Learning the intricacies of organic farming

June 28, 2014
by 
Jennifer Lagassé and Kira Paisley, youth members of Development and Peace

A group of Development and Peace youth members from across Canada are in Zambia on a youth solidarity trip to learn more about the work of Development and Peace and its partners.

Today, we visited the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) on the outskirts of Lusaka. KATC receives support from the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), a partner organization of Development and Peace that is hosting our visit in Zambia.

The KATC, which was founded in 1971 by Canadian Jesuit Paul Desmarais, works to empower rural communities to adopt holistic agricultural practices through training, research, better access to markets, lobbying and advocacy, and appropriate technologies in sustainable organic farming. The first part of our day consisted of receiving a rundown of KATC’s mandate and farmer training programs by Brother Paul, deputy director Henrietta Kalinda, and two field specialists.

Following this session, we had the opportunity to discover the intricate functioning of organic agricultural systems. We were greatly inspired by the beauty of many cultivated plants growing symbiotically together. This practice (called intercropping) takes advantage of the properties specific to certain plant species to create a pest and weed resistant harvest that is free of chemical inputs like pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

While visiting the fields, we spoke to farmer trainees who explained how farming without expensive chemical inputs allows them to make the most of the local environment and achieve food sovereignty. This day made us reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of our own conventional agricultural practices in Canada and how they could be improved. We left feeling inspired and hopeful!

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