Students become the teachers: How learning new ways of farming from the youth in his community doubled the rice production of a 63-year old farmer


“I’ve been a farmer all my life. I had not received any training in agriculture and only used my local knowledge,” says Yohana Zablon (63), a smallholder farmer from Njage Village in Morogoro, Tanzania.

“A few months ago, I was approached by some members of Tupendane Youth Group in our village, who had just come back from a training programme in rice farming. They went around the village inviting people to go and learn from their demonstration plots. At first I was not interested, but with their insistence, I decided to pay a visit to the demo plots,” Zablon recalls.

The Tupendane Youth Group had been introduced to the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) and received special training in System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a farming methodology that aims to increase yield while using less water, smaller farming areas and reduced seed inputs. The training, conducted by FAO in collaboration with Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture, equipped the young farmers with skills and knowledge, which they disseminated to the rest of their community through SRI demonstration plots.

Zablon was eventually convinced of this new way of farming by the youth and the level of competence they demonstrated. He enrolled in a training on SRI methods provided by the student farmers.

“The young people taught me how to select the best seeds, how to establish a good nursery and about the best time for sowing. They also taught me how to space the seedlings for good results,” Zablon discloses, adding: “This is all new to me! You know, such young minds are still active and productive. So I listen to them.”

With the new knowledge of SRI, Zablon has increased his production from about 15 to nearly 40 bags per acre. On average, a bag of paddy weighs about 120 kilograms. “From what I’ve seen, I’m confident that the results of my farming will always be very good,” he concludes.

Tupendane Youth Group’s Secretary, Samuel Mwangata, praised Zablon and other student farmers, saying that they have demonstrated strong commitment and determination. “Zablon, together with other new farmers we’ve recruited, never miss lessons and are always eager to learn new ways of improving their farming,” states Samuel.

Samuel’s group has 25 active members who now jointly own four acres of demonstration plots. They have also managed to recruit an additional 100 youth farmers and 25 adult farmers from across Njage Village.

“We expect to harvest much more,” Samuel explains. “Previously, we would get less. SRI has enabled us to double our production.”

Morogoro Regional Agricultural Officer, Dr. Rozalia Rwegasira, commended the project financed through South-South Cooperation by the Government of Venezuela, saying that the project has supported efforts by the Government of Tanzania to create employment, especially in agriculture, for rural youth.

“Many young people are now interested in farming because they’ve seen the positive results. Many more will be employed in value addition development industries,” she pointed out.

The project trained a total of 150 youths from Kilombero, Kilosa and Mvomero Districts, 30 of whom came from Njage Village’s Tupendane Youth Group.

Each of the trained group members was required to recruit four new student farmers. This made a total of 750 young farmers with SRI knowledge who could use their training to establish demonstration plots and pass on their techniques to other farmers like Zablon.

The SRI project has increased the sustainable production and productivity of rice through promoting the adoption of best practices, developing agro-business models along the rice value chain and reducing post-harvest losses. These are vital strategies in meeting Sustainable Development Goals of #ZeroHunger and ensuring decent work opportunities for all.

On-farm testing of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in lowlands ecology in Niger



An article by Haougui Adamou et al in the Journal of Research Biology presents results of on-farm testing of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in lowlands ecology in Niger. The research aimed at evaluating practices of SRI in the lowland agroforestry ecologies with irrigated rice. On-farm testing was conducted in three regions – Tahoua, Zinder and Dosso. SRI practices in these regions were compared to conventional rice production system by forty-five producers. Variables compared included tillers production and paddy yield. Results showed clearly that relative to conventional practice, SRI methods increases tiller production by 45% and paddy yield by 58.2%. Furthermore, results showed that 55.5% of producers implemented thoroughly SRI methods, and 11% of producers applied them moderately. Despite their moderate usage of SRI methods, the latter group of producers also got promising gain on their investment. The authors suggest that scaling-up SRI practices in lowlands ecologies of Niger has a high potential of increasing returns to rice growers.

Bomi, Cape Mount Farmers Adopt SRI


Several farmers in five communities in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties have adopted the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) practice to improve their yields.

SRI is a methodology aimed at increasing the yield of rice produced in farming. It is a low water, labor-intensive, method that uses younger seedlings, small spaced and typically hand weeded with special tools. This technology is being practiced in 13 countries in the West African sub-region as part of a strategy to increase rice production.

In Liberia, the Community of Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP) is working with smallholder rice farmers in eight of the 15 counties to promote the SRI practice in order to improve the productivity of farmers in rice cultivation.

64 year-old farmer, Madam Bowolo Sumo, informed the Daily Observer on Thursday, August 1, 2019, during a tour of their project in Tubmanburg, that they are impressed about the new method learnt in growing rice.

She said in the past, they used the traditional method to grow rice but in the end, they would harvest little quantity.

According to her, they were encouraged to join CHAP to acquire new farming skills to improve their living conditions.

Madam Sumo is the head of the New Road United Women Agriculture Project. She said that her organization was established in 2017 to encourage women to invest in farming to sustain their family. Her organization has accumulated a membership of 24 individuals, majority of them women.

“We have developed 78 plots with rice seedling using little amount of seeds, which was provided by CHAP,” she said.

According to Bowolo, every farm (family) in the group is entitled to a plot that is being developed during the farming season.

However, she said that her organization is faced with numerous challenges, including climate change, pest infestation, and the lack of power tiller to plough their field.

Farmers in Bomi County with Mr. Bimba tour one of the large rice fields.

Willington Yeedoun, leader of the Clay Agriculture Project in Bomi County, boasted of how members of his organization were increasing their productivity.

“We are now in our third year practicing the SRI, and having good yield from rice farming. The knowledge we acquired is being transferred to other farmers in nearby communities. We use little amount of rice to plant, sometimes 10kg bags of seed rice, and harvest 50kg bags,” he said.

Yeedoun said that CHAP gave them a mini-power tiller, which is helping them to expand their farmland.

Moima Kamara in Senii Community, Grand Cape Mount County, said that with support from CHAP, they are encouraged to engage into farming activity in communities around the Sime Darby Plantation.

She told this newspaper that farmers in her community are in need of more support to improve their farming activities.

Robert Bimba, CHAP executive director, said that more than 80,000 farmers in Bong, Nimba, Lofa, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Grand Bassa, Montserrado and Margibi counties are currently practicing the SRI technology. He said that the farmers under the program are being provided with seed rice, tools and mini power tillers to develop their farms.

According to him, his organization is working with the farmers to promote the ‘Love the Liberian Rice’ campaign, which was launched sometime this year.

“We are working with our partners to address some of the challenges facing our farmers in those targeted counties.

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