who may not speak English. His remarks are carefully scripted, and based on background reading and research.

The show lasts an hour or more and allows Isaac to play several videos. Amba Farmers’ Voice has its own Facebook and YouTube pages. While his program is on the air, Isaac checks out the Facebook page to get an idea of how many people are watching. A popular topic like caring for rabbits may have 1,000 viewers just on Facebook. But most people watch the satellite broadcast. SCBC estimates that two to three million people watch Amba Farmers’ Voice in Cameroon, but many others also watch it in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and even in some Francophone countries, like Benin and Gabon.

Some farmers reciprocate, sending Isaac pictures and videos that they have shot themselves, showing off their own experiments, adapting the ideas from the videos to conditions in Cameroon. Isaac heard from one group of “mothers in the village” who showed how they were using urine to fertilize their corn, after watching an Access Agriculture video from Uganda.

People in refugee camps watched the video on sack mounds, showing how to grow vegetables in a large, soil-filled bag. But gunny sacks were scarce in the refugee camp, so people improvised, filling plastic bags with earth and growing tomatoes in them, so they could grow some food within the confines of the camp.

Isaac mentioned that people were installing drip irrigation after seeing the video from Benin about it.

“That can be expensive,” I said. “People have to buy materials.”

“Not really,” Isaac answered. Gardeners take used drink bottles from garbage dumps, fill them with water, poke holes in the cap, and leave them to drip slowly on their plants.

After seeing the video from Benin on feeding giant African snails (for high-quality meat), one young man in the Southern Cameroons got used tires and stacked one on top of the other to make the snail pen. It’s an innovation he came up with after watching the Access Agriculture video. He puts two tires in a stack, puts the snails in the bottom, and feeds them banana peels and other fruit and vegetable waste. Isaac tells his audience “We don’t need to buy anything. Just open your eyes and adapt. See what you can find to use.”

Solar dryers were another topic that people adapted from the videos. To save money, they made the dryers from bamboo, instead of wood, and shared one between several families. As a further adaptation, people are drying grass in the solar dryer. Access Agriculture has four videos on using solar dryers to preserve high value produce like pineapples, mangoes and chillies, but none show grass drying. Isaac explains that you sprinkle a little salt on the grass as you dry it. Then, in the dry season you put the grass in water and it turns fresh again. Now he is encouraging youth to form groups so they can dry grass to store, to sell to farmers when forage is scarce.

I was delighted to see so many local experiments, just from people who watch videos on television, with no extension support.

All of this interaction, between Isaac Zama and his compatriots, the teaching, feedback and organisation, is all happening on TV and online. He hasn’t been to Cameroon since he started his program.  Isaac’s interaction with his audience amazes me. It’s a testimony to his talent, but also to the improved connectivity in rural Africa.

“People think that Africans don’t have cell phones,” Isaac says, “but 30% of the older farmers in villages have android phones. Their adult children, living in cities or abroad, buy phones for their parents so they can stay in touch and so they can see each other on WhatsApp.” Isaac adds that what farmers need now is an app so they can watch agricultural videos cheaper.

Dr. Isaac Zama wants to encourage other stations to broadcast farmer learning videos: “Those videos from Access Agriculture will revolutionize agriculture in Africa in two or three years, if our national leaders would just broadcast them on TV. The farmers would do it themselves, just from the information they can see on the videos.” Isaac is willing to collaborate with other TV stations across the world, to share his experience or to broadcast Amba Farmers Voice, but particularly with broadcasters in Africa who are interested in agricultural development

Related Agro-Insight blogs

To drip or not to drip

Drip irrigation saves water in South Sudan

Cell phones for smallholders

A connecting business

Staying grounded while on the air in Ghana

Watch the Access Agriculture videos mentioned in this story

How to build a rabbit house

Human urine as fertilizer

Using sack mounds to grow vegetables

Drip irrigation for tomato

Feeding snails

Solar drying pineapples, Making mango crisps, Solar drying of kale leaves and Solar drying of chillies

 

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