So They Can has established an educational farm on 22 acres of land in the Babati district of Tanzania, specifically the Endakiso and Mamire wards. Approximately 98% of the local economy is subsistence farming.
The Mamire and Endakiso ward councils have pledged their support to So They Can and have donated 30 acres of land on which to build the Mamire Teachers’ College and our educational farm and other social businesses.
The objective of the farm is to develop new, more efficient and ecologically sustainable ways of growing traditional crops and to introduce new crops and seed varieties that will spread risk and be more resistant to local conditions leading to greater crop yields and better food security.
The farm is divided into 2 sections. One smaller block uses traditional farming methods and crops while the other uses the new methods and introduces new seed and crop varieties. On a section of each block identical crops have been planted to determine the difference in growth, yield, input and labor requirements of the traditional versus the new techniques. This visual representation to the farming community of what can be achieved with the new techniques is a powerful tool by which we can influence the perception of that community.
Monthly workshops for local farmers are held at the centre. These sessions are available at no cost and consist of both a theory and practical component. The workshops are run collaboratively by So They Can and the Ministry of Agriculture represented by the region’s local agricultural officer. Other NGO’s offer advice at these workshops on newly developed crops and seeds and provide samples to the farmers.
In 2015 we will start providing these farming workshops to students at the Mamire Teachers’ Training College located next door to the farm. Rural schools in the Babati district allocate and farm land to grow crops for school feeding programs and to supplement teacher income. By upskilling our student teachers in new farming techniques we have a powerful source by which to spread this knowledge throughout the wider community.
We are also setting up farmer cooperatives. The cooperatives have 2 main objectives; (1) reduce the costs of inputs such as fertilizer and seeds by buying in bulk and (2) gaining access to bigger and more profitable markets by combining crops and sharing transportation costs. To support these cooperatives we will open in 2015 our storage facility and act as an agent for the wider farming community in both purchasing and storing inputs for on sale to the farmers and buying off the farmers directly, pulling crops and selling into national and international markets.
As with all projects monitoring and evaluation takes place to regularly assess the true developmental impact of this project.