This project aims to enhance and improve the production conditions and commercialization of agricultural products on the island of Mohéli. It involves (a) topographic, soil and water surveys; (b) irrigation infrastructure and training; and (c) vegetable production. A pilot farm school has been set up, which serves as a learning centre for demonstrating commercial farming practices to local farmers. Moreover, this project promotes the sharing of South-South knowledge and skills regarding agricultural extension services between the South African Agricultural Research Council and the Government of the Comoros in collaboration with UNDP Comoros. The project is aiming to partner with 1,140 farmers from eight villages on Mohéli, 50% of whom are women and 10% are youths. Soil and water surveys, training and demonstrations also take place on the islands of Ngazidja and Anjouan.
The project faced challenges in motivating farmers to adopt improved organic farming methods. A strong awareness-raising campaign with clear messaging to educate farmers on the usefulness of non-chemical agricultural inputs, the possibility of cultivating crops throughout the year with improved infrastructure and the usefulness of improving soil quality would help to change farmers’ behaviour in adopting improved agricultural practices.
Climate change is impacting significantly the agricultural sector across the small island developing States (SIDS) including the Comoros. Quality weather data and forecasts and their timely dissemination to farmers are crucial for agricultural decision-making. Crop calendars need to be updated based on reliable weather information.
The project is building capacity through the partnership between the South African Research Council and the Comorian Research Institute. This enables resulting content and expertise to remain in the Comoros after project completion, especially in developing the formal structure for the marketing and control of produce and for food safety control.
The selection of the irrigation systems was a consultative engagement (farmers and CRDE staff) that sought to identify prior knowledge of irrigation systems and willingness to save water. The designed systems are made up of accessible, easy-to-use and easy-to-maintain components.
Capacity-building has been at the centre of ensuring that the project is sustainable. The training of farmers is the vehicle that aims at ensuring the sustainable operation and maintenance of the equipment and infrastructure. However, the support to the farmers is needed for a longer period and CRDE involvement is crucial.
- Improved agricultural demonstration practice developed on Mohéli island for dissemination to neighbouring islands. This has been one of the first projects to popularize the use of locally made Neem biopesticide in the Comoros.
- In-field irrigation system installed, which contributes to the increase of agricultural productivity all year round, with construction of an approx. 30 m weir over the river and the pump station with a 1.2 km main pipeline; a 480 m3 water storage reservoir with 1.5 km of electrification; and over 11 hectares of drip and sprinkler irrigation and other water supply systems.
- 20 composting units established in Mibani that produce an average of 450 kg of compost per unit.
- Through South-South cooperation with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) in capacity-building and technology transfer, the Rural Centre for Economic Development (CRDE) in Mibani is now enabled to participate in the global economy through improved crop production, and access to on-site training and research facilities.
- Six Comorian experts received training from ARC in South Africa on post-harvest/agro-processing techniques, pests and disease management; and three Comorian experts were trained by the South African Irrigation Institute (SABI) on irrigation systems and design.