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Syntropic farming: FAO and IIAM train farmers and extension workers in the model of agricultural production that aims to mitigate the effects of climate change

FAO and IIAM trained approximately 40 extension workers in Tete

18 January 2019, Tsangano (Tete) – Ntengo-Wa-Mbalame means, in Chewa dialect, "bird tree". Legend has it that in past times, when this locality was still covered by trees, many migratory birds came here to procreate.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Mozambique's Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM) last week jointly organized a training in syntropic farming in Ntengo-Wa-Mbalame, Tsangano District, Tete Province, which, in a symbolic way, had that same objective: to enable and sensitize approximately 40 extension workers and farmers from Farmer Field Schools (FFSs) from the districts of Tsangano, Angónia, and Macanga about the importance of caring for natural resources and recovering degraded areas for the production of both nutritious food and plant biomass, using successional agroforestry systems.

"Through syntropic farming, we aim to combine different species for mutual benefit", the FAO soil and water specialist Laurinda Nobela explains: "within the same row we plant food crops, forest species with multiple uses – some to recover soil fertility and to reduce erosion, others to provide firewood. Finally, we add forage species for cattle feed and" Nobela goes on, "others with economic value to help families generate income."

Syntropic farming is precisely this: the integration of food crops in the natural conservation of forests and the production of biomass for soil cover. This model aims to establish highly productive areas on once degraded land, by offering ecosystem services such as soil formation, micro climate regulation, and the promotion of the hydrological cycle.

"There is a need to mainstream this knowledge among the communities", Ivete Maluleque, from IIAM, says. "It is important that farmers do understand what species they can combine on their farms."

According to the supervisor of the extension services at the District Service for Economic Activities (SDAE) in Tsangano, Joaquim António Mouzinho, this is "a challenge in terms of acceptance: the farmers are curious and will eventually see benefits coming from this production model: they will not need any more fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals, which they overuse out of habit, sometimes even without respecting the withdrawal period."

By using repellent species, the farmers will be able to reduce the use of chemical products, which in economic terms seems to attract many producers, enthusiastic Katambala FFS facilitator Frank Ezequiel Ancuangua explains: "we did not know that we could produce fertilizer out of manure, for instance. Now we can save money by producing our own compost".

Focusing on processes instead of inputs, syntropic farming is one of the models used to promote the natural soil nutrient recycling through carbon sequestration, mitigating the effects of climate change. Tete, where phenomena like water erosion, emergence of ravines, temperature increase, and irregularity of the rainfall pattern have been observed, is one of four provinces (being the other three Manica, Sofala, and Gaza) where FAO has promoted climate change mitigation measures through its project "Strengthening Capacities of Agricultural producers to cope with Climate Change for increased Food Security through the Farmers Field School approach", by introducing sustainable technologies for agricultural production towards achieving zero hunger by 2030. "With this FAO project", extension services supervisor Mouzinho says, "we hope to see the birds back to our trees in Ntengo-Wa-Mbalame".