The Transformer

Originally published on February 18, 2019.

A village elder learns and shares new techniques in agriculture

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“When someone doesn’t know something, explain it to them to transform their world,” says Nelia Francisco with a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye.

Nelia has seen a lot of transformation. She has lived in the same Mozambican village for over sixty years. “We had a tiny house. I used to walk without shoes. We didn’t have enough food. Farming was more challenging,” she says.

It’s easy to see from Nelia’s joyful energy that things are different now. Her home is made with better materials. She is wearing shoes. And as for food and farming, those things are getting better too.

In 2017, Nelia was selected by her community to serve as a Model Family Farmer with the Feed the Future Resilient Agricultural Markets Activity – Beira Corridor (RAMA-BC). Funded by USAID and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development, RAMA-BC is supporting farmers like Nelia to transform their own worlds by improving on-farm practices to increase yields and profitability.

Nelia is learning about the benefits of intercropping her maize fields with legumes like lablab and pigeon peas. Nitrogen-fixing legumes have a long list of benefits to farmers here. These low-cost perennial plants replenish soil health, repel unwanted pests and provide an additional source of nutrition through the beans and green leaves.

For Nelia’s community, these added benefits make for meaningful change. That’s why Nelia has been sharing the RAMA-BC techniques with 30 of her male and female neighbors. The equal mix of men and women is important to Nelia. She says it’s another sign of transformation in her world. “Husband and wives are diving the work more now than they used to. People now know that what men can do, women can do also.”

As a respected and well-liked elder in this community, Nelia’s lessons are being taken to heart by her community. Many have already started using these practices on their own farms.

Singing and dancing through a row of tall, green and strong maize stalks, Nelia looks around and says, “Things have changed – people have changed. We are learning and getting better.”
 

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