The Operations Centre
The Demonstration Farm
The Tribe Artisans
The Demonstration Farm
Situated 26 ks north east of Gulu, the Tamarind Demonstration Farm aims to reach up to 3000 local subsistence farmers and provide training, enabling them to move from subsistence farming to farming enough to sell produce at a profit, by teaching and demonstrating new farming techniques and providing a community storehouse and mill.
The Current Problem
- Subsistence farmers can only grow crops during the wet season, so for seven months of the year they must rely on the crop yield from the previous season for food. From December to July there are no fresh crops. Even when the wet season begins, it takes three months for the crops to grow and this dependance on one dried grain leads to poor diet and malnutrition. Farmers traditionally grow maize to make posho flour, which is made into a porridge or mashed potato consistency and used as a staple daily food.
- They have no refrigeration, so only grains are grown because they can be dried and stored. They have no storage facility, meaning they can only plant and grow what they can store in their homes, which are traditional mud huts and entire families live in these round homes. Any excess grain is sold during a glut in the market, resulting in low prices for excess grain, or farmers bartering the excess for produce rather than funds.
- They have no nearby mill, meaning they have to travel some distance, then pay to have their own grain ground and milled.
- This dependance upon the seasons, lack of storage and inability to convert yield to cash results in families being stuck in a cycle of poverty and hand-to-mouth subsistence farming. Children are needed in the fields and farmers are unable to pay school fees, making this problem generational.
Tamarind takes small groups of 12 farmers (120 per year) for a fortnight and provides a holistic program delivered in the local Acholi dialect.
Practical Farming Skills
The Tamarind Training Farm is a working farm divided into 1/2 acre sections where different small crops are grown such as millet, beans, sweet potatoes, potatoes, ground nuts (peanuts) and maize. Farmers attend daily and are taught and shown modern methods and better ways to increase the yield of each of the crops, from how to choose better seeds, when and how to spray for pests, to the best fertilisers like chicken manure and irrigation methods. They learn and understand quality control. Working alongside Tamarind staff in the field helps them understand how better farming practices for different types of crop means more yield at harvest time.
Farmers return to their own land and implement this knowledge and skill on a larger scale, and both increase and specialise their yield.
In the past, these same farmers had been mixing crops in their fields which resulted in the plants fighting for nutrients and therefore a low harvest to feed their families. With new knowledge and skills, farmers are able to maximise the yield, moving towards a commercial venture rather than a subsistence one, which will bring long term benefits to their families.
Farmers are assessed and supported by Local Council Leaders who follow up to see the implementation of the practices at home.
Tamarind employs local people to work on the Training Farm, and uses the crops grown to feed the staff and farmers. Workers are paid either a fair local wage or may undertake a seed loan program instead.
Holistic Life Skills - Empower Program
During the fortnight at the Training Farm, the farmers also undertake training on discipleship, financial management, trust, relationship building and forgiveness. This helps group cohesiveness and gives an outlet for those affected by war and trauma to begin to process that. This attention to the whole person is crucial to the success of the program.
The Community Storehouse (due for completion December 2019) is a purpose built facility to help local farmers store their crops at harvest season while they have a surplus and prices are low, so they can sell their grain during the long dry season for a higher price when the crop is in demand. Farmers cannot afford storage facilities and houses are too small for storage. This shared space will not only help individual farmers, but also the entire community, providing income to farmers during lean times, so they may send children to school, and providing jobs during the dry season.
Tamarind hopes to be self funding the storehouse and training farm by taking a small percentage of crop stored for sale and seed. Farmers will be required to state their purpose for wanting crops stored, such as to make money for school fees or medical expenses to ensure the community is benefiting from the storage of those crops.
Tamarind has plans to install a mill so the local community has close access to a mill. This will save people time and money on transport and also open up new local employment opportunities, as well as generate an income to ensure Tamarind is self-funding.
Does it work?
Yes! Robinson is a key employee of the Training Farm who has implemented a lot of the training he received, and is now successfully providing for his family. He has moved from subsistence farming to a more commercial approach and is an enthusiastic teacher of other farmers.
Another farmer successfully cropped high yield cabbages and sold them in South Sudan. With the funds raised from his cabbages, he has begun raising pigs in a new commercial venture.
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