Our daily lives are quite used to scientific innovations that we trust and use--mobile phone, radio, television, electricity, and even the car or motorcycle.
When a man-made device such as a mobile phone is used to communicate news of the death of a close relative, the entire homestead "goes wild". People begin wailing and making preparations for a burial without casting any doubt about the efficacy of the small handset by which the news was announced.
However, even in villages, where images and sounds travel through the air to a TV set in a living room, the farmers still has doubts about cloned coffee plantlets or tissue culture plantlets as preferable planting material for higher yields.
Many farmers feel safe driving a car, which is a scientific innovation but they shun biotechnology products, forgetting that they too are a result of scientific innovations like mobile phones and cars.
Scientists take time carrying out plant propagation. They make careful selection of certain varieties with desirable characteristics and manipulate their genetic make-up to build a good range of crop species.
These are aimed to be high yielding or disease resistant or to have strong growth vigour. They have evolved new crop varieties with economically desirable characteristics. This is technology that most of our farmers have failed to trust.
Through tissue culture, it is possible to produce thousands of clean, disease-free, plantlets of crops such as bananas, coffee, cassava and several other crops from the leaves of healthy parent crops.
Scientists also develop plants by vegetative propagation and come up with identical copies of the parent plant that has desirable characteristics. Such plants are referred to as clones. Cloned Robusta coffee plantlets sold at recognised coffee nurseries are a very good example of this.
Unfortunately, most of our farmers are still reluctant to accept planting materials that have been developed by scientists. They still prefer to use planting material obtained from previous harvests or to develop their own seedlings using traditional, backward methods. They do not trust modern agricultural scientific innovations and so agricultural production remains low.
Many farmers lose a lot of produce due to poor post-harvest handling among other reasons including lack of information, equipment, drying and storage facilities.
Quality is lost as many dry cereals on bare ground thus picking dust, stones and animal droppings. This is because most cereal producers are rural smallholder farmers.
However, interventions to improve post-harvest handling are taking shape with Sasakawa Global 2000, Ruhiira Millenium Villages Project (RMVP), Nuuma Feeds and other partners.
The results are promising as production of cereals is being promoted, not only post-harvest but value addition as well.
Dennis Musiime, 47, from Masha Sub-county, Isingiro District, is a beneficiary. He attests that before he got trained in good agricultural practices, his production was very low.
"I would plant two acres of maize and beans but have poor yields and some of it would go bad. At times by harvest, they would have gone bad in the field. Also, I would dry them on the bare ground," he says.
Together with other farmers, they formed a cooperative society, Manya Akabi Area Cooperative Enterprise (Maace). It brings together 8,146 members in the district; most of whom are women. Musiime was elected chairperson of his village.
He has six acres under maize and has already harvested 2.2 tonnes of beans. "The beans earned me Shs2.2m and I expect to harvest 800 kg of maize, which will fetch me Shs3. 2m," he says.
This has largely been possible because farmers like him have been empowered to grow for both food security and income generation.
"We have been taught to produce for the market through improved seeds, early planting techniques and fertilisers," he says. "I used fertilisers and expect to use more."
Molly Mbabazi, another farmer, is happy too. This season, she harvested two tonnes of beans and expects 200 kg of maize, which will bring in a total of Shs2.8m.
She attributes it to being a member of Maace, which has empowered women for better livelihoods .
"I do not depend on my husband. Each season, I earn good money. This has brought harmony in our family," she says.
Clare Kabakyenga, general manager, Maace, points out that the cooperative has helped farmers with bulk sales, good agronomic practices, clean seed and storage equipment. It has done this in partnership with RMVP on a cost-sharing basis.
"We have established 57 bulk centres, given farmers moisture meters, set up storage silos," she says.
From bulking centres, the maize is brought to a central store in Kaberebere Town; it has a capacity to hold 850 tonnes. It is cleaned, graded and then packed into bags according to the market. They vary from 100-kilo bags to 90, 80, 60 and 50 kilos.
The clients include schools and traders and it is even sold in DR Congo, Sudan, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda.
There are plans to procure machinery to process the maize into finished products, which will boost the income of farmers.
James Sendikadiwa, agriculture coordinator, RMVP, affirms there has been a significant improvement in the lives of the beneficiaries. "Farmers have been able to reduce aflatoxins, which are very dangerous to human and animals since farmers have silos and bags for proper storage."
Another factor is availability of machines which ensures faster harvesting and processing.
Musiime says due to the shortage of labour during harvest season, he bought a maize sheller. It can shell 60 bags of maize per hour. For each bag, he charges Shs 3,000.
This has enabled his group to ensure timely shelling thus guaranteeing quality.
