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.