Farmers trained by NCBA CLUSA in conservation farming techniques are featured in the September 2016 edition of RISE Newsletter, which reports on a groundbreaking joint development effort called the RISE Initiative. Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), RISE works across multiple projects—among them NCBA CLUSA’s Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel Region-Enhanced Resilience (REGIS-ER)—countries and partnerships to stop the cycle of crisis and dependence on humanitarian aid in West Africa’s Sahel region. The article, called “Keeping Grain Silos Full into the Lean Season,” follows:
On a hot day in Niger, Seydou Walaga is showing off the ripper he uses to turn his fields. His friend, Ali Mahmoud Mohamed, watches as Seydou demonstrates how the ripper reduces soil erosion and helps him make better use of fertilizer in his fields.
Seydou is a farmer in Kourmou, in the Tillabéri region in western Niger. Last year, with the help of USAID’s RISE program, Seydou started using conservation farming techniques on a small patch of land on one of his many farm plots. In addition to the ripper, which he rents from the village farmer group, Seydou uses organic fertilizers and zaï, which are holes dug in farmland to catch water and concentrate compost, thereby improving soil quality and increasing crop yields. Seydou planted sorghum, cowpea and millet using these techniques.
At the end of Seydou’s plot of improved land is a small grain silo. Seydou proudly opens it, showing off the amount of food still inside, nearly seven months after he harvested his farmland. “My family is still eating the grain I harvested last year,” he explains. “In the years before, my crops only fed us for two months. Now that I am using these techniques, I am able to feed my family using my own crops for much longer.”
USAID, through its Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel-Enhanced Resilience (REGIS-ER) project, is supporting farmers in Niger and other parts of the Sahel by sharing techniques on how to make the most of their land in order to improve crop yields, nutrition and economic opportunities.
Abdoulaye Adai also practices conservation farming techniques on his farm in Kourmou. Two years ago, Abdoulaye started using zaï on his land. The second year, nine farmers joined him. This year, he and 19 other farmers are planting animal fodder in their fields. This fodder is planted after subsistence crops are harvested, allowing the farmers to utilize their land after the regular planting season. The farmers in Kourmou plant dolique, or hyacinth bean. Planting dolique enhances soil nutrients and prevents land degradation, and the leaves provide much-needed food for the farmers’ livestock. While USAID’s resilience project initially provided the dolique seeds, the farmers are planning to use their harvested crop of seeds to replant next year.
The Kourmou farmers are happy to have nutrient-rich leaves to feed their livestock as well as restored land on which to grow their crops. Some community members are even experimenting with ways to cook and eat the dolique beans, which are high in fiber, protein and iron, and are widely consumed in other parts of Niger. Seydou and Abdoulaye plan to continue using the techniques they learned through USAID’s resilience activities to increase their crop yields, and improve land quality and the nutrition of their families in
the years to come.