SWISSAID employees from ten countries came together in Tanzania to share ideas about the use of organic farming methods. During the visit to one of the leading organic farming centres in East Africa, our experts were able to discuss, brainstorm and learn from each other.
It was a successful debut. SWISSAID agricultural officials from Switzerland and nine partner countries convened for their first meeting to discuss the status of agro-ecological farming in these countries, and to consider the challenges and strategies. “We all work with different approaches to various solutions on the same or similar challenges”, says Sarah Mader who was co-organizer of the meeting with SWISSAID’s Fabio Leippert. “The group’s interaction was extremely welcome.”
“Vegetable cultivation in sacks could also prove worthwhile in Colombia”
Astrid Alvarez, the agro-ecological official from Colombia, for example, was impressed by vegetable cultivation in discarded grain sacks (cf. photo spread). “This could also prove vital along the Colombian Pacific coast where fertile soil is in short supply.” By contrast, she has also brought some tips from her homeland. “In Tanzania I have noticed that there is not much species variation, although farmers set great store by diversity and cultivate a high number of different vegetables and fruits together.” In Colombia they would advise cereal farmers to sow five to six varieties. “This not only gives more variety on the plate, but also makes it possible for small farmers to help defend their plants from pests and diseases to vary production cycles and maintain a wider genetic variety of local seed.”
Excellent results are possible in a very short time
The visit to the training centre of the Tanzanian organisation SAT demonstrated to the international group that, given professional supervision and a well thought-through agricultural education and advisory system, it is possible to achieve excellent results in a short time – and even under the most difficult agro-ecological conditions. In real terms, excellent results mean: a bigger harvest and more income for farmers. They also mean enhanced soil fertility, less erosion of slopes and improvements in the community and on an institutional level. Several country representatives reported that many farmers are deliberately in agro-ecological farming to help mitigate climate change – another encouraging sign.
Fast and scientifically documented success is important
In the SAT show garden the clarifications fell on favourable ground. Many well-known technicians could be viewed on site. Sarah Mader is highly satisfied with the meeting. “I found it very enriching to share ‘best practices’ and success stories. We could develop new ideas together to improve our programmes and become even more effective and achieve more rapid success.” Swift success is crucial that farmers toe the line while they convert from traditional or conventional to agro-ecological farming.
And another thing became clear: to continue to disseminate “best practices”, namely the successful recipe from the field, methods must be scientifically checked on a more regular basis. This is the only way for us to succeed in encouraging more attention at a political level.