The team of Interns from Dar es Salaam have moved to Mwanza for most of the month of March to look at the Villages of Hope farms, and the food systems in this area. Aneesha, Curtis and I arrived in Mwanza on the 2nd of March and will be here until the 21st, Jeremy made the trip from Nairobi for the weekend to help us to kickstart the project. It looks like we’re off to a great start!
Villages of Hope Mwanza is a non-profit Canadian Charity foundation with schools in 6 different countries. This group of interns is just focusing on the Childrens home in Mwanza. The farm is used to grow many different types of vegetables, for consumption in the kids home as well as to sell at local markets. The main goal for this project is to identify the most profitable products and figure out a way in which we can assist the farm in the growing and production of these. Currently, VOH school and childrens home uses the majority of rice and maize to feed the children at the home, so not much profit is being made off the products, increasing the production of important staple products such as these will allow for further expansion of the farm and VOH school and childrens home.
The products the farm is currently producing are: rice, maize, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, watermelons, cabbage, cassava, spinach, sweet potatoes and carrots. Although there are quite the variety of produce on the farm, profit is not always made. Julius had mentioned to us that the green peppers did not get any harvest this season, and the maize had a rough year as well, but the rice was thriving. This makes supplying for VOH difficult if it is unpredictable. The different crops require different types of soil and irrigation. They are currently growing two different types of rice, one seed takes 3 months and the other takes 4 months, they are testing to see which one will bring in a higher profit. Depending on the seed, they may be able to plant 2-3 times a year and produce more rice than in previous years. The growing season for many of the vegetables grown on the farm is 3 months. The crops produced are mainly being used for use at the childrens home, the goal is to be able to produce enough products for consumption at the childrens home as well as enough to sell in local markets.
While at the farm we got to visit the different water sources they have, on the property they have a total of 5 ponds and streams, all but one dry up during the dry season. They use pumps to pump water into the fields but when the rains are high, the water overflows and no pumping is needed. The farm is able to get water pumped in when the streams and ponds dry up, at an affordable cost. Rainwater is collected during the rainy seasons (October, November and March – May), but not all year round. This is when they collect the water for the live stock.There are two tanks at the farm, one is 1500L and the other is 2500L, they have a third but it is in need of repair. There are 3 pregnant cows and 4 bulls currently, each drinking approximately 80L of water a day. When the rain water runs out they have to treat the stream water for the cows. These two tanks are almost enough to sustain the cows throughout the year, and a third tank would ensure it is enough. With the expansion of the amount of cows and other livestock will require more water, and possibly more tanks.
The farm uses equipment to harvest and grow crops. Some equipment that they use, includes a tractor to till the land as well as transport goods. This tractor has been having problems and they have to hire someone to drive it. A good idea would be to train someone to drive the tractor and also be able to look at the problems it has. Another piece of equipment they use is to harvest the rice, they have problems with it as it gets stuck in the mud as the ground where the rice is growing is wet. Since the ground is always wet where the rice is being grown, they have to use hand held methods to harvest the rice, such as a sickle. Once the rice is out of the field, a tarp is stretched out and the rice is hit by a large piece of tree to get the seeds out, this too is done by hand. For fertilizer for the farm, they use manure produced by the cows, for some of the vegetables, and if they do not have enough, they can purchase some from their neighbours for reasonable cost. Another form of equipment used are several water pumps for irrigation. The pumps are used to transport water from ponds or streams to the desired field and are also used to pump water from one pond or stream to another. There are approximately 10 workers for the 12 hectares of rice, which will need expansion when the production increases.
The livestock on the farm is very limited, which leaves plenty of room for expansion. Currently with the three cows and four bulls, they are able to sustain them by giving them stalks of grass, the farmers take very good care of the cows by keeping them clean, to avoid ticks. Deworming them every three months and ensuring they are immunized if another cow in the region becomes ill. They also have a medicine called FMD which is given to the cows in prevention of infectious diseases, if they still contract it, they can be treated with antibiotics or penicillin. They feed them a grain like substance to help them gain weight, it is cotton stalks ground up. After the rice harvest they are also fed the rice stalks, which can be preserved for up to 3 months. At the farm there is currently no hens, which are a great asset, there is an old chicken coop that could easily be fixed up and could hold close to 100 chickens. Chickens are good for both meat and eggs. There are no rabbits on the farm. There are 5 goats on the farm which we did not see, there used to be more but they got slaughtered for the Christmas meals. The goats were used for meat, we suggested to use them for milk as well because goats milk is very high in price, and could have high profits.
Goals for this farm are important for the growth and expansion of the farm and Villages of Hope school and childrens home. Some goals include fencing the property and putting roads in to be able to move about the property. There is a storage shed that could house another 40 cows, which would be able to produce fresh milk to sell in markets. Having fresh milk available is a goal for VOH because you cannot buy fresh milk anywhere in Mwanza, except directly from a farmer themselves. This farm wants to expand and be able to produce enough to sustain VOH as well as generate profit for VOH. This is attainable by the expansion of the produce sector of the farm as well as the livestock sector.
We are hoping to have a plan for Villages of Hope by the time we leave Mwanza!