When land is degraded, there is so much to lose. Keeping the soil fertile is the best solution to ensuring a stable agricultural provision. And this can only be done if small holder farmers are guided on appropriate land and water management practices.
This is the whole idea of the Integrated Farm Planning (PIP)approach that Water4Virungas is piloting in the Virunga Massif. Water4Virungas is working with select farmers in Kisoro district in Uganda, Bugeshi district in Rwanda and Jomba groupement in DRC. The pilot activities have included community awareness meetings, district and sub county stakeholders’ advocacy meetings on soil and water management, selection of willing and committed innovative farmers to pilot the PIP approach. Through meetings and trainings farmers have been educated on the PIP approach and been made to understand and appreciate it’s benefits over the traditional farming practices being used. In Uganda for example, 40 households have been selected from Kabande and Ruchantenge villages in Kisoro and each of the selected must train 10 more other farmers to adopt the best practices (knowledge transfer).
Integrated farm planning focuses on the sustainable use of land by committed farmers. Farmers who are ready and willing to invest in their land and get more from it, not once, but for a lifetime.
The PIP considers motivated people and healthy land to be the foundation for sustainable development: only when farmers become good stewards of their land, and when they put the ‘care for their land’ central, they can establish resilient farming systems and realize more yields from their farms.
Commenting on the PIP approach, Wellard Makambo, a Program officer with the IGCP and a staff on the W4Virungas project says “through the PIP approach W4Virungas will empower farmers to feel able to change their farming challenges and that they see the opportunities to improve. Farmers have to believe that they are in charge of the change they want to see on their farms and that it is possible and attainable”. When people feel empowered, they are able to change many things, and very important: they will own the change and take the responsibility to better care for their resources and thus their future.
There’s evident soil erosion, land degradation and a decline in agricultural productivity in most parts of the Virungas. Farmers in Kabande village revealed that in the past, 15 – 20 years ago one sack of irish potato seeds would yield 7 – 10 sacks but today one sack of seeds yields 2-3 sacks at harvest. These challenges are attributed to a lot of pressure on the land from farmers as they constantly till to provide for their families, poor farming practices and general lack of awareness on water and soil conservation.
This calls for concerted efforts from all actors to restore the landscape and to secure the soils for generations. Farmers have to be shown better and profitable farming practices. The PIP is the starting point to achieving this, because it aims at changing the farmers’ mind set and creates an intrinsic motivation where farming is by choice following the household plan drawn not by default.
PIP farmers are encouraged and guided on how to develop household integrated farm plans (3-5 years) with an action plan to implement it.
“Precisely the objective of the PIP approach is to foster resilient farming systems; farms that can resist and recover from shocks such as droughts, excessive rainfall and pest infestations to continue producing food in a sustainable way” notes Sarah Kigongo, W4Vs Project officer in Uganda.
At the end of the day, PIP will not only restore degraded land and soils but will also facilitate increased farm yields and household incomes, eradicate poverty and hunger and also ensure conservation of the environment in the Virunga massif.
Are you a passionate farmer, or do you love farming but have lost hope in your soils? – the PIP approach will help you realize your dream, first by guiding you on how to develop an integrated farm plan with your entire household that will help you manage your soils better and produce more and two by introducing you to better sustainable farming/land management practices that you need for a happy life and family.