Community leaders are the change makers… not us..

In Jafet, the Mziza farming club have a leader who motivates by example. Whenever a club member is disheartened and says, “I cannot do this!”, Jafet is there to say “Yes you can! I have done it and I will help you!”

Other leaders in the agriculture sector face the challenge of being seen as part of an out-group that cannot understand the farming processes of the village. University students, government extension workers, NGOs, commercial farmers, and, perhaps most of all, whites, cannot effectively motivate farmers because they lack the common ground of poverty, subsistence farming, village life, and cultural background. So what do all these well-meaning leaders do? One successful technique is to motivate slow change through identifying and promoting positive deviance.
Positive deviance is a deviation from group norms that results in positive outcomes. For example, in a local culture that promotes marriage for girls 14 years of age, a girl whose family encouraged her to complete school before marriage might have a more sanitary home and provide healthier food to her own children. This is positive deviance. It is the seed of change in the community that only needs to grow; that is, it’s not planted from outside. Because the deviant practice was already present in the community, it can be passed on without the resistance faced by alien practices.

So here’s Jafet, a noted farmer who has adopted a new method of irrigation. But it was not this new method alone that has given him success: he completed all 12 years of school, he keeps records and saves money, and he maintains a strict working schedule. He would be a successful farmer with almost any method. Of course, the better the method, the better he will do, but as I noted in a previous post, he’s going to take his opportunities and run them out to their potential no matter what.

Jafet is in the process of constructing a house for his oldest son, one of the surest signs of wealth in this culture. Oh yeah, and he’s renovating his own house by adding a new kitchen and sheet metal roof. By the time his sons house is ready, he hopes to be able to afford metal sheets for that roof as well.
In September, Jafet told us that he had sold MK96,000 ($350) in vegetables in 2011, and expected to make MK150,000 ($475) to MK200,000 ($700) in 2012, on irrigation farming only. He also has an income from rainy season crops. And these two income sources have a synergizing effect, as each provides capital to improve the other. And the monetary value of the crops doesn’t account for the nutritional benefits to his household. And he teaches other farmers to do the same. And.. And… And…. Can you tell we are proud of amazed by Jafet?
He’s not the only one: Mr. Storo grew maize and was able to send one of his daughters to secondary school for the first time in 3 years. Mr. Matenga was able to buy a brand-new bicycle (think: promotion = buy a sports car, only a bicycle is far more useful). While their success may not be as flashy, dozens of others have achieved food security following last years minor drought and light harvest. 
Farmers are still planting on irrigation in advance of the rains. This crop will finish under rains in January. Another crop will be started with the rain and finished with pump irrigation.

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