Field Day

On 5 October, the development agency I work with organized a field day at the Macondo demonstration plot for the community’s farmers and those of a neighboring community. In total 71 farmers attended and it was as even a split as possible between men and women. Babies in attendance not counted.

We first gathered in front of our Chief’s house to register everyone present. The project I am working with does not only do demonstration plots but entire value chain development, like training on VSLAs, numeracy literacy and market linking. The way the project is able to access so many farmers (tens of thousands!) is through already established outgrower businesses that provide services to hundreds of farmers. These farmers are broken into FBOs, of which were pre-existing or the project helped organize. The project has made sure to record every single farmer they ‘reach.’ They all even have fancy IDs.

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Lining up to get a final count

I had done what I could to prepare by having a speech prepared in Mampruli. I had a couple friends help with the translation. The farmers were kind and patient with my terrible pronunciation. I even got a round of applause for the use of a local proverb a friend suggested I use.

“Bunsuŋu daare ka maŋŋa”

It essentially translates to ‘a good thing pays for itself.’ I used it in reference to burying fertilizer. This was the one point I emphasized the most. I also covered what I wrote in the last post about the demo plot. As well as, herbicide application prior to planting, not planting seeds too deeply and fertilizer application timing.

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Deceptively pretty Striga. Its roots grow at the base of the maize plant, essentially stealing water and nutrients meant for the corn.

We then went back to sit in the shade of the mango trees and the project field officer took over from there, talking about the importance of the type of fertilizer needed for the type of soil we have, as well as the troubles faced with Striga (Witchweed) and Stem Borer. Particularly how timing of planting can help reduce damage caused by this weed and pest. Both are incredibly devastating to yields and attack other cereal crops.

Next year, my hopes are that the farmers will invest in better seed (whether PAN53 or others) and bury the fertilizer doses. Who knows what kind of rain we will have next year but we should have all maize planted by mid June, two weeks earlier than what we had done this year. Most farmers had already planted by this time so this will not be a problem. The challenges will be getting them to apply fertilizer when they’re supposed to and to bury it. Even if I can get them to do just a few rows in their own fields where they bury fertilizer, I will be happy because there will be a difference. Maybe then, it will convince them it is worth it.
We will be harvesting in the next couple of weeks and the plan is to hold on to the harvest and sell when the price is highest. Profits will be used to buy seed and inputs for fields next year or for plowing services. I had about seven consistent farmers helping, so I want the proceeds to go to them somehow. Fingers crossed we can get a couple bags from the 1/8 acre!

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Comparing ears. On the left, maize from the demo side. On the right, maize from the farmer side. Note the fuller kernels on the left.
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