Tag Archives: Knowledge Sharing

Sourcebook Writeshop: Good articles come at a cost

Mobilising participants for the Uganda national writeshop on the sourcebook on Water Smart Agriculture was one of the most challenging experiences. I imagined disorder and confusion in the meeting room as accomplished authors, field level implementers and journalists interacted. I worried about the participants’ perception of added value from the process. Perhaps more terrifying, was the fact that facilitation fees for participants was a paltry sum for five working days! Would they stick it out or would they walk out on the process?Sourcebook

My fears soon dissipated as positive feedback trickled in from the participants who were enthusiastic to be a part of this noble cause. Even the intermittent wifi connectivity and humble hotel in Iganga, in eastern Uganda, did not dampen the mood.

Sixteen of the anticipated 18 participants turned up! On the first day, facilitators explained the purpose and process of the writeshop. Within two hours, everyone was on board and the ball had been set rolling, thanks to my colleague, Liz, for whom engaging people flows naturally. Dr. Onesmus Semalulu started the team off with the first presentation and for 10 minutes, you could have tried, unsuccessfully, to distract anyone. Everyone was attentive and focused on the presentation. The discussions thereafter were a storm! The rich diversity of perspectives was motivating, the openness of every one encouraging and, most importantly, the positive outlook of the writers to improve their pieces was not only humbling, but also rewarding. While I convinced myself that this was so because of day one, I was deceived, the team maintained their energy levels throughout; by the end of the second day we were begging them to break off for tea or food and this went on until the last day. Never before had I worked with a team so dedicated. It was a huge learning experience for me.

The power of the ‘second eye’ was so strong and well meaning. Each one of us will remember this lesson. Articles were transformed, field level experiences profiled to a level that anyone can relate with, scholarly work balanced and toned downSourcebook1 for the public’s consumption and finally the prize achieved, nine articles produced by the Uganda team. All said and done, each one of us went home different, with broadened perspectives, new friends and definitely better writing skills.
Some participants shared their thoughts on the process.

Eriah Byaruhanga, a staff from Joint Efforts to Save the Environment, said, “I’m impressed with the level of organisation and planning. I have learnt that organisations can produce better products using the writeshop approach. I will encourage my colleagues at office to adopt the approach when writing annual reports.”
Dr. Basil Mugonola, a lecturer at Gulu University noted, “This is a great opportunity for me; my paper was previously produced in a journal in Europe, now it is being repackaged for home consumption. I’m glad to have been part of this process.”

Juliet Katusiime, from Ecological Christian Organisation said, “It is very difficult to self critic; it is easier to see mistakes in other people’s work. This process has enabled me appreciate the importance of the ‘other eye’, I’m more analytical and it has been an experience worth the time.”

Henry Kaweesi said: “Good articles come at a cost; the other eye has been the most important lesson for me.”

Violet Alinda,
GWI EA, Uganda

Farmers Believe What They See

Technology can serve as a catalyst in agriculture, shifting farmers from subsistence to profit oriented production, and spurring dramatic quality of life improvement for the rural poor. New technologies can also help farmers contend with the mounting challenges to food security brought about by climate variability. The million dollar question is how to best get these new technologies to the farmers who need them.

A learning tour of Masaka and Rakai districts

The Global Water Initiative EA (GWI EA) in November 2013 organized a visit for its stakeholders from northern Uganda to Masaka and Rakai districts, in central and southern Uganda respectively, to expose them to water for agriculture technologies. One of the immediate objectives of the visit was to increase appreciation, understanding and inspire smallholder farmers to identify feasible and cost efficient water harvesting technologies to increase farm production.

Among the participants in the week-long study tour were champion framers, community based trainers, policy makers, technical staff at the district and sub county levels, and GWI EA partner staff from Otuke and Gulu districts.

A learning opportunity

This was a combination of theory and practice. After brief introductory presentations by the farm managers and owners, participants would be taken to the farms to see how technology can improve a farmer’s production.

The farmers learned how to harvest rainwater and manage run offs. They were taught how rain water harvesting facilities are built and maintained, as well as the economic and social benefits of rainwater harvesting.

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Otuke farmers learn about rainwater harvesting

At a climate resilience centre in Masaka, hosted by Mr and Mrs Dhaki; the farmers learnt that it was possible to harvest run off and rainwater without external support. They were taught how to use the treadle pump and the importance of group marketing as demonstrated to the participants by the “Akamira Eyiye Tagiseera Mata” group where all the 27 members had planted Nakatti, a green leafy vegetable, and each member had two days to supply to their local market.

At Josephine Kizza’s family farm project, farmers learnt the importance of intensive land use for optimum land productivity. They learnt that for higher yields, a farmer did not need to open huge chunks of land but could work on two acres and earn sufficient income and be food secure. It is at this farm that they were introduced to the farmers’ motto: “Know what to grow, grow what you know and be known for what you grow.’’

After interacting and seeing what their fellow farmers were doing, the northern Uganda farmers, most of them from Otuke district, were inspired to harvest and use water to increase farm production. By February 2014, 10 out of the 13 farmers who had been on the trip had dug pits to harvest runoff water.

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Ojur John, Champion Farmer, Otuke

One of the farmers, John Ojur, was inspired by the Friesian cows he saw on Josephine Kizza’s farm and has procured for himself one heifer which has now calved and he is getting milk.

The Masaka and Rakai experience opened many participants’ eyes not only to water harvesting technologies but also to farm management skills including book keeping.

“We are delighted with the experience we have had in Masaka and Rakai,” said Ojur John, a Champion Farmer in Olilim sub county. “We will go home and turn around our farming systems. We have a lot to do, a long way to go, but we will get there.”

When I visited some of these farmers recently, I found they were still excited about their Masaka and Rakai visit. They were full of ideas of what their farms would look like in the coming two years. Indeed, farmers believe what they see!

Miriam Imalingat

GWI EA East Africa, Uganda