Amanzi for Food national workshop

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Amanzi for Food national workshop
The Amanzi for Food project held a national two-day workshop, on 12 to 13 May, to evaluate the work that they have done to ensure that farmers have access to the latest knowledge on rainwater harvesting techniques, and to plan the way forward for the project.
The project is action-orientated and comprises three areas: changing agricultural colleges’ curriculums to ensure that the latest techniques are incorporated, teaching practising farmers the most effective techniques and finding suitable communication platforms to educate farmers.
Dr Gerhard Backeberg, of the Water Research Commission (WRC) who fund the project, gave a keynote address on water use and food security. The WRC produced the guidelines which the Amanzi for Food project is implementing through the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) based at Rhodes University.
“The whole idea with this project was to implement these ideas into action. The most important is that the agricultural colleges use this material for training, either for students at diplomacy level or practical on-the-ground training for farmers, and particularly targeting women. We need these learning networks in all provinces and of course the curriculum adjustment for all the agricultural colleges. As this project is proceeding, I think we have achieved what we intended to achieve,” shared Dr Backeberg.
Students working in the ELRC, presented on the work that has been done, and the successes that have been achieved through the various learning networks and partnerships.
Mr Tichaona Pesanyi, a PhD student, is working on ensuring that there are curriculum innovations in Agricultural Colleges and Education and Training Institutions, which forms part of the network that is working on training the trainers. This is vital to ensuring that farmers have access to the most up-to-date methods of saving water, for best farming practices and to maximize their field productivity.
“The work that Amanzi for food has been doing, has mainly been in the Eastern Cape with farmers in areas around Alice, Lovedale College, Fort Cox College, extension officers, farmers themselves and farming associations, on rainwater harvesting techniques. The strategies which we have worked with include the training of trainer’s course which took place over seven months. We also did a workshop at Lovedale College, the University of Mpumalanga, Elsenburg and Grootfontein,” explained Pesanyi.
“With the recent droughts, a lot of people could not harvest, but what we have seen with this project is that those people who did these practises saw better results,” added Tichaona.
Many of the ways of harvesting rainwater have been around but Mr Siyabonga Mtshabe, from Lovedale College, feels that the way it has been conceptualised in the Amanzi for Food project is new.
“The workshop was very interesting and gave us ideas of how we can incorporate this knowledge into the curriculum. We are supposed to train the farmers of the future so I feel that this strategy can make a dent in helping people to produce food and to be food secure,” shared Mtshabe.
Ms Chisala Lupele, a student working towards her MEd, presented on her work which involves extending social learning via wider agricultural extension networks and communication tools to extend knowledge dissemination, particularly focussing on radio, using Forte FM, a radio station based at Fort Hare University.
“Farmers have been able to relate to practises that they are hearing over the radio to practises they used when they were young, and these are farmers who are in their 60s and they are able to say, ‘Oh yes, I remember I used to see contours in our garden’, so radio has been one of the platforms we have used,” shared Lupele.
Other communication platforms include websites, blogging, and social media including youtube videos illustrating farming techniques. The radio shows are aired in isiXhosa.
According to Prof Heila Lotz-Sisitka, the workshop was aimed at identifying what still needs to be done, by whom and how, identifying how to share the Action-Orientated Strategy more widely and how to support the ongoing work that has been started as they move towards Phase 2 which will also incorporate work that will fall under her new NRF SARChI Chair focussing on transformative social learning and green skills learning pathways. “In this Chair we are establishing new models of transformative social learning, with links to how this relates to green skills learning pathways development”, she said.  The Amanzi for Food programme is interesting in this regard, as it uses a learning network approach to social learning involving a range of locally engaged partners.  Details and links to the related media platforms can be found on