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.
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.
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!
GWI EA East Africa, Uganda