Stories tagged: Uganda

Uganda Puts Technology To Work For Agriculture Sector

The Ugandan Government has launched a technology adaptation and transfer scheme where local welders are to be employed to make technology to be used in agriculture, says this recent article on AllAfrica.com. This scheme is said to have started attracting youths already.

This move, coupled with the recent independence for South Sudan and the increasingly unpredictable weather, is seen as an opportunity to guide the Government’s efforts to improve the countries agricultural sector.

The new technologies included fresh cassava shredders and maize cob sorters.

The Minister of State for Industry Dr. James Mutende said that he wants the youth to begin appreciating the role of agriculture in job creation – that technologies can be hired out commercially, and may improve agriculture and the quality of produce, meaning it can be sold for higher prices.

These technologies can also go to prevent post-harvest losses, which have traditionally been high in Uganda.

Mobile Technology and Agriculture

Recent work by Economist Karl Muth shows that mobile technology is a key ingredient in building and managing the financial products farmers need in Uganda.

Smartphones equipped with a special application have enabled the largest study of Ugandan farms since 1991. One hundred and thirty workers equipped with these phones have travelled to over 5,000 farms and measured farmers’ behaviours and attitudes regarding risk, looking at how they make choices on which crops to grow and where to invest money on their farm. The application, a mobile survey, would once have cost millions to develop and implement, but thanks to advances in technology was built on a small budget and instantly installed on phones.

The ‘search’ application allows farmers to upload, search and share information on subjects such as animal disease to crop failure; they are able to receive the information on their phones, and warn other farmers to take precautions. This gives farmers access to crucial information which may not be available in their direct communities.

By using local people, local social networks, locally-built software and local languages, Muth insists we are learning far more about farmers’ lives than would have been possible without mobile technology.

Recycling Agricultural Waste in Uganda to Produce Energy

The basic source of fuel in Uganda is wood in the form of charcoal or firewood, which over 90% of the population relies on for heating and cooking. This dependence on traditional charcoal and firewood is responsible for the prevailing deforestation and soil degradation, the effects of which have manifested in irregular rainfall, floods and violent storms.

The major cause of this is a lack of affordable and reliable alternative sources of energy, and where alternatives do exist, such as kerosene and gas, the majority of people are too poor to afford them.

A new project, ‘Energy Alternative Sources’, to save the forest has been set up by the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) that involves recycling agricultural waste to manufacture charcoal briquettes which are an affordable alternative to charcoal and firewood.

Through binding together agricultural waste in a kiln, a charcoal briquette is created that has a wide range of biomass, and provides an alternative to further deterioration of the forest. The charcoal briquettes have encouraged farmers to practice good environmental management, as well as getting women involved in the manufacturing process. The briquettes are cheap, readily accessible and offer a long-term sustainable solution to conservation agricultural practices, turning waste into energy.

Guardian Newspaper’s ‘Katine Project’ Highlights Importance of Agriculture in Africa

For the past 18 months, the UK’s Guardian newspaper has been tracking the development work going on in one Ugandan village called Katine in what it plans to be a three-year project.

The Katine project focuses on five key areas (education, health, water, governance, and livelihoods), all of which influence and are influenced quite directly by agriculture.

The role that agriculture plays in shaping development outcomes for the Katine villagers has already been highlighted in a number of articles, for instance:

– Video: Growing New Strains of Cassava to Improve Livelihoods

In recent years, [cassava] crops have been devastated by viruses leading to two years of severely reduced harvests…’The old cassava used to be affected by diseases.  It used to rot quickly from disease and also it used to take a long time to fully mature.

– Article: Are Big Farms the key to African Development?

as the demand for food and jobs expands exponentially, the question is less whether big farms are necessary to making a country’s food secure than how to get there as equitably as possible.

These two eamples highlight the need to build local access, protect harvests, enable access to markets, and prioritise research imperatives.  This project also aims to help the villagers in Katine get their voices heard by those who might otherwise have little access to their perspectives.  Sharing knowledge and experiences like this is also a key aspect of the Farming First plan.

Ugandan Case Study Looks at how to Reduce Farmers’ Manual Labour Costs

A case study done in Uganda found that weeding absorbed over 50% of smallholder farmers’ production costs.

It also occurs at times when the demand for labour is quite high and needed for many farm activities.

Crop protection products such as herbicides and the adoption of best practices can help reduce this burden.

In the Ugandan case study, farmers found that adopting conservation agriculture practices greatly reduced the labour they needed for weeding, sometimes by as much as 50 days worth of labour.  Thus, instead of requiring 73 days under their usual pattern, they only needed 22 days when using herbicide, or even as few as 5 days when practicing no-till.

Ugandan Farmers Getting Tips on Market Prices and Activity

FICOM, the Farmers Information Communication project in Uganda is helping farmers access information on market prices and activity.

Important tips on growing crops are relayed from the Uganda National Farmers Federation headquarters to district level offices, and then to 24 ‘village phone centres’, in which each farmers’ group owns a mobile phone.

The farmers also send and receive SMS messages with updates on market prices, saving at times a whole day’s travel to market with help from the program, which is sponsored by the Syngenta Foundation.

For example, Milly Sekandi is a member of Zibula Atudde Women’s Group.  After she purchased a village phone, she and other farmers who grow upland rice and maize are now able to confirm prices in Kampala and the border trading markets in Busia, Kenya. A few years ago it would have been the middlemen who dictated the price and made the most profit from sales.