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Land O’ Lakes

    Untitled-5Women dressed in vibrant African fabric are sprinkled across fields of tea, coffee and banana trees. This is Tanzania, and these women are the caretakers of the land – and of their families. And yet, for women like Isabella Mwile, hard work in the field and raising children doesn’t necessarily make her a partner at home. Traditionally in Tanzania, men are the decision makers. However, in Isabella’s village of Mbaka, in Rungwe district, these traditions are changing.

    In January 2015, leaders of Mbaka village acknowledged Isabella’s leadership qualities and selected her to attend an Innovations in Gender Equality (IGE) training-of-trainers course on women’s’ and girls’ leadership in agriculture. With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, the IGE program facilitated this session with the goal of  improving community members’ knowledge and understanding of issues that are critical for women’s empowerment in Tanzania.

    During the three-day training, Isabella learned about the benefits of expanding a women’s role inside and outside of the home. Like how two heads are better than one when it comes to decision making on raising children or household finances. And how important it is to raise boys and girls equally. She also
    learned about how much value a woman can bring to a community organization or government position.
    I was most surprised by the fact that I could be independent from my husband. I realized that I could contribute to our household income by starting my own business of selling cereals, rice and beans,” says Isabella. She went home to share what she learned with her husband. He was supportive. In fact, he was proud of her new found confidence and relieved to have a second opinion, and a second income.

    Since 2012, IGE has trained 443 people like Isabella to become trainers of women’s empowerment and gender equality in their communities. And, over 3,900 women and 1500 men have joined groups to learn about the important role women can play in their homes and communities.

    After her training, Isabella formed the Upendo group to share what she learned. For the last two years, they have been meeting every Thursday to discuss how they are incorporating the lessons of gender equity into their lives.

    One woman joined the school board and plans to run for district office next year. A few women share about the benefits of joint household decision making. One woman speaks about how her son and daughter now have equal access to education – and are doing the same household chores. Several women have been empowered to start their own business. And one woman, a widow, is now confident to fix up the house, taking charge of repair projects that her husband used to see to. The stories
    vary, but each has a common theme. As Isabella puts it, “Our confidence is growing. We are helping each other improve and take care of ourselves. We no longer depend only on our spouses.”

    Since the first meeting in 2015, Isabella’s group has grown from 20 to 50 members – including both women and men. “Neighboring communities are taking notice, they admire us and want to join. Our women members are known for our matching skirts! We have applications for 10 more members,” she says. Attendance is 5,000 Tanzanian shillings (2.50 USD) a week – and the money goes to a group loan system. Members can take out loans to buy supplies for their farm, or to provide temporary support to support one another during family emergencies.

    As their weekly meeting ends, the women and men of Upendo joyfully sing a hope for their future in Kiswahili, “Waking mama tusonge mbele, tusirudi nyumbo…” In English, this means, “Mothers let us move forward, we should not go back…” Thanks to people like Isabella, Mbaka is making progress.

    “I was most surprised by the fact that I could be independent from my husband. I realized that I could contribute to our household income by starting my own business of selling cereals, rice and beans.”

    Francis Mwika, Mugae Location, Meru County, Kenya

    Located on the eastern side of Meru County, Mugae location is characterized by a sparse population with low and erratic rainfall resulting in an increase in food insecurity, environmental degradation and poverty levels in the county. Massive wind storms carry away the soil from the bare land making agriculture a debatable investment. This however, is home to Francis Mwika, a 47-year-old livestock farmer. Mwika has witnessed crop failures and droughts over the years. He has had to find a way to mitigate the drought effects for the wellbeing of his family of one wife and eight children. He resorted to livestock farming as a source of income. The amount he earned from his sales was used to pay school fees for his children and provide basic household needs, leaving little, if any, for savings. He had not realized the full potential of livestock farming as a business up until he was selected to be a facilitator for Farmer Field Schools (FFSs).

    With funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mwika received training as a FFSs facilitator through the Kenya Semi-Arid Enhancement Support (K-SALES) project. The four-year project, implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, seeks to increase agricultural productivity and expand trade in livestock products. Through K-SALES, Mwika was equipped with the necessary knowledge to train other farmers in the FFSs on farm management and improved livestock production techniques. Mwika has formed and trained over 10 FFSs in his area comprising of 384 farmers.

