We are excited to be heading off to work and explore the work of  Village’s of Hope Africa’s (VOH) School for children and farms in the Mwanza region of Tanzania from March 2nd to March 16th.  Villages of Hope Africa is a Canadian charitable organization  providing hope for children throughout six African countries.  VOH works to enhance the care of underprivileged children and orphans in distressful circumstances.  In order to maximize  its  potential VOH acquired four farms in the Mwanza region to provide food to its school and to try and raise revenue to help cover operating costs.  There is clearly considerable value in any work that could help VOH understand and increase the efficiency and productivity of their farm.  This will be the main objective of our time in Mwanza.

In terms of UFV East Africa’s mandate to facilitate greater knowledge around food systems and food security, the VOH partnership also offers vast potential.   The Mwanza region represents a microcosm of the challenges facing many agricultural regions in East Africa.  Understanding the dynamics of VOH farms can provide valuable insight as a case study into the challenges, opportunities, success and failures of  small farms in East Africa.  The inherent value of VOH’s work and the value of the case study it can provide led UFV to partner with VOH.  In 2013 Alison Thorpe, a UFV student,  worked  on the VOH farm land.  Thorpe looked to assess the potential of the farmland, to help develop a strategy to address the self-sustainability and revenue generation goals of VOH.  Thorpe then used Geographic Information System (GIS) to map the farm area and compiled an extensive list of recommendations, based on background research, to improve the output and profitability of the farm.

Thorpe produced a solid report and it should be considered a valuable source of information for VOH, while it also services as a strong case study of how to potentially increase the output of small-scale farms in the region.  Despite the value of Alison’s work, time limitations prohibited her from fully exploring all of the areas that VOH could take to increase the efficiency of production, profitability and the quality of agriculture from its farm.  It must also be recognized that two years have passed since Thorpe’s internship.  In this time period, any number of factors may have developed which could leave Thorpe’s recommendations outdated or in need of adjustment.

In recognition of this reality that myself and fellow UFV East Africa interns Aneesha Dhillon, Sydney Raison and Jeremy Wagner will return to VOH farms and School to reassess the development of the farm, its success and failures and which of Thorpe’s recommendation were implemented and which were not and why.  We look forward to learning from VOH’s director Julius and his farm workers who have first-hand knowledge of the dynamics of working on the farms.  During our time with VOH, we will also be privileged to explore the workings of its children’s school in Mwanza and the Schools links to the farms.

There is no doubt the staff at VOH will be able to provide vast knowledge around small-scale food production in East Africa. For our part, we hope to provide  value to VOH  by conducting substantial background research into small-scale food production in East Africa, market challenges, the success of similar organizations and any other relevant information. The end goal will be to use the information we gather from background research and from VOH’s staff, to develop a profitability report and  recommendations on how the VOH’s Mwanza farms can grow to scale. A report which will ultimately serve as a case study to complement Alison Thorpe’s earlier case study.

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