As Africa confronts water scarcity issues, Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN) and CARE are championing sustainable and water efficient agriculture through the Pathways Program.
The partners are working to enable farmers, particularly women farmers, to be more livelihood- and food-secure through Water Smart Agriculture (WaSA) technologies and practices, providing the tools and knowledge needed to increase food production in the context of climate variability and limited water resources.
“CARE promotes community-based and women-centered approaches across Africa to improve the living conditions of smallholder farmers in rural areas. Increasing yields and water-use efficiency in rain-fed environments, and improving access to water for small-scale irrigation, are fundamental issues to increase the yields and therefore the nutrition and incomes of the communities we work with,” said Juan Echanove, Senior Director of Food and Nutrition Security, CARE USA. “Coca Cola’s generous support to our water smart agriculture program is making a phenomenal difference in the living conditions of these farmers.”
Over the next three years, focused on Ghana, Malawi and Mali, work associated with the Pathways Program goals will be implemented by nonprofit CARE. The program aims to specifically help 32,000 women smallholder farmers increase their production and become more food- and water-secure through the adoption of WaSA technologies and practices. This food and water security is anticipated to extend to an additional 128,000 family members of participating farmers.
“In Mali, farmers face major constraints on production, including soil and water availability. In fact, in the Bandiagara area, only 10 percent of land is cultivable. Most of the lands are unproductive, infertile and vulnerable to drought. Water is also scarce as most of the water points dry up and make vegetable cultivation difficult,” explained Mamadou Fotigui Coulibaly, Program Manager, Pathways Mali.
WaSA training modules will also be introduced to farmer extension systems and community-based trainers across the three countries, scaling up the potential impact to additional farmers through the training of 970 extension workers, community-based trainers, and others playing an extension role. And, an evidence base for WaSA will be developed through rigorous observation of demonstration plots in more than 120 Farmer Field and Business Schools.
In addition, more than 136,000 smallholder farmers will be reached through broadcast and print media, with outputs focusing on WaSA technologies and practices, and emphasizing women smallholder farmers as key voices and a key audience.
The WaSA project, which launched August 2016, has already made significant progress against its goals. In Mali, CARE Mali and two partner NGOs, Ya-G-Tu and AMAPROS, have trained more than 2,200 farmers and 32 community-based trainers in WaSA and dry season vegetable production, and have helped women smallholder farmers reclaim 41 hectares of unproductive land through WaSA techniques. There, CARE and partners have also conducted a series of community-level gender dialogues for men and women.
In Malawi, CARE Malawi, with help from Farmer-to-Farmer Trainers (FFTs) and agricultural extension agents, has established 42 demonstration plots, which have been used to showcase improved water resources and land management techniques. These plots have helped engage more than 3,600 women smallholder farmers, and encouraged replication of agricultural best practices across the region. Also in Malawi, training of FFTs and government extension staff in soil properties and soil sample collection has been conducted.
"Malawi, would be more food secure if all farmer were using Water Smart Agriculture practices because the practices have proven to significantly hold moisture for some time, which is good during drought and extended dry spells for optimal plant growth and household food and nutritional security.” — Margret Chibowa, Producer-group member in Kaomba
“WaSA practices are enhancing natural resources management in Malawi, which will in the medium- and long-term help farmers produce more per unit area and improve household food and nutrition security,” said Charles Mkangara, Agriculture Coordinator, Pathways Malawi.
In Ghana, CARE Ghana has trained more than 2,400 women smallholder farmers in WaSA techniques, including dry season vegetable production. CARE Ghana has also facilitated training for 423 farmers on local, small-scale irrigation technologies and provided links to local credit systems so farmers can purchase water pumps for improving dry season cultivation. In 2016, women who cultivated okra with WaSA techniques increased their annual income by up to $333, which represents a 40-60 percent increase to their annual income.
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