Overview of the project
The majority of people in rural Iringa are smallholder subsistence farming families who are trying to make a living from the land. However, once fertile soils are being depleted and eroded, resulting in decreasing crop yields and increased dependence on expensive farm inputs. Combined with the effects of deforestation and climate change, average household income and food security are increasingly uncertain. These smallholder farming families have few options for alternative sources of income generation, limited access to credit, and are not realizing the potential of the soil and natural resources that they do have, so they find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. There is a real need for subsistence farmers to develop alternative streams of income to supplement their farming income as well as improving the land that they farm to improve the sustainability and profitability of their farming activities.
The ‘imarika’ project has been designed to address some of these key issues through economic and environmental empowerment by mobilizing churches for community development. The project will work closely with churches to identify needs and resources in the community. Community action groups are formed through the process to engage each community through a variety of interventions, including conservation agriculture, afforestation, poultry, beekeeping, and fuel efficient stoves.
• Fuel efficient stoves: manufacturing portable clay stoves for sale to generate income while improving household health and reducing deforestation
• Afforestation: establish tree nurseries to sell tree seedlings to generate income and to plant trees in woodlots as long-term investments, while providing products and services for the community and helping to restore the land
• Conservation agriculture: composting, minimal tillage, mulching, and agroforestry technologies that will contribute to improved crop yields as soil conditions improve and erosion is minimized
• Poultry: diversify farm income, improve household nutrition, and provide farmers with manure for their crops
• Beekeeping: produce valuable honey and other products, while providing valuable pollination services for the environment and agriculture
Each of the group activities will contribute to improving the livelihoods of subsistence farming communities while improving the local environment. Each community group will form a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) to promote savings and provide access to credit to group members, which in turn will facilitate entrepreneurship and improved livelihoods. In addition, the project will equip churches and community groups with leadership and entrepreneurship skills, gender awareness, and environmental stewardship, which will strengthen churches and their communities. The sustainability of the project is ensured by partnering with local churches, using local resources, and helping people realize what they are able to accomplish on their own using local resources.
The project title, ‘imarika’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘to be strengthened’ and is also an acronym for ‘imarisha mazingira, riziki, na kanisa’ – meaning to ‘strengthen environments, livelihoods and the church’.
Read more about this project in Operation Agri’s magazine, Outreach Abroad (Summer 2017).
Update 2018 : Using what God has Given Us
A report on the IMARIKA project in Tanzania. Andrew Wingfield wrote this article for Operation Agri. Andrew and his family returned to the UK in January 2018 after serving in Tanzania as EI Country Representatives for 12 years!
When faced with a crowd of 5,000 hungry people, Jesus asked his disciples to feed them. Although it seemed insignificant to them, he expected them to make use of the little that they had (five loaves and two fish). Many people living in the developing world, when faced with problems, assume that they need resources from outside. This mindset is partly the result of unhelpful approaches by aid and development agencies and churches over many decades which have been focused more on giving handouts than encouraging communities to use the resources they already have.
Through the ‘Imarika’ project, Emmanuel International is working with churches in Tanzania to help them to recognise and use the resources that God has already given them to serve the community. Through a series of Bible studies and interactive games, local churches are encouraged to consider their role as church in the community and what resources they already have available to them.
Following the mobilisation training, the churches invite members of the community from outside of the church to join them in an action group. Based on priorities which the group identify themselves, Emmanuel International provides training on conservation agriculture, tree planting, fuel efficient stoves, and VICOBA (village community banks).
Through VICOBA, groups save money together through weekly meetings where members can buy shares. The share fund is then used to provide loans to members which they can use to fund entrepreneurial activities. They pay back the loan with a modest interest rate which increases the share price. After one year all the members get the value of their shares back at the new, higher share price.
The ‘Agape’ group in Mangawe village surpassed expectations when they saved 2.5 million shillings (over £800) in just six months. This was all from their own resources; no input of capital was given from outside.
Evelina Mponda, a member of the group said “The first loan I received from the group I used to make donuts and to buy eggs which I sold on. Then I got a second loan which I used to continue with my small business while my husband prepared rocks to build our house. We’ve now finished our house but I also thank God I was able to buy one cow using a loan from the group.”
Through Conservation Agriculture training , the ‘Kilimo Elekezi’ group established through the church in Utengule village is learning the importance of caring for a vital resource God has provided them with – the soil. Nuhu Muyemba, a muslim, was attracted to join the group because of the training on agriculture. He said “Through the IMARIKA project I have learned about conservation agriculture, using cover crops and how to grow trees for timber and fruit. Also through this group, I have learned about building good relationships even for husbands and wives sharing the household income fairly. The project has also taught me to be self sufficient, especially by using conservation agriculture techniques so we can improve the soil as an asset for the future.”
Sophia Nkwama, mother of seven said “Through the group I have learned how to read and understand the Bible, especially to understand that God was the first farmer, so it is very important for us to care for our earth as God has instructed. I have learned to make good use of the resources God has given us, by planting trees, improving how we grow food and working diligently. Now I’m using conservation agriculture methods; in the past I didn’t use any of these techniques and I can see how it is improving my life.”
This article was published in the March 2018 Down to Earth.
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