Building the Future: Youth agriculture and life skills development
The goal of this project is to equip 1,500 female and male youth with strengthened agricultural and life skills so they have the knowledge to critically assess relationships, understand the risks and resources present within their communities, and make informed decisions to ensure their long-term food security, health and general well-being.
Why this project is important
Bunda District is one of five Districts in the Mara Region, situated alongside Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania. As many as 68 per cent of Bunda District people live below the poverty line. More than 85 per cent of Bunda’s population of 258,930 (2002 census) are engaged in agricultural activities, livestock rearing and fishing. The reliance on subsistence farming and rain-fed agriculture for food and income often means young people must contribute time and labour to help with their families’ crops.
The HIV prevalence rate among those in the age group of 15-49 in Bunda District is 8.4 per cent, higher than the Tanzanian national average. Other issues of concern include the practice of polygamy, female genital mutilation and a high incidence rate of gender-based violence. Women work in the fields without payment, while yields are sold and income is controlled by men.
In the Bunda District, only 19 per cent of secondary school-aged children are enrolled in school. Many young boys drop out to pursue economic opportunities in the fishing industry to help support their families, while young girls drop out and enter into transactional relationships with migrant fishermen.
Reliance on subsistence farming and limited livelihood options in the area leave households in a perpetual state of risk, with few options and opportunities for change. As a consequence, children and youth across the Bunda District face a number of challenges that affect their health, well-being and general ability to thrive.
Project strategies and objectives
The JFFLS approach evolved from the success of Farmer Field Schools as a means to address the needs of vulnerable children who have few skills, jeopardizing their ability to secure a stable livelihood in the future. This approach acknowledges that children and youth require agricultural and livelihood skills along with life skills and education on proper nutrition so that they may grow into healthy, independent adults.
Over the course of three years, CPAR will establish 50 Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS), with 30 participants each (50 per cent female), at 50 rural primary schools across Bunda District, targeting 1,500 students from Standards 5 through 7 (children aged approximately 11 to 15 year old). Each JFFLS group will be led by two teachers and two students (a boy and a girl), who will be trained as peer JFFLS facilitators.
An equal number of girls and boys will participate as members of Junior Farmer Field School groups. They will receive hands-on agricultural and life skills training which can be applied to their daily lives. As a result, the students will be equipped with the skills to manage and grow crops beyond subsistence farming. The children will learn and practice all aspects of farming, including field preparation, sowing and transplanting, irrigation, and pest control. They will also learn about the use and processing of food crops, proper crop storage and will be taught marketing skills.
Preventing child labour is an important element of the JFFLS approach – this is achieved through an emphasis on child protection as a guiding principle and the promotion of decent work in agriculture for youth. Open community discussion and public education about child labour and how it relates to the health, safety and education of children will raise awareness and stimulate debate.
Both positive traditional and modern agricultural practices are covered in the curriculum. By employing creative methods that draw upon drama, songs, dances and other cultural methodologies, field activities will be clearly linked to important life skills. This will in turn help group members learn about using problem-solving approaches and decision-making skills in the field and in their social lives. JFFLS members will also be introduced to their basic human rights according to Tanzania’s policy and legislation.
By working with students to develop life skills, raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health, and build self-esteem and self-confidence, girls and boys alike will be equipped with the tools and information they need to make more informed decisions about their future.
To date, CPAR has:
- Empowered 1,500 girls and boys by providing a safe space where they learned about HIV-AID prevention and the dangers of early marriage, pregnancy, and female genital cutting.
- Increased crop yields for students, teachers, and their families through the provision of school farms, where students learned about improved farming practices.
- Improved school enrollment and attendance by instituting school lunch programs. Some schools have seen enrollment rates double and school attendance increase from 68% to 86%.
- Installed rainwater harvesting systems in five schools, giving over 2,500 of Bunda district’s most vulnerable children access to clean drinking water.
- Provided trainings to 100 teachers and 100 students on topics, such as nutrition and improved agricultural techniques. They are now considered resource persons within their schools and communities.
- Increased HIV-AIDS prevention. Prior to the project only 26% of the students were able to correctly identify modes of HIV transmission this has increased to 72%. Likewise, there has been an improvement in the identification of the modes of prevention from 63% to more than 80%.