What’s better than one oil palm nursery growing 60,000 high yielding seedlings for the smallholders of Kigoma? How about five oil palm nurseries growing 60,000 high yielding seedlings for the smallholders of Kigoma? Did someone say ten nurseries?! Well, maybe not yet, but we’ve recently made the first few steps in that direction.
With the support of our good friends at DANIDA, Seed Change recently ran a week long oil palm nursery training seminar for local government officials and entrepreneurial and motivated farmers. With 80,000+ palm farmers in Kigoma we are going to need a lot of high yielding seedlings. Seed Change can’t do this alone (we have enough seedlings for about 350 farmers this year) so we trained 30 people who might set up nurseries of their own.
We brought Mr Trusted Mwiinga – the plantation manager of ZamPalm, a $30+ million-dollar plantation in Zambia – up to run the training. Trusted’s company also works with smallholders in Zambia so while he is in charge of a very impressive set up (they have a huge centre pivot system – for all you irrigation nerds out there) he was able to also explain how some of the nursery processes can be done in a much more basic way. Often much more appropriate to the situation in Kigoma.
We had four days of training in the classroom working through topics such as nursery site selection, soil types, irrigation requirements, fertilising, weeding, mulching, culling – the whole nursery box and dice. Then it was off to the Seed Change nursery to get our hands dirty. The attendees enjoyed putting their new knowledge into action and pointing out a few ways Seed Change could improve. We were able to explain the few things we do differently to the textbook and why. The double act of Trusted’s extensive knowledge and our local – and very hard won – experience made for a useful few days. Hopefully in the next few years some of the attendees will have the opportunity to put all this learning into practice and set up small, professionally run nurseries that serve their communities. Just like Seed Change.