James Murangira, theme coordinator, Sasakawa Global 2000, adds that farmers have improved production tremendously through the introduction of machinery for post-harvest handling.
Farmers have moved beyond production because after harvest, they can dictate prices since they have storage facilities, which allow them to keep their produce until the market is favourable to them.
From Daily Monitor
Government has been challenged to prioritise support towards building agribusiness incubation centres, if productivity is to be boosted along the value chain.
Agribusiness incubation is meant for supporting innovative ideas into practical business realities, yet these are still very expensive for young entrepreneurs.
Although government through the Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) has come out to help innovative Ugandans through incubation, experts say more is needed countrywide to nurture the innovations.
"Support towards agribusiness incubation will make agriculture more profitable and attractive to the youth towards taking varied responsibilities along different nodes of the agriculture value chains," said Joseph Nkandu, executive director, National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe).
He is also founder of the Consortium for Enhancing University of Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (Curad).
He was happy to note that the beneficiaries under Curad have made products, which have become competitive on the market and striving to satisfy the demand.
"This is the typical success story on which government should ride to promote incubation across the country," said Nkandu while touring the Curad Agribusiness Incubator last week.
The facility is hosted at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo.
It works in partnership with National Agricultural Research Organisation, Nucafe, and Makerere University to impart practical skills to students, graduates, among others, as a way of encouraging development of agricultural value chains. Through this arrangement, incubatees get both financial and technology support to turn their agribusiness innovations and ideas into tangible and profitable commercial ventures.
Double the number
Apollo Segawa, managing director, Curad, said in the last four years the facility has been in existence, there have been more than 200 incubatees.
Curad is set to double the number of incubatees when their Sh350m agro-processing facility is established at the Kampala Industrial Development Park in Namanve.
Some of the innovations supported and developed under Curad include: Tissue culture propagation, mushroom production, coffee liqueur, coffee roasting and fruit juice making.
From Daily Monitor
After registering good harvests, many farmers are faced with a dilemma of storing their yields safely as all cannot be consumed or purchased at the same time.
Due to lack of enough stores and storage facilities, some farmers are seen storing their produce such as maize, beans, cowpeas among others in bags, sheds and under their beds, which are not ideal places to keep the produce safe from pests and other contaminations.
Normally after a harvest, supplies peak and prices are low. This is the worst time for any famer to sell their produce, but many have little choice. Sell for less or lose everything becomes the farmer's slogan.
Faced with such challenges, many farmers do not want to risk storing their produce. Instead, they sell them at harvest time when the prices are very low.
For fear of pests, some farmers use pesticides, which some health experts, say are harmful to people's lives and can cause diseases.
But with Purdue Improved Crop Storage (Pics) bags, farmers will no longer suffer with their harvests as the method provides cheap and easy storage technology.
According to Edward Ssekindu, financial services specialist, Clusa Uganda, which introduced Pics bags in the country, the triple layer bag protects harvests, especially grains from infections and losses during storage.
He says the innovation was done in 2007 by researchers at Purdue University, US, who teamed up with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The researchers found out that grains stored in airtight containers prevent the development of weevil larvae that feed on the dried grains, preserving the crop for more than a year.
Ssekindu says, before Pics bags also known as farmer's silo were introduced in Uganda in February 2014, a testing was done in West African countries such as Burkina Faso and Nigeria. They were found to be effective when it comes to storing harvests.
"According to tests which were done in West Africa, it was discovered that this kind of storage can be used to keep cowpeas, beans, maize, millet and other grains for a period of about a year or more safely and effectively," he says.
The bags were introduced via a pilot scheme in Kiryandongo, Apac and Dokolo.
During the first demonstration, the farmers were taught how to use the bags and later asked to store a crop of their choice for at least four months.
After which they open them at a gathering so that their fellow farmers can witness how the bags can be effective at addressing the problem of storage insect pests.
"The farmers opened their bags from July to September and found out that the crops were safe and not contaminated thus proving this method to be very useful," Ssekindu adds.
Anthony Mugisha, a farmer from Kiryandongo, who participated in the first demonstration. He stored maize for five months without using chemicals.
He believes using Pics bags to store crops will help farmers to improve their income as it will give them the power to determine when to sell their harvests.
"Due to lack of good stores and enough money to buy chemicals during the time of harvesting, we have been selling our crops cheaply to consumers and other dealers for fear of incurring losses, but this innovation will help us to keep our crops and be able to sell them at our convenient time," Mugisha says.
"Once you follow the recommended procedures, a farmer will be able to store his or her crops safely without using chemicals for a long period of time," Ssenkindu adds.
Pics bags provides an affordable and flexible storage option to farmers, especially those without money to buy chemicals or those who do not want to apply chemicals in their produces.
