It was in a dusty valley north of Arusha where we met this woman and her family. We were making a film about Conservation Agriculture in Africa. The dry season has started and the wind created dustbowls which were horrifying for our lungs and cameragear. However, the image was clear; erosion is a serious problem in this region and something has to be done.
See here a clip from the dust around the farm.
This farmer family tried to fix the soil with planting trees and keep their agricultural fields covered with remnants of the maize. As a principle of Conservation Agriculture this mulch enhances soil fertility and keeps the moisture in the ground. The farmers knew this, but they also keep livestock, for milk and meat, and they need to be fed too. Every day they have to choose how much mulch do they leave in the field or can they give something to the animals. Here the lady of the farm gives remnants to the animals.
A lot of work on the farms is done by women. The strength of the women struck me. In this picture I think you can see much of this strength back, both physically and mentally. I couldn’t live in this dusty area for a day, but she can. And the fields are getting better every year. Other farmers do the same. Maybe one day the dry season will not be so dusty anymore.
To me, food security and climate change are a big challenge for the near future. But I think with the initiatives like these in Arusha and the strength of small scale farmers like this woman in the photograph, we can fight hunger and make farming more sustainable.
The whole documentary ‘Feeding the soil or feeding the cow’ can be seen here.