Waliwana Women working in their cooperative farm in Garissa County
There is a certain seduction to the quick fix. There are all sorts of businesses, fitness programs, self help organizations and even Christian ministries that claim they have found the silver bullet or ultimate short cut to change. In the Christian world, we see organizations that actually claim to bring entire communities out of poverty in just six-months; others that claim to be creating peace and reconciliation in a weekend, and other groups that are supposedly bringing a million people to faith in a single rally.
In our experience, quick fixes rarely do much good for the people they are suppose to help. Parachuting into the complexity of people's lives with a boxed solution is dangerous and demeaning.
When these groups roll out of their target community and on to their next quick fix, what are they really leaving behind?
We believe that Integral Mission is about joining people with whom God has already been moving among. Outsiders need to approach a local community with a high degree of humility and curiosity -- recognizing that there is always a lot more going on than we first perceive. We strive to walk with people and our intention is that we might journey together towards lasting transformation.
In his book Whose Reality Counts?, the renowned development scholar and practitioner Robert Chambers called for a radical shift in the way the world approaches poverty. Chambers recognized the need for holistic development to be participatory, community-driven, and process-orientated.
Neatly designed projects might look really good on paper and in donor communication, but in reality good development is not simple. Lasting change needs to be done by and with the people concerned, rather than to and for them. This requires us to walk a path that is often circular, uneven, and difficult. Chambers conceptualises development as "messy, dynamic and nonlinear". For task driven Westerns, this requires a high degree of patience, faith and restraint -- we can not assume control.
On the ground, Canadian Baptist Ministries Africa team are often embedded in communities where we seek to help our partners discern local solutions for local problems. This requires a lot of follow through.
In Garissa, our colleague William Wako has been leading a conservation agriculture project with several Christian churches and Muslim villages. There are no quick fixes here. William's success is seen in the commitment to walk with people out of the classroom and into their communities and fields.
We are thrilled to share with you today a brief report from William on some of the follow through that he has been doing with these communities. This is what integral mission looks like.
Disease and pest control training, August 2015
The families in Bula pamoja, Bakuyu and Mororo villages of Garissa County have never had affordable food production, despite farming along the bank of the Tana River. This is as result of poor farming methods, lack of certified seeds, wildlife destruction and chronic pest and disease infestation.
For about two years now, we have been engaging with the local communities of Somali and Waliwana in training on different aspect of conservational agriculture. Our aim is to attain sustainable food security through increased agricultural production and skill training for the local farmers. Through our weekly field accompaniment with the farmers, we identified the need for enhancing our responses to local plant disease and insects.
Among many activities we have undertaken this year was trainings on conservational agriculture principles, agro-forestry and green manure, cover crops. Recently, in this third quarter we trained 30 local farmers on pest and disease control over last week.
The two-days training took place at Government guest house Garissa. In attendance were 11, farmers from Bula Pamoja village, 11 farmers from Bakuyu village, 3 farmers from Mororo village and 3 Church based farmers from Garissa. The training facilitation was done by Julius Kioko of ABC, Crops officer from Garissa County and assisted by CBM project officers.
The training content was divided into sessions, under three major area of concern that we planned to cover. All three sessions were lead our facilitator but assisted by the CBM team. The first area was on the organic pesticides, which was lead by Julius Kioko and it took over the first day after the introductions, prayers and welcoming remarks. The second area of coverage was on the Integrated Pest Management, which was lead by County crops officer and the third area was the field practical, where the participants visited the farmer group demo plot in Bakuyu farm, under leadership of CBM project officers. All the three session of the training was sub-divided into sub-sessions, including group discussions and presentations.
Organic Pest control
This session introduced the farmers to different cause of disease and pest in the farms. The session further introduced the farmers to various new techniques of preventing and controlling diseases and pest infestation. The facilitator strongly advocated for organic or natural pesticides because of they are inexpensive, readily available in our environment and homes.
He persuaded the farmers to adopt the organic pesticides for it is safe and effective ways deter and eliminate pest in their farms.
The session enlightened farmers on various remedies of common pest and disease in their area. The farmers were challenged about striking the crucial balance between protecting their crops, protecting the environment as well as protecting their waterway by reducing the use of chemical sprays. The facilitator further encouraged the farmers to use organic pesticides for the advantages it has over chemical pesticides.
The farmers were taught with examples on different mixture of ingredients to make organic remedies for the pest and diseases control. The mixture of some of these ingredients either repels or kills the pest in the gardens. The farmers were informed the different kinds of mixtures, the crops to apply, amount of measurement and time of the day suitable to apply the mixtures.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
This session was lead by the County crops officer, who as well advised the farmers to first use the natural pesticides remedies before opting for chemical spray. The facilitator introduced the concept of integrated pest management, where he defined it as science based commonsense approach for managing population of disease vectors and public health pest. He explained that IPM uses variety of pest management techniques that focus on pest, prevention, pest reduction, and elimination of conditions that lead to pest infestation.
The local farmers and community were equipped with enough knowledge and skills on how to deal with the challenges of pest and disease in their farms. The facilitator gave the farmers list of common pests and disease in the region and the crops they mostly affect. He further gave symptoms of various diseases and pest on the plant after it is infested on, either by the pest of infected by disease. IPM according to the facilitator included the use of pesticides as well promoting the practices that involved trapping and poisoning. The farmers also benefited from the crops officer who listed various names of chemical spray that he recommended for tomatoes, bananas, mangos, maize and other crops. It was very helpful training, our hope is that the farmers were able to grasp the concept that will help them prevent, control pest and disease and eventually have better yields.
This was such an exciting session, where farmers got into the Bakuyu farm demonstration plot and were able to identify some kinds of the pest and recognize the symptoms of different disease and their cause.
During the field trip the farmers interaction with the facilitator was very high, because their eyes were opened and they could seen the difference between the pest infested and disease crops. Walking with the group, I realized that every single participant picked leaves of infected crops, or collected a kind of pest that they were seeing in their own farm, and they would ask the facilitator questions. It was such an interactive and interesting session, for the farmers, we are glad to see the zeal and excitement on their faces.
In the project area there are several challenges that the project is facing all through, from insecurity to other environmental challenges, unfavorable climatic condition, poor attitude of local community towards farming besides and lack of mulching material, unreadable rainfall and poor soil fertility.
During this particular training, we encountered the challenge of language barrier during training, especially with Somali farmers who could not speak any national language. We also continue to struggle against dependency from farmers who ask for hand outs. Nonetheless, the training was well attended and the participation was impressive, may be because almost all of these farmers have known each other in the previous trainings and the interaction was made easy.
We are grateful to CBM leadership for allowing us to conduct this training and for your prayer and support. We are obliged to Julius Kioko and ABC development office for allow Julius to facilitate with us. We are indebted to Garissa County crops officer for give us time out of his busy scheduled to facilitate in the training. Many thanks, to my colleague Geoffrey Mwita for his tireless effort in making the training successful.
Over the coming months, as we continue to visit the farmers in their fields we will reinforce the training received and assist as we can with this issue of disease and pest control. It has meant so much for the farmers to know that we are with them. Farming can be very discouraging when one faces setbacks and challenges.
The classroom is only one step in a long journey.
It is only one piece in a much bigger response.