Ukerewe Farmer Field School Project
Ukerewe Island is both the largest island in Lake Victoria and the largest inland island in Africa. Ukerewe is also one of the poorest districts in Tanzania. Subsistence farming is the main economic activity in the region, employing over 90 per cent of the population.
Why this project is important
On Ukerewe Island, many farmers participate in mono-cropping of cassava, potato, maize, fruit or rice for both home consumption and income generation. This means they plant one crop in the same place year after year and are continually depleting the fertility of the soil, leading to reduced yields, limited access to food, and high malnutrition levels, especially among children.
Project strategies and objectives
In early 2012, CPAR introduced Conservation Agriculture, improved agronomic practices and other training using the proven approach of bringing small-scale farmers together to form Farmer Field Schools. Conservation Agriculture introduces new ways of farming as it is based on three principles to improve agricultural production: (1) minimal soil disturbance to prevent removal of the fertile top soil (no tillage or minimum tillage); (2) maintaining soil cover through crop residues left on the field, mulch and special cover crops to protect the soil from winter and water erosion; and (3) intercropping to promote favourable crop associations, minimize the build-up of diseases and provide insurance in the case of the loss of one crop.
CPAR has been working with farmers to improve crop production while emphasizing the importance of improving the nutritional habits of farming households. To support farmers’ efforts to diversify food production, Farmer Field School groups received seeds including maize, beans, cassava and vegetables. By diversifying crop production and applying Conservation Agriculture principles, farmers have started moving away from a monoculture system.