Following on from our previous blog post, by July this year we were in a position to begin some training with our farmers, training that we were very keen to open up to all interested local farmers. Our consultation earlier in the year had established that our farmers were working approximately two acres per season, of our then five acre leasehold land, rotating from one season to the next and resting the land in-between times. Our plans for the now seven acres of land are fairly similar, on a slightly larger scale, and through use of seasonal labour, improved planting and seed stock, fertilising, a degree of mechanisation and better post harvest handling and storage practice we expect at least double the yield per growing season.
So with a plan in place, in August we invited UDS (Ugandan Development Services) back to carry out two days of training. We were delighted at the number of people from the local community who took up the invite to partake in the training sessions. In total there were 43 participants on each day with only three of those being our project staff. The training was a mix of classroom and practical sessions, covering topics that many subsistence farmers in remote rural communities may not previously have considered. Topics such as goal setting, attitude change, group dynamics and gender & development were covered in the classroom sessions on Day 1.
The training on Day 2 was carried out by members of the Agricultural Production department of Makerere University, with the majority of the day focused on the theory and practice of growing and managing beans and maize crops. While both these crops are very common in the area the traditional farming practices do not always yield the best results and so UDS were able to introduce improved farming methods and techniques.
During the practical sessions two demonstration plots were established, of beans and maize, putting into practice the new techniques. During the practical work participants covered topics such as:
• How and when to prepare the garden
• How to time the season/when to plant
• How to select the seed to plant
• How to determine the type fertilizer to use
• How to plant; spacing, application of fertilizers , hole size
• When and how to weed
• When to harvest
• How to harvest
• Post harvest handling and storage
UDS reported back that “The 2-day training went well and the farmers were equipped with new knowledge and practical training.“. While we were happy that our project staff were receiving some great training we were exceptionally pleased at the uptake from the local community. It was apparent that local families and farmers are eager to improve their circumstance, to develop their farming and business practices and are very willing to put in the effort to make it happen.
For us now we will take our newly acquired knowledge and begin to put it into practice. The first step is to open up some new areas for planting on the seven acre site and to demarcate seven one acre plots which will form the basis for a rotation scheme, employing cover crops on resting plots. These plots will be divided by a live fence, incorporating leguminous trees that increase soil fertility and cropping fruit trees; in the long term both types of tree will also provide some firewood. While we will still only employ two permanent farming staff we will hire in seasonal labour for planting and harvesting and through this practice will be able to work greater portions of the land than the two acres of previous years.
As we are subject to the seasons we will have to wait until the start of the next before we can properly implement our new scheme, but in the mean time there is much work to be done in preparation. We believe that investment in our agriculture will prove to be a great boost to the project and the local area, and looking forwards could also provide training opportunities for students with an interest in the business of farming and food production. As and when new developments unfold we will update the blog accordingly.
Thanks for reading.