The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) confirms closure by end of 2020.
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Boosting food security by the book

Impact story

Members of the Sincedise poultry Group formed as a result of a reading circle

© CTA

Knowledge management

In 2018, CTA donated approximately 80,000 books to Book Aid International (BAI). The books have supported libraries in Zimbabwe and helped to boost literacy, particularly in rural communities with limited access to reading material.

Rural libraries in Zimbabwe have promoted literacy and helped to boost the productivity of smallholder farmers. Farmers have access to books from CTA comprising mainly technical guides in both English and French. For example, CTA Practical Guides, Agrodoks and books in the series The Tropical Agriculturalist/Agricultures tropicales en poche and Opportunities in food processing have offered invaluable material to farmers who belong to a community library service.

Most books are designed for use in the field. They provide extension workers and farmers with useful information to develop their skills in plant and animal production, in food processing and encourage them to adopt agricultural innovations.

The technical books from CTA cover diverse agricultural topics such as seed selection; small stock husbandry; and how to start and manage a cooperative. These have empowered smallholder crop and livestock farmers with knowledge. This has helped farmers in Zimbabwe – many of whom are illiterate - to improve their production and increase their income through better planning and sound management principles.

The partnership between CTA and BAI began in 2012 and since then a total of 195,000 books have been donated. In most cases, libraries and education centres in developing countries benefited from the books. For example, the Gambia National Library Service Authority which serves schools and tertiary institutions across the country and in Kenya the Kakuma Refugee Camp, where primary and secondary school pupils have received books to read and use in class for the first time.

Smallholder farmers in Southern Zimbabwe are securing food for their families, because they are now able to read and write. Literacy has made them better farmers as they tackle poverty and food insecurity in an area with a harsh history of food insecurity, poor livelihoods and climate variability.

Community study groups were another avenue through which farmers accessed books from CTA. Members of one such group facilitated by a local organisation, the Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust (ENMT) - which runs a community library in Gwanda, over 130 km south of Bulawayo - have read their ignorance and food insecurity away, literally. The group is located in Southern Zimbabwe - an area with a harsh history of droughts and food scarcity.

Smallholder farmers who contribute a bulk to national food security, are challenged by poor productivity because they lack access to improved inputs and better farming methods. They do not have access to timely information on improved farming methods that would help them boost their cropping and livestock production.

Bookworms for development

“Farmers involved in horticulture, small livestock and chicken rearing use the books during weekly study group meetings where they read a particular topic relevant to their farming project, for example, on how to build a fowl run or how to select seed for better yields. They discuss recommended tips and implement them in their projects. The CTA books are appropriate for the information that we need for developing rural areas particularly on food and household food security, they are easy to read, well-illustrated and focus on the context of our arid region,” says Jackson Ndlovu, Director of the Gwanda-based library established by the ENMT.

The books have become a useful resource for farmers in the study circle because they provide information on agriculture issues. Ndlovu says the books from CTA have complemented reading materials from the Swedish Corp and the Department of Agriculture Extension Services under the Zimbabwean Ministry of Agriculture which farmers have accessed through the study circles.

The ENMT has received over 40,000 books since it partnered BAI in 1992. The books have been distributed to tertiary institutions, health centres, service organisations, primary and secondary schools.

Raised literacy, raised incomes

The Sibambene Nutritional Garden’s 21 members – most of them women – grow tomatoes, cabbage, onions, butternut, leaf vegetables and maize for sale using methods gleaned from CTA technical booklets. “Through the study group I have learnt how grow different crop and how to manage our crop where we make projections before we plant,” says Siziwe Dube, deputy chairperson of the Sibambene Group in Tshanyaugwe area.

She adds: “Last year I sold nine crates of tomatoes and used the income to pay school fees for my children and orphans under my care. Besides, with the knowledge from our study circle, I have increased my income and improved food security of my family.”

Another beneficiary study group, Sincedise, raises broiler chickens and has recently ventured into goat fattening and breeding with future plans to develop its own chicken abattoir facility and shop. Joyce Nyathi who is 62 years old and a founding member of the Sincedise study circle says “I stopped school at Grade 5 not knowing how to read and write but I can do that confidently now because of the study circle which encouraged us to read even in our old age.”

On average, members of the study circle each earn about €715 annually from their projects, according to Thabani Dube, Community Officer at the ENMT.

Murielle Vandreck, CTA Programme Coordinator for Publications, says while paper publications were stopped in 2018, their impact on farmers is a wonderful reward for CTA. “We are happy to learn that our publications have played a critical role in strengthening capacities in ACP countries and in generating higher incomes and increasing food security among rural communities.”

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