     

    “After the training, I realized that I had taken for granted my livestock over the years. If only I knew some of the things I know now, I would have benefited a lot from my livestock then,” he says. As luck would have it, Mwika, had a chance to invest in his livestock for business. “I had to make some changes in my own home on how I reared my livestock in order to set an example to the farmers I trained.”

     

    untitled-4Mwika is one of the 150 farmers benefiting from Maji ya Chumvi spraying and vaccination crush, which is less than 2km away and was constructed by K-SALES. “Before the training, we never used to spray or vaccinate our animals unless they fell sick. We are very grateful for the crush constructed by K-SALES for our community, as we can now spray and vaccinate our animals regularly with ease.” Currently, Mwika sprays his livestock at least thrice every month and noted the minimized illnesses brought about by pests and diseases.

     

    He has embraced several lessons to help improve his livestock in terms of breeding. Last year, in order to upgrade his own local sheep, he bought an improved sheep breed, a dorper, which is hardy, fertile and fast-growing. The ewe has since given birth to lambs that are growing rather fast and fetching a higher price at the market. “Just last month, I fetched 3,000 shillings for a one-month-old lamb,” he stated. From these sales, Mwika has since acknowledged that livestock rearing is indeed rewarding, and he plans to increase the number of sheep he owns, adding that they can reproduce as often as three times in a year.

     

    With the dry season around the corner, Mwika has plans to pursue fodder storage as a business especially now that there is a looming food shortage in his area. He had recently stashed fodder for his own animals, but he sold it to another livestock farmer. “I knew fodder could earn me an income but not this much,” he says. “The quantity of the fodder wasn’t much but the buyer surprisingly paid 20,000 shillings for it. I was amazed, and that is when I realized there is a lot of potential in the hay business.” He also received training on financial literacy and plans to borrow a loan from Centenary Sacco, where he is an active member, to enable him to construct a proper hay barn to store his hay for sale.

     

    Mwika is one fortunate farmer that is headed in the right direction. However, not many people in Kenya are as fortunate as Mwika. They lack access to the required information to scale up from subsistence farming to commercial farming. By providing the required knowledge in improved livestock production techniques and technologies, more farmers can see the benefits of keeping livestock as a business venture.

     

    This story is brought to you by USDA and Land O’Lakes

     

    For media and advertising inquired contact Alexander Hitzemann at alex@africaag.org

    Article by Jennifer Hyman, Director of Communications, Land O’Lakes International Development

    Having insufficient money to feed and clothe her children tormented Teresa Alberto João Danasio for years. “It used to tear me up inside when my children would come back from playing, staring at me, and for me as their mother to have no food for them,” Teresa, 28, recalled. “We have a saying in Mozambique that happiness comes from the stomach. So, if the kids are hungry, it means that they are sad. As a mother, this really affected me.”

    At the time, the entire family relied exclusively on the US $50 monthly income Teresa’s husband Jemute Manuel Chaona, 32, earned as a social service assistant. There were nine mouths to feed in all, including their three children and several relatives. Teresa recalled, “We experienced a lot of challenges because of insufficient income, but we had no options. It was all we could rely on. There were days when we had no food, and no ways to fill other needs.”

    But despite their difficulties, and the stress he felt being the family’s sole provider, Jemute wasn’t immediately sold on the idea of acquiring a dairy cow when Teresa told him about the USDA-funded Food for Progress Program implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development. The program is linking 4,050 smallholder farmers to a commercial dairy value chain in Maputo, Sofala, and Manica provinces, and training 16,000 Animal traction farmers in new and improved agricultural techniques and management practices.

    More broadly, the program is working to build an effective dairy value chain, reduce imports, rebuild the dairy herd and promote private sector investment – in the aftermath of the 16-year civil war that decimated the country’s dairy herd and infrastructure.

    Overcoming Fear and Moving Forward

    “I told her, how are you going to manage such a demanding animal? And how are you going to provide it with feed?” Jemute recalled asking. He had also heard about the program, and knew that free-grazing was discouraged; considering feed is the most onerous cost of caring for dairy cattle, this was a legitimate concern.

