Understanding farmer innovation
In Northern Ethiopia, innovative farmers reclaimed farmland from a river by building walls in the river bed and diverting the water flow.
In South Africa, seven farmers revived and modified the traditional practice of “ilimo,” working together on the field. They opened a joint bank account, bought farm inputs in bulk, planted a large field together, and now live wholly on the income from their crops and animals.
By experimenting, a Ugandan woman farmer developed new uses for tephrosia, a plant which had been used to control erosion. She now uses tephrosia to manage grain pests and to control parasites on pigs and goats.
A farmer from Guinea invented a method to reduce the time required to thin millet, normally a labour-intensive task. When millet bran is added to the millet seeds before sowing, fewer millet plants germinate, reducing the labour required for thinning. This innovation became more widely known as a result of an Africa Rice Centre-led project in which prizes were given to top agricultural innovations in five West African countries, and radio scripts were developed from the winning innovations.
A woman from South Africa used an empty jar and table salt to develop an innovative way to make sure that the moisture level in seeds was appropriate for storage or packaging. Her innovation and others were recorded by an extension officer and a NGO staff member, then published in a catalogue of farmer innovations, as part of a South African collaboration between researchers, extension staff and NGOs called Prolinnova.
In Ethiopia women mix sorghum seed with ash and store it in airtight calabash containers. This prevents weevils from destroying the seed.