Profitable and sustainable agriculture relies on innovation and new technology not only to support sustainable productivity, but also to increase resilience in farm and food systems.
Investment in government-sponsored agricultural research has stagnated over the years, even as the need to equip farmers with new tools to solve new challenges is increasingly pressing.
Dr Sadiq Kassim, National Agricultural Research Organization (Naro) Deputy Director General, Promotion of Agricultural Technologies, reiterated that the dissemination of research results is as critical as the research itself at the Golden Farm Seed Clinic at the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) in Nakyesasa on Saturday. Innovations are less useful if no one knows about all of this.”
The well-attended Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic provided farmers with a 360° learning experience on animal health, nutrition, breeding, disease and dairy and foliar production for goats.
NaLIRRI has five programs; dairy products, beef and meat, entomology, laboratory services and vaccines.
Dr Moses Mwesigwa, head of the institute’s dairy research program, emphasized that ensuring the full value chain with zero waste on farms is becoming increasingly important for farmers. During the training, he described value-added products on dairy farms, including liquid soap made from cow dung.
“We have evidence that everything on the farm can be used, including what some people consider waste. Apart from keeping animals for milk or beef, farmers can adopt zero waste to get more out of their farm while protecting the environment,” said Dr Mwesigwa.
A critical role
Farm Clinic plays an advocacy role in partnership with Naro, providing experts to educate farmers on emerging technologies and best practices. NMG-Uganda brand manager Joshua Watwaluma emphasized during the training on Saturday that the media group is bridging the information gap for farmers to produce sustainable and profitable crops.
“As a media company, we are trying to educate all people on how to benefit from farming operations by learning from Naro’s experience,” Watwaluma said.
Naro was commissioned by the government to coordinate agricultural research. Currently, the institution’s main focus is on market-oriented research aimed at stimulating agro-industrialization.
“39 percent of the population are peasants. As we innovate for agriculture, it is important to keep them abreast of new research that can help them reap the full benefits of their operations,” said Dr Kassim.
He stressed that Uganda still has factors of production such as land, labour, capital and entrepreneurial skills, adding that the Farm Clinic is a driver for knowledge on high yielding and sustainable crops.
Considering that most farmers have difficulty accessing finance, Bank of Uganda has assured them of the innovations they can benefit from.
Bank of Uganda Prossy Naamala said the Agricultural Credit Facility (ACF) is beneficial to all farmers as well as the Small Business Recovery Fund. ACF allows farmers and agro-processors to be given loans at more favorable terms, such as lower interest rates, as the government subsidizes the scheme by providing interest-free loans to participating financial institutions and assuming part of the loan risk. .
“Farmers are free to walk into any commercial bank and ask for the Agricultural Credit Facility to grow their businesses,” Naamala said.
The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic exhibition attracted exhibitors from East African Seeds. They have solutions such as hybrid fodder (sugar grass and nutritive fodder) that farmers can grow for increased milk production, especially in dry seasons, for high quality milk and low cost of milk production.
Sprinktech, a water and irrigation systems company, demonstrated useful equipment to farmers, such as a solar-powered submersible pump. The company’s commercial director Filesian Tumuramye said the only challenge is the initial cost, but farmers can enjoy uninterrupted benefits for a long time.
“Initially, the system may cost about Sh3 million, but they can grow and earn more from their farms regardless of the season,” Tumuramye said.
Animal health company Zoetis, which provides solutions for udder health, delivered the good news for dairy farmers. Dr Brian Arinaitwe, animal health company Zoetis, which develops and manufactures veterinary vaccines and drugs, diagnostic products, genetic tests and bio-devices, among others, said farmers should be mindful of cow udder health.
Dr Arinaitwe says mastitis, an infectious disease that results in an inflammatory reaction in the cow’s mammary gland, causes significant economic losses to farmers.
According to him, an average case of clinical mastitis costs a dairy farmer about Shs700,000 in management, explaining that these are the top three reasons why farmers cull dairy cows. Mastitis also causes milk to be discarded by consumers and reduced milk production. He emphasizes that the solutions are available through the Vet Center at Nakivubo Place, while the acaricides are available at Eram Uganda. Irene Nalubega, a marketing specialist at Stanbic Bank, urged farmers to access financing in groups, which could be an effective option.
“Most of the individual farmers do not have the documents that the bank might need, but working in groups can ease these pains. As a savings group, you can have access to diversified opportunities to grow your farm operations,” said Nalubega.
He said among useful financing options is the Agali Awamu Sacco project, which can be accessed as a Sacco. The product has a low interest rate of 10 percent for agriculture-based Saccos with an unsecured loan of Shs 200 million for first-time borrowers.
Voluntary savings for NSSF is very important for farmers as it provides an opportunity for employers and employees to save who are not bound by the mandatory provisions of the NSSF Act.
At the same event, the winners of the proposal writing competition were awarded with a watering kit by the Chinese Embassy.
Jomil Mixed Farming and Training Center in Wakiso District were the winners while Namulonge Horticultural Farmers group came second.
Seeds of Gold Farm Clinics has become a forum where experts and farmers meet and share information and the most pressing issues facing the agriculture industry. The initiatives are steadily gaining traction, attracting farmers and agribusiness enthusiasts from across the country and proving to be a one-stop shop where the country’s major food producers, most of whom are smallholder farmers, actively interact with experts.