The Farmers Club Renewable Energy project in Oio is an example of how to use modern technology to improve rural farmer’s life and keep people from the rural areas producing and living in their communities avoiding migration to the urban areas.
The project’s key energy activity are 36 solar powered water systems (pumps and tank) for irrigation and seven small centres with Jatropha processing equipment and small processing equipment (maize mills and rice husker, among others) that will run on Jatropha oil fuel generators.
It works in 24 villages with 2.600 farmers where has established 51 solar lighting systems for social institutions (schools, mosques and clinics) that had included the construction of 24 small village buildings equipped with solar light that had allowed people to attend literacy lessons, pre-school classes, charge mobile phones and watch TV and films to increase their knowledge and for entertainment.
In the 24 villages in Bissora sector, there are 52 farmers’ clubs that the project is working with and each of the clubs is organized in groups of 50 members and further subdivided into core groups of 10 farmers each, where the step-up farmers are leading the core groups. Accordingly, in each club there are 5 core groups and 5 step-up farmers. In total the project is reaching out 14.274 farmers in 24 villages.
The Farmers’ Club Project is working in 3 main areas of operational activity; a) Farming, b) Processing and Commercialization and c) Community or Social Activities. Project Leaders have worked hand in hand with the farmers in their daily challenges and is giving the necessary guidance. Now, being in the 5th year of the project, the clubs implement most activities themselves and the main task of the Project Leadership is now to secure the sustainability of the project.
Overview of Activities
A. Farming Activities
Farming activities are divided according to 3 main agricultural periods of the farming calendar of Guinea-Bissau:
a. Garden farming period - starts in November and ends in February
The main activities in this period are horticulture lessons about making nurseries, plant caring, crop rotation, compost and manure, mulching, family budgeting, cultivation, etc.; lessons about seed selection and product commercialization; maintenance of fences and wells; construction of fire-wood saving stoves; and organizing actions and events including practical activities.
b. Preparation and planting period - starts in March and ends in June
During this period the main activities are to prepare the land and to start planting. Lessons are being taught about land preparation, production of compost, selection and sowing of seeds, etc. In addition some farmers are applying the rice intensification system (SRI), which enables them to increase their production.
c. Crop management period - starts in July and ends in October
During this period the farmers and project leaders carry out different activities related to crop management, storage, marketing and commercialization. During this period lessons and actions are taking place around weeding and banking, pest control, transplanting of rice to SRI, land cultivation with less tillage, soil erosion and tree planting.
B. COMMERCIAL ACTIVITIES
While looking to reduce the discrimination of women, the project is working on 7 processing centers and on community shops. The construction of the community processing centers was done in November 2013 and in April 2014.
Activities taking place at the centers are: processing of rice, maize, sorghum, millet and other products in the communities; operation of the community shop where the products of the farmers are sold; packaging of the products processed in the centre (such as maize flour, rice, groundnuts, peanut butter); production of natural juice from different fruits, such as baobab, onjo, tamarind and selling it in the market of Bissorã.
In addition to that, different activities have been carried out in order to give services to the farmers, such as: cleaning actions in the centers, seeds sales, production and selling of yoghurt, training in budgeting and cash flow systems, production and sale of soap.
C. COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES
The 24 community centres, which started their operation in 2013, continue to serve the community members with different activities. The electricity in the centres is powered by solar energy through installed equipment and that facilitates different community activities carried out in the centres (such as adult literacy courses, preschool education activities, cultural events, meetings and film presentations). Solar energy equipment has been installed in other structures as well: 11 schools, 7 community health centres and 9 mosques.
Other community activities include cleaning actions, sensitization campaigns on the use of pit latrines, the environment and how to protect it, individual and common hygiene, lessons about diseases and how to prevent them, etc.