‘Imarika’ is a Swahili word meaning ‘to be strengthened’ and is also an acronym for ‘imarisha mazingira, riziki, na kanisa’ – meaning to ‘strengthen environments, livelihoods and the church’.
The majority of people in rural Iringa are smallholder subsistence farming families who are trying to make a living from the land. However, once fertile soils are being depleted and eroded, resulting in decreasing crop yields and increased dependence on expensive farm inputs. Combined with the effects of deforestation and climate change, average household income and food security are increasingly uncertain. These smallholder farming families have few options for alternative sources of income generation, limited access to credit, and are not realizing the potential of the soil and natural resources that they do have, so they find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. There is a real need for subsistence farmers to develop alternative streams of income to supplement their farming income as well as improving the land that they farm to improve the sustainability and profitability of their farming activities.
The ‘imarika’ project has been designed to address some of these key issues through economic and environmental empowerment by mobilizing churches for community development. The project will work closely with churches to identify needs and resources in the community. Community action groups are formed through the process to engage each community through a variety of interventions, including conservation agriculture, afforestation, poultry, beekeeping, and fuel efficient stoves.
- Fuel efficient stoves: manufacturing portable clay stoves for sale to generate income while improving household health and reducing deforestation
- Afforestation: establish tree nurseries to sell tree seedlings to generate income and to plant trees in woodlots as long-term investments, while providing products and services for the community and helping to restore the land
- Conservation agriculture: composting, minimal tillage, mulching, and agroforestry technologies that will contribute to improved crop yields as soil conditions improve and erosion is minimized
- Poultry: diversify farm income, improve household nutrition, and provide farmers with manure for their crops
- Beekeeping: produce valuable honey and other products, while providing valuable pollination services for the environment and agriculture
Each of the group activities will contribute to improving the livelihoods of subsistence farming communities while improving the local environment. Each community group will form a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA/ VICOBA) to promote savings and provide access to credit to group members, which in turn will facilitate entrepreneurship and improved livelihoods. In addition, the project will equip churches and community groups with leadership and entrepreneurship skills, gender awareness, and environmental stewardship, which will strengthen churches and their communities. The sustainability of the project is ensured by partnering with local churches, using local resources, and helping people realize what they are able to accomplish on their own using local resources.