    Beyond the fear of whether they could manage taking care of a dairy cow, their biggest concern was what it would mean for Teresa’s education. Teresa was busily trying to complete 10th grade and was loathe to drop out, especially considering her children, ages 8, 10 and 12 weren’t far behind her in their studies.

    But Teresa insisted and convinced Jemute to give it a try with her and see what might happen. And so it was that the two began tag-teaming as partners in everything to make this new opportunity work.

    “When I made the decision, it was really a challenge for me, but I continued studying. My husband would wake up early morning and go to his work, while I went off to school. Then, around 9am, we’d both escape from work and school to attend our dairy trainings, and then we’d head back to work and school when we could.”

    They both laughed as she relayed the story of how they managed to make things work during the 2-week training. “We were acting like fugitives, constantly sneaking out to make ends meet,” Teresa said. Jemute joked, “If I was really a fugitive, I wouldn’t have come back!”

    Since successfully completing Land O’Lakes’ training and passing the course was a prerequisite to actually receiving a pure-breed in-calf Jersey heifer, Teresa was skeptical her efforts would come to fruition. “Initially, I doubted myself. I wondered, would I really be eligible to receive a dairy cow? And is this program all talk?” But within a few weeks of passing her course, she received her cow and life began to change.

    Teresa Alberto João Danasio affectionately holds her new “cash cow,” Teresinha.

    Teresa Alberto João Danasio affectionately holds her new “cash cow,” Teresinha.

    The Arrival of Jemute’s ‘Second Wife’ Teresinha

    When the cow arrived in July 2014, Teresa says her family exploded with emotion, and the cow quickly became a critical part of their lives. “The cow and program came at the right time. We smelled the cash as soon as we saw her!” Fittingly, their cow was given the name of Teresinha – small Teresa – and her children regularly call out if they observe that Teresina needs more food or water.  Jemute added, “I now consider Teresinha my second wife!”

    After calving, Teresinha started providing the family with between 12 and 13 liters a day. After keeping about 2 liters for enriching the nourishment of the family, they sell the remainder for between US $0.40 -0.46 per liter either to Copoleite, a cooperative based in Beira, Sofala provincial capital that operates a processing plant, or to a local microprocessor. Ultimately, Teresinha’s milk provides them with about US $100 a month – almost double her husband Jemute’s salary, which triples the overall household income.

    Teresa shows off the new home she’s busily constructing with her new income from dairy.

    Teresa shows off the new home she’s busily constructing with her new income from dairy.

    “I’m happy that Teresa is bringing in this income, and I’m not threatened that she’s now earning more than me. It means our financial burden is alleviated, and I’m not threatened by the fact that the family isn’t entirely relying on my income anymore,” Jemute explained. “In fact, it means I actually have a little more time to breathe, and to be a real father to my children.”

    When Teresinha calved, her first born was a bull. She will soon pass this on to another program client. . Shortly after the bull was born, the family accessed artificial insemination services through the program to get Teresinha pregnant again, and this time she produced a female calf, who is now 5 months old. Afterwards, they used a bull stud service to impregnate her again, and she’s currently in-calf.

    Looking Forward to the Future

    While they cannot say the income from Teresinha’s milk covers all their needs, the couple notes that it minimizes their burden significantly. “Although we still find we need more money than we have, rarely do our kids go to bed hungry anymore.”

    What’s more, Teresa is not only dreaming of building a large house to fit her entire family, but she’s nearly realized her vision. Construction is ongoing, and is nearly complete, and they are easily able to pay for their children’s school uniforms, and school lunches, so that they can concentrate better while studying. They are also setting a portion of their earnings aside to pay for the feed that Teresinha needs to remain healthy and productive.

    She imagines things will only get better. “Where I once doubted myself, I can now envision a future where my female calf grows up and starts milking. That means in a year or two, I will have two cows, and then three. This will really put me in a great situation.”

    For Teresa, the impact of the USDA-funded Mozambique Food for Progress program has truly been profound. “I was a person who had no hope, and I wasn’t even aware that this could be my life. But now, I really feel like a new Teresa, as a proud mother able to meet my household needs.