How new agri-tech improved lives of Iyumbwi students

WHEN I was young, I used to hear my grandmother saying that education is food. I have heard that without
knowing its meaning until when I met ‘Mwalimu’ Charles Oyale. Mwalimu Charles says “I don’t fool anyone, education is food”.

He continued that if a student does not get food, she/ he cannot study well and education progress in the classroom becomes weak.

Even here in my school, the absence of lunch has contributed to bad results for my students which also leads to children falling asleep in class.

Those are some of the explanations given by Iyumbwi Primary school in Nghumbi Ward, Kongwa District in Dodoma, Head Teacher, Charles Oyale. ‘Mwalimu’ Oyale says that when students do not get food, they don’t get the motivation to study hard due to hunger.

Due to that situation, Mwalimu Oyale started looking for a solution to help the Iyumbwi’s students to upgrade the performance of the school. The method used by the Mwalimu to solve the problem is to collaborate with various stakeholders to see how to cultivate and harvest in abundance to help get food for the students.

The stakeholders include LEAD Foundation, the International Crops Research Institute of the Semi- Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) with useful financial support from the Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development of Switzerland and Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI).

The technology used by Iyumbwi is new because it involves rainwater harvesting through the use of tied ridging,
and control of soil erosion using special ‘Fanya Juu, Fanya Chini’ terraces, shelter belts as well as farmers-managed natural regeneration.

“This prevents rainwater from outside the farm to flow into the farm hence preventing soil erosion by protecting the fertile soil in the farm from flowing away. Mr Oyale started by explaining how agro-ecology is going to
change the lives of the students of Iyumbwi School with 698 students.

Agro-ecology has been able to change the landscape of the school by having a green appearance as well as adding value by being able to grow different crops.

He explained that agroecology is a type of farming that does not depend too much on rain, even if it does not rain, farmers are still sure of good harvests if they will follow the instructions of experts from TARI.

“TARI has enabled us to harvest double the crops we used to harvest two or three years ago by using the new technology,” says Mwalimu Oyale adding this technology we have applied in our school and we have got a bumper harvest as we used ‘Fanya juu Fanya chini’ technology.

He says they started to implement the knowledge this year where they have a pilot farm starting with half of an acre for each crop hence they own 12 hectares.

“At the beginning of this year’s season, we started to cultivate sunflowers; corn, peas and millet and saw the difference between modern farming and the old one cultivated by many villagers. For this season, millet is in the field and we have not yet harvested it. The crops that we have already harvested are maize where we have got five sacks, sunflower we have got 15 sacks while we have harvested peas yet we have not yet known how much we got,” says Oyale

proud of the changes he got in this season’s harvest compared to previous seasons. He says for the same area last year they harvested two sacks of corn and eight sacks of sunflowers.

Mr Oyale says that the harvest has motivated him to cultivate a large area, so when the time comes, the school will rent the fields so that they can cultivate productively to feed the students and do business to earn money for
other uses at the school.

He said that since their goal is to find ways for their students to succeed, beginning in September this year they will start putting seventh-grade students in a camp to increase their success and also change their environment and health.

“At the camp, it’s not just a matter of teaching them but being able to change their attitude. If they stay here at school for that time until they finish their exams, they will change even in terms of their health and their thoughts. He says some students say their parents convince them not to follow the lessons and when it comes time for exams they are told not to follow the instructions.

“The goal of parents is to mislead their children to not have the opportunity to continue secondary education so that they can find people to help them with household activities to increase their income. On her part, a student Magret Msanjila says nowadays they are happy since no crop dries up due to lack of water.

When I go to the farm with my mother and father, I teach them how to make waterproofs. On our farm, we have made three ditches for water. However, she says: “My father refused to mix crops as we do here at school”.

The TARI Makutupora Centre Coordinator for Research and Innovation, Mr Elirehema Swai, explained that among the key agro-practices being imparted towards the farmers through the project include intercropping of cereals crops and legume.

He said the farmers including the Iyumbwi Primary School have been well trained on how best to plant sunflower, maize and sorghum with pigeon peas.

“Other technologies are rainwater harvesting through the use of tied ridging, control of soil erosion using special ‘Fanya Juu, Fanya Chini’ terraces, shelter belts as well as Farmers Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR),”
said Mr Swai.

According to him the project also provides the farmers with drought-tolerant varieties, notably, T-105 for maize from the Kibaha centre and Macia for sorghum from Hombolo.

Mr Swai said the project is a continuation of the previous project being implemented by TARI in the Kongwa district funded by feed the future. The coordinator said the project will be sustainable as TARI has empowered farm owners who continue to train their fellow farmers.

“There are not enough agricultural officers to provide education to all districts/villages which is why TARI has come up with a new approach to empowering farmers themselves so that we can find teachers among them who
will be providing agroecological education in the country,” Mr Swai said.

“On this, we are using a lead farmer system that is provided with new technology resources”. Mr Swai said if farmers follow the advice the challenge of firewood and erosion will be over and they will get good and many
harvests.

Mr Swai said there are champion farmers who are now playing a major role in training other farmers. He expressed that they have already trained several farmers in all eight Dodoma districts and the Singida region, especially in Ikungi and Itigi districts.

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