Helping small farmers to improve their agricultural production, access to market, income and nutritional awareness is a challenge that requires integrated approaches. In the south-western province of Huíla, one of the area most-affected by climate change in Angola, we are providing training and inputs, and fostering linkages between agricultural value chain actors, with the aim of strengthening the resilience of the food systems and improving food and nutrition security.
Over 2,000 people, including small-scale farmers and horticulturalists, farmer field school members, and elders, have already been reached by the project Chitanda (a word in Umbundo language meaning ‘market’ or ‘market product’), implemented in partnership with the national NGO ASD (Solidarity and Development Action). The project is an initiative of Angolan Government, funded by the European Union, within FRESAN, which is co-managed by Camoes I.P.The Embassy of Czech Republic in Pretoria co-funds the action.
Juliana Banguel has attended some training sessions and learned new techniques to increase the value of the products. “Chitanda is teaching us good things. I’ve participated in a workshop on drying agricultural products, and another one on conservation farming”, she says. “We’re now explaining [how it works] to our relatives and neighbours”.
Angelino Madureira Venâncio has also participated in trainings. He says that it has changed the way he plants seeds: “We used to sow as our grandfathers had taught us, with no measurements or distances between the plants. Now, we know that we need to plant corn, for example, in a row, maintaining a space among plants”.
Drought poses a challenge for small farmers
In total, the project supports nine farm field schools in Jamba and Chicomba municipalities. Besides theoretical training on land preparation and soil fertility, sowing, planting and crop rotation, plant protection, and harvest, model farmers were selected for demonstration of climate-smart agriculture techniques (such as agroforestry, intercropping, gravity irrigation).
The aim is to promote a transformation in field production practices because in many villages, traditional techniques of soil management still rely on shifting agriculture, and field burning is often used as a basic tool for cleaning and reclaiming field productivity. These practices bring serious consequences: severe soil degradation, loss of water retention, and high demands on land for shifting agriculture.
Unsustainable field production practices, low production diversity, and insufficient access to farming inputs and tools are among the problems faced by small farmers in Huíla. The low rainfall during the planting season has been an additional difficulty, and put food security and nutrition at risk.
In fact, the results from the planting of seeds distributed by the project in 2021 were lower than expected, and therefore a change to more drought-resistant crops was made, with varieties of cabbage, tomato and onion showing better yields. Seedlings of acacia, rosemary plant and papaya, among other trees, have also been given to smallholder farmers to boost agroforestry. All this is complemented by training sessions on innovative techniques which will contribute to land, soil and water conservation, building resilience to climate change.
From seeds to tarpaulins and milling machines
In addition to trainings, the project delivers tools to small-scale farmers and horticulturalists, and other supported groups, so that they can put into practice all the things they’ve learned. Kits composed of ploughs and hoes, basins, buckets, tarpaulins, sieves, packaging bags have been distributed to the families. Milling and threshing machines have been also delivered to selected communes.
Marcelina Januário has taken part in the food processing training, and received a kit: “I didn’t know I should build a place to spread the lombi [leaves of pumpkin or bean], I only spread it open air”, she says. “With [the knowledge from] the training, I’ll be able to work with the materials. For drying products, I’ll use canvas, pan, sieve, bucket and basin”.
In the case of seeds, maize and bean, considered as versatile crops with high nutritional and economical value, have been selected for a work focused on adding value along the phases of the production chain. The choice was based on an analysis that gathered opinions from members of the communities in the region where the project is being implemented, in order to understand their experiences in processing and marketing of products. Representatives of public institutions and agricultural sector have also been heard.
The value chain analysis has also searched for more information on buying and selling processes, product demand, and main actors involved in the local market. Results show that trading takes place most of the times among families within the village, with no participation of external actors. Informal markets nearby the villages were also mentioned as relevant places for buying and selling.
Based on the findings, Chitanda project promotes activities to increase cooperation between representatives of all sectors involved in production process (from smallholder farmers, to carriers, and sellers), discuss joint investment opportunities and business prospects, and search for solutions to problems faced at different levels.
At the nutritional level, the initiative works together with nutritionists, voluntaries and professional health workers to identify good hygiene and feeding practices that can be promoted in the villages.
Author: Claudia de Oliveira, PIN Angola