Aloysius Byamugisha, a farmer from Dokolo says, the new storage technology ensures food security, especially to the farming households since farmers can use them to keep dried food over long periods of time rather than selling off their harvests cheaply in fear of pest damage and buying back the same from traders at times of scarcity at higher prices.
"Immediately after harvest, prices are very low hence farmers can keep grains for three to four months and sell at better prices without fear of quality deterioration," he says.
This type of storing crops provides a safe way to store grains as compared to the dangerous chemicals that are normally used by the farmers and traders to prevent insect pest attacks.
"Some countries and international organisations who buy our crops such as maize, beans and other grains have on different occasions threatened to reduce on the price of crops stored using chemicals than those which are chemical free," Byamugisha adds.
Selling chemical-free crops, especially abroad, will enable Uganda crops to compete favourably with those from other countries such as Kenya who are using this method of storing crops.
Pics bags can also be adopted by schools, prisons and other institutions that purchase produce in plenty. The bags are currently being sold at Shs7,000 and can be used for a period of about four years. Each can store a quantity of up to 100 kilogrammes.
How the pics bag works
The bag is made of two liners high density polyethylene which is impermeable and one layer of double woven propylene sac.
Pics bags are airtight storage bags where the two polyethylene liners if properly sealed, cut off air supply from the outside, the oxygen inside the bag is used during metabolism and carbon dioxide released accumulates inside the bag.
"Before storing crops, one should ensure that the yields are very dry and clean. Remove all the debris from the harvests. Drying before storage may help to reduce the initial rate of infestation," advises Hosea Jemba, communications consultant, Clusa.
After preparing the harvests, the farmer should take the three pics bags apart and check the two inner bags for holes and tears.
Pour a small amount of crops into the inner bag. This will help to easily insert the first bag into the second.
Insert the first polyethylene bag into the second bag and make sure that there are no air pockets at the bottom.
Insert the two polyethylene bags into the woven polyethylene bag, fold over the top of the woven polyethylene bag and do the same with the second bag as well.
Fill the inner bag with more crops and shake gently to reduce the pockets of air and make sure that there is no grain gets between the bags.
Fill the bag far enough so that a lip remains for tying and pack the grain tightly to remove air.
From Daily Monitor
My name is Georwell Emanu, a full-time fish farmer based in Tororo and Busia districts. Last December, my business proposal won the Shs50m grand prize in the Kickstart Youth Entreprenuership competition, which was organised by Nile Breweries in partnership with NTV and Enterprise Uganda.
I have five years of experience in fish farming now. I have been at it since 2010. However, the story goes back to 2007 when I came back from Egypt, where I acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture from Cairo University. I was searching on how I could go about putting into practice what I had studied.
What I found was a disheartening picture. I found that fish farmers did not have sufficient knowledge and that the cost of doing fish farming was very high.
Getting fingerlings (stock of tiny young fish) as well as fish feed was very hard. Only the fisheries research institute in Kajjansi had fingerlings and feed on the market, and it imported both, which made the cost very high.
At the time, I wanted to start fish farming but I did not have the funds. Having seen how relying on imported fingerlings and feed was expensive, I resolved to only buy the initial stock and use it to produce my own fingerlings thereafter. This is unlike other farmers who bought a new stock of fingerlings every season.
I also resolved that I would make my own feed. That is how I decided to start by offering consultancy services to those already in the business. I had the knowledge because I had studied the field, unlike most of the ones in the business then. A number of them began consulting me on things like feeding of their fish, treating them, hatching them and the like.
I was now earning from consultancy services. But at that time, I enrolled for a degree in medicine at Makerere University, which meant I had less time to continue with the consultancy.
It was in 2010 when I finally started fish farming on my own. I acquired good quality breed stock from Dominion International [located in Kisumu, Kenya]. It is one of the world’s best companies in all things related to fish farming.
While looking for a place to set up a hatchery, I had realised that the public swimming pool of Tororo Town Council lay abandoned. I approached the authorities and presented them my plan to turn it into a hatchery and to use the nearby ponds to rear my fish. They agreed to hire me the place at Shs15,000 per year.
It has been a long learning curve, but now I am getting to a level where I will considerably benefit from the venture. In the first years, I did not realise much from it because there was a lot I was learning. Also, I would reinvest the proceeds in the business. This was until the last two years when I have realised considerable profits; part of which I have used put to meet personal needs like building a home.
Now, I believe I have entered a phase of seeing our business grow, especially with this Kickstart competition prize money, which is going to help me operate on a scale I could hardly afford on my own.
Like I have said, I began with ponds next to the defunct swimming pool. From the hatchery I would transfer the young fish to ponds to grow. But as time passed I saw why I needed to shift to lake-based cages.
Two years ago, in late 2012, I shifted totally to cages, which I established at Majanji Landing site in Busia District. I use the ponds only as an intermediary for young fish that have left the hatchery and on their way to the cages.
I settled for lake-based cages as the system I would use because it requires less labour, takes less money and the technology is easily replicable and adaptable.
On the financial side, I will give you an example of what Shs5m used on a cage can do compared to putting the same amount into ponds or tanks.
You can raise a cage of 1,025 cubic metres, which will accommodate 5,000 fish, yielding 105,050 kilos (5,000 is putting it on the lower side). Using the same Shs5m for a pond, it will give you a pond of 600 cubic metres, which will hold about 1,800 fish. If you devote the Shs5m to tanks, it will give you three tanks of the type that can hold 900 fish each, giving you a total of 2,700 fish.
Besides enabling you to rear comparatively more fish, the quality of yield from the lake-based cages is also better. The fish are heavier, they grow healthier and faster in cages, among other things. This is because the fresh water of the lake is a natural habitat for the fish, providing good quality abundant water all the time.
To further minimise costs, you also have to learn to make your own cages. A cage that would be Shs5m when already made costs me Shs2m-Shs3m to make because I have figured out how to minimise costs by making my own cages.
I can comfortably make cages from bamboo, eucalyptus poles and even metal. Currently, I use both bamboo and metal.
Value of partnership
From the beginning I resolved that I would hatch the fish myself because buying fingerlings every season is costly.
Today, by hatching my own fingerlings, I save Shs1.5m for every 10,000 that goes into a 5x5 cage. One of the reasons the business has proved difficult for farmers is that fingerlings cost alot. And, sometimes they fail to get the right quality, but you guard against all that if you do it yourself.
Besides, the hatchery housed in the former swimming pool, I have opened another hatchery in Kapangala, which is near Tororo Town.
This one is a year old now, and I use it to hatch only the males because they grow faster and at maturity they are bigger than the females. Since the males do not reproduce, they dedicate all their energies to growth.
From the start I did not do it alone, because I believe that partnering can help raise funds, share ideas and knowledge, share the responsibilities of monitoring and supervising, among other things.
I started with one partner, Proscovia Nakawuka, who was with me at medical school. She studied pharmacy. A little over a year ago, she sold her 25 per cent stake in the business to Robert Ochieng, who is my current partner.
About the competition
Kickstart Youth Entrepreneurship is a competition/ mentorship programme established last year by Nile Breweries (in conjunction with Enterprise Uganda and NTV) for the purpose of extending grants and mentorship to youthful entrepreneurs with great business ideas.
The programme/competition, which is meant to be annual, was open to young entrepreneurs who are between the ages of 18 and 35.
They submitted their business proposals and a total of twelve finalists was chosen for training and competition for the grand prize.
It was open to both those who had already started implementing their business ideas as well as those who were yet to start.
Full-time training was offered to the finalists, after which they were asked to draw up new plans incorporating what they had been taught.
Georwell Emanu was announced winner at the grand finale, which was attended by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Amelia Kyambadde.
Making fish feed and hatching fingerlings on farm has helped me boost the business
“By making my own feed I save Shs1,800 per kilogramme of feed. If you multiply that by the total number of kilogrammes consumed throughout a season by the stock in a cage of 10,000 fish, I will have saved about Shs5m on feed.
I make the feed using a variety of locally available materials such as maize jam, rice bran, sunflower cake, silverfish, snail shells, water hyacinth.
Address fish shortage
I have been using only six cages. With the Kickstart Challenge’s prize money, I will establish 12 more cages, which will enable me produce 48,000 kilos of fish every year.
My long-term target is to have 52 cages, producing a total of 208,000 kilos of fish a year. That means I am still looking for a way to get 40 more cages to make the total of 52.
If we can get to this point, we will not be benefitting only ourselves but we will also be benefitting many others by providing them with employment, especially the people who sell fish locally
We look to employ at least 100 people daily as vendors once we have this in place.
I am also looking to training fishermen in cage farming, so they can have more fish and in turn that will give the lake a breathing space.
Ray of hope
In fact, I am already training the local youth and women at Majanji landing site on how they can use cages to successfully rear fish. A number of them are picking it up.
The cages I set up in Majanji are proving to be a big ray of hope. A few years ago, government constructed a modern fish plant at the landing site (worth Shs3.9b), complete with icing and other means of fish preservation.
But the facility has been lying idle for two or three years due to a scarcity of fish.
Our cages are providing a new hope for the re-operationalisation of the facility.
There is also a factory nearby, which also closed down about two years ago due to scarcity of fish.
However, this can also begin to operate again if we can reach the target of 52 cages and others can also adopt the cages system instead of relying on nature, which has disappointed them.”
From Daily Monitor