Saturday August 11 2018

Farmers will learn backyard technology

Passion fruit agronomist Julius Ahagaana

Passion fruit agronomist Julius Ahagaana explains how to prune the crop during the Farm Clinic last year at Kabanyolo. PHOTO by Alex Esagala 

By Denis Bbosa

Companies such as Spark Agro Initiatives Company are minting hefty money from promoting, educating and helping various farmers to start backyard gardens.
The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic returns to Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) in Gayaza with particular emphasis on backyard farming that will also stretch to greenhouse farming.
According to seasoned agronomist Dr Allan Ahimbisibwe, of Spark Agro Initiatives, backyard farming is mainly a practice of growing crops and keeping some animals in the urban homes specifically in the small backyards and front yards. It can also be called home gardening.
“Almost all of us in the urban centres have tried this out, at least we have a flower, a herb or a spice at home. This is backyard farming,” Ahimbisibwe stresses.
Benefits of backyard farming
The organisers of Farm Clinic noticed the shortage of farming land in urban centres visa vie the growing market and need for crop produce to append the backyard farming tutorials on the September 1st learning event at Kabanyolo.
“Some of the benefits of backyard farming include nutrition and health, reduced expenditure and additional income from home,” the agronomist reveals. Ahimbisibwe says farmers that will come to Kabanyolo next month should expect to learn about the best practices of how to mix soil before planting, mix charcoal dust, sand, ash, manure and pack in containers.
“People should be also taught how to manage their gardens with best practices like watering, spraying, mulching and weeding. The farm clinic participants should also be taught how they can commercialise their backyard farms into income enterprises since there is a ready market for fresh vegetables everywhere, it starts with your neighbourhood, friends and relatives,” Ahimbisibwe advised.
Tips on best backyard practices
Basing on the need to fulfill the World Health Organisation (WHO) directive that one must eat a fruit or vegetable 30 minutes from the garden, the agronomist urges prospective backyard farmers to embrace organic farming in this backyard setting.
Farmers should also be cautious about how best we can control pests by making simple organic fertilisers and pesticides from home. These can be made from rabbit urine, human urine and other materials locally available.
How to start with little capital
According to Ahimbisibwe, the first thing is to study the market around you, know what product they consume most such as spinach, lettuce, sukuma wiki. These are trending leafy vegetables, consumed by high-end families and hotels. People intending to start backyard farming should produce for the market not for their pleasure.
After knowing your market, look at how to produce what you have chosen to do; know the basics about it if you choose to do green pepper or spinach, know everything about this vegetable and research to get all information on how best to grow it.
Backyard farming simply rotates around three varieties: vegetables, spices, and herbs. To satisfy the abundant ready market, farmers need to specialise in the production of tomatoes, green pepper and lettuce.
“I see a future where backyard farming is a business enterprise for the youth who are roaming around for jobs in urban centres. We can source market around towns in hotels, restaurants and personal homes in places like Ntinda, Muyenga and other high-class areas where we get orders to supply fresh vegetables and fruits,” revealed Ahimbisibwe.
His company has helped many urban dwellers in more than 100 households in Mukono, Kampala, Mbarara, Jinja and Wakiso to set up their smart gardens in their homes at a favourable fee.
Venue ready
According to MUARIK director Dr Stephen Lwasa, they have put emphasis on backyard farming because Ugandans have less land and ought to gain from the nutritional benefits that come along with this farming method.
“We want to equip the farmers on how to raise vegetables and farming in sacks. MUARIK has lined up experienced staff because we are the ones that train the best agribusiness experts in the country,” he added.