It is possible for farmers in Uganda to engage in modern farming using the available technologies on a small piece of land for better output and increased income. And this applies to any farmer as long as one has passion for what he or she is doing.
In modern faming what farmers mainly drive at is to make it commercial whether on a small or bigger piece of land.
For better monitoring of the farm, record keeping of farm products ranging from crops, animal husbandry, fish farming and poultry among others is key.
Size does not matter
Dr Emma Naluyima, a veterinary doctor, who has her farm at Bwerenga in Wakiso District, is of the view that Ugandan farmers must come out of peasantry method of farming to go commercