Friday, April 26, 2013

Advancing Agriculture in Africa: Mixing Low Tech, High Tech and High Touch Solutions

Below are a photos of the administrative and teaching blocks of the Uyole Agriculture Training Institute and Uyole Agriculture Research Center, just a few kilometers outside of Mbeya City in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, When I lived and worked there in the early 1980s, it was one of the premier training and research centers in the country.

I would take my diploma agriculture students into the villages where we helped farmers learn how to use their cows to plow and cultivate the land. For those unfamiliar with how animals can be used to conduct agricultural work, I'm posting below a YouTube video taken in the U.S. of one of the best trained teams I have ever seen.

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Many decades have passed since I lived in Mbeya, but I found a Vimeo video uploaded in 2002 that captures the sights and sounds as I remember them many years ago. It is taken during the cold, dry, dusty season in Mbeya when one needs at least a sweater at dawn and dusk. The story line is of a young boy who seeks directions to a community skills training center in Mbeya from various roadside shops and friends playing soccer. He is unsuccessful until, in the second clip below, he locates a person at a carpentry shop who gives directions to the school.  

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The relatively low tech agricultural solution of animal traction never seemed to gain much support in Tanzania, which still remains largely reliant on the hand hoe farming. There are a number of other low tech solutions such as the ingenious one published by Global Cycle Solutions. The clip below is taken from a longer Vimeo video in which GCS co-founder Jodie Wu gives her elevator speech about a bicycle powered maize (corn) sheller.

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Mobile phones are pervasive throughout Tanzania and offer potential high tech solutions for agriculture. But this needs to be combined with high touch approaches that pay attention to social dynamics. The clip below is taken from a longer video about an IFAD project in Tanzania.It demonstrates how high tech solutions must be combined with high touch approaches in order to lead to sustainable results.

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