Dorothy Kaunda was already struggling as a farmer in rural Zambia when she took in her nine orphaned grandchildren. With these new mouths to feed, her workload became even greater.
Unfortunately, the soil quality of her land was very poor, making it hard to grow enough crops. Tilling, planting, weeding, and harvesting by hand was more than she could manage on her own, which meant that her grandchildren often had to miss school for months at a time to help her in the fields.
Kaunda was committed to growing more food so that these children could develop in a healthy way and get a good education. But how could she do it?
Through World Renew, Kaunda was introduced to a tool that changed everything: a Magoye ripper.
A ripper is an ox-drawn tool that does minimum tillage, allowing more of the nutrient-rich topsoil to remain and preserving moisture and organic material.
The ripper digs a deep groove in the land instead of turning the soil as a traditional plough does. The crop can then be planted in this groove, which also catches water. Since the ripper is much less labor-intensive than a plough, it allows a much larger acreage to be planted in a shorter amount of time.
Introducing rippers is one of the ways World Renew has been working with the Presbyterian Church of Central Africa (CCAP) to combat a hunger crisis in rural Zambia.
Over the last 30 years, soil fertility in Southern and Central Africa has declined drastically as people have mined the nitrogen and nutrients out of the soil in pursuit of crop yields that could meet the needs of growing populations.
To combat this, World Renew and CCAP are introducing conservation agriculture techniques.
“Conservation agriculture allows the land to regenerate while being cropped at the same time,” explained World Renew Zambia staff member Ruairidh Waddell. “The use of minimum tillage helps to retain moisture and organic material in the soil. This is where the Magoye ripper comes in.”
Conservation agriculture also encourages the use of appropriate, affordable, and locally available fertilizers and herbicides, and the planting of diverse crops.
Kaunda joined the program two years ago and has been implementing her new skills. While she couldn’t afford to buy a ripper herself, she rented one from a neighbor and was able to cultivate her fields in two days instead of spending a month doing back-breaking labor with a hoe.
By decreasing the amount of time needed in the field, the ripper made it possible for Kaunda’s grandchildren to stay in school and build up their education for the future. It has also multiplied their harvest. This year, despite lower-than-average rainfall, the family has doubled their harvest compared to the previous year.
The ripper is a tool that not only cultivates the earth but also helps grow hope in people who thought hunger was the only option for them.