During June 2020, the farmers harvested their no-till farming trials and, in July Frank prepared the analysis of the trials. The analysis showed the no-till farming method had a higher yield than the tilling method (~ 8%). The no-till required much lower labor and much less time for plot preparation than the tilling. Additionally, no-till farming is better overall for soil condition.
Frank has been introducing the Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) approach. PICSA evaluates historical climate information and uses hands-on tools to develop and choose crop, livestock, and livelihood options best suited to individual farmers’ circumstances. (see http://www.walker.ac.uk/research/projects/participatory-integrated-climate-services-for-agriculture-picsa/)
During July, the farmers began preparations for the next growing season.
So far for repayment of their motorbike loan, every two weeks they deposit 42,000 Rwanda Francs (~$43.85), making the total of 341,000 RWF (~$356.00). For their goats, they will repay the loan after one year.
The Twisungane farmers are grateful. They showed this by inviting Frank to share food and drink with them. They told Frank to thank Tools for Hope (TFH) for what you have been doing to help them especially during the lockdown when TFH supplied food. Some of them they still eating some of those supplies even now.
Our No-Till Experiment Results
The picture below shows an example of the placement of the treatments and plots.
We had two methods (No-till and tilling methods, which have been replicated three times as shown in the table below. All methods received the same Inputs (seed variety and fertilizers). No-till performed better than tilling. Our experiment was for only one season and Frank could not determine the best method in a scientific way but, all in all this season shows that the no-till method has a slightly higher yield than the tilling method. And in terms of labor, the no-till has lower labor requirements for preparation than the tilling method which needs more labor and many days of preparation.
|Treatment ID||Method||Yields in kilograms for plot size 10 m X 10 m||Yields in pounds for plot size 32’ 9.7’’ x 32’ 9.7”|
|T-1||No-till||25 kg||55 lb., 1.8 oz|
|T-2||Till||22.5 kg||49 lb., 9.7 oz|
|T-3||No-till||23.7 kg||52 lb., 4 oz|
|T-4||Till||21.2 kg||46 lb., 11.8 oz|
|T-5||No-till||22.7 kg||50 lb., 0.7 oz|
|T-6||Till||22.3 kg||49 lb., 2.6 oz|
Totals: No-till farming = 157 lb., 6.5 oz.; till farming = 145 lb., 8.1 oz.
As the data Table above shows, no-till plots had better results than the tilling method. The highest yield was seen in T-1 (no-till plot) while the lowest was seen in T-4 (tilling).
These results have shown that, no-till is a good method for this area. Minimum tillage helps maintain soil fertility without weakening its original structure or the beneficial microorganisms which contributed to the crop growth and yield.
Benefits of No-Till Farming
- Prevention of soil erosion
- Prevention of soil compaction
- Preservation of soil structure, soil aggregates and macro-pores
- Improvement of soil moisture and water use efficiency through mulching
- Promotion of beneficial organisms such as earthworms
- No-till mulching enhances soil microbial activity, transfers organic matter to the soil improving its nutrient status
- Less inputs of fuel, energy, and labor
Training Twisungane Farmers on PICSA
The University of Reading (England) developed Participatory Integrated Climate Services for Agriculture (PICSA) as a part of a research program on climate change, agriculture, and food security.
Historical climate data are combined with location-specific crop and livestock information so farmers can assess risks. Farmers use planning tools to consider crop, livestock, and or livelihood options and make decisions that are right for them. Farmers update their plans based on seasonal and short-term forecasts. METRO RWANDA provides weather information (https://www.meteorwanda.gov.rw/) for the farmers use.
Well-timed farm operation is easily achieved through no-till because land preparation is much more quickly done. Studies have shown that timely planting contributes up to 40% of the yield.
This is one of the best ways of defeating crop losses. Because Rwandan agriculture depends on rainfall doing the proper analysis of the weather and climate information will help farmers to know which crop to plant as far as the amount of rainfall is concerned. Different crops need different amounts of water for growth.
PICSA helps them to know which off farm activity to do in case the rainfall information shows that there are going to be minimal rains. This helps them to change the crop or, use other ways of irrigation to support the crops, or not to engage in agriculture for the season.
This has been a good approach for our farmers and has been helping them to minimize their risks and to manage their capital better. PICSA also teaches them how to calculate their profits and benefits before engaging to any activity.
It took Frank days of discussions with the farmers to get each farmer to understand the approach and then to get their commitment to the approach.
As an example of PICSA: Using the PICSA climate services approach, Selina Sellas, a farmer and mother from the village of Makoja, Tanzania, calculated that she could lose her maize harvest 7 out of 10 times because of insufficient rainfall. She now plants less maize and has introduced more drought resistant pearl millet.
Frank was one of many researchers who took part in learning this approach and training many farmers in Rwanda. PICSA gives them the opportunity to choose whether to plan for agriculture activities or for off-farm activities.
Field Visits, Crop Preparation, Fruit Tree Management and Providing Technical Support
July is the primary time when preparations for agriculture activities for the next season are done. It is also a time to review other activities that are always in the field, e.g., banana and other fruit trees. They are now using maize straws and bean residues on their banana field for mulching, to cover the soil from direct sunshine and keep the soil under the banana field moist. Some of the residues are being used for livestock feed.
Farmers are serious about their agriculture activities. The crisis of the coronavirus pandemic crisis impressed on them the importance of preserving their crops. Now farmers are eager to know more, they ask more about crop and fruit diseases and how to combat them.
The above picture shows a barn which is not kept in good order. Frank persuaded the farmer to always have a clean building for their livestock and to keep the manure in proper holes and to cover the compost to prevent loss of nutrients, such as nitrogen, from disappearing into the atmosphere.
Motorcycle Taxi Business and the Goats Project
The Twisungane group now has two ongoing projects i.e., the motorcycle taxi business and the goat project. TFH funded both projects with loans to the group.
The weekly loan repayment for the motorcycle is going well as they have resumed paying after the three months of COVID-19 required lockdown. On their account now we have 341,000 RWF, equivalent to $356.00. They have been repaying this loan without any problem and they know that Frank is always checking and encouraging them to make regular loan payments. Doing so will help them to further their learning about how to manage larger projects.
In case of the goats, the agreement is to repay the loan after one year when the goats have increased in number after they reproduced.
Frank and the farmers have discussed and talked about challenges associated with the two projects. All the challenges are minor ones and normal. They are getting more manure for their crops and also using the goat milk for their children. As it was discovered that goat milk is the best for children’s health.
Meeting and sharing together few of the harvested yield
One evening when Frank and the farmers were done with their discussion on PICSA, the Twisungane committee members were organizing another meeting and they wanted Frank’s advice on a group member who wasn’t abiding by the group’s regulations. At the same time, they wanted to thank Frank and the TFH for what they did during the lockdown by providing food to the group.
Frank managed to calm the situation and solve the issue peacefully.
They appreciate our efforts for making their life better and all the teachings and support from TFH and they are committed to do better and change their mindset and be able to excel in the future.
Frank and they planned for their future together and had a wonderful moment, while discussing many aspects of life. They talked more about values and how best to have good values which is the key to development. We agreed that good values / character can help everybody accomplish much and open the doors of success.
The way forward
The farmers request TFH to add one more motorbike and more goats to the group. The Tools for Hope Board of Directors is actively considering their request for more loans.
They are still learning more about loans and how to get good quality ones. They are looking for different projects to engage in.
The issue of water treatment is still a priority and Frank has been contacting people from Tanzania to obtain ceramic water filters and is still waiting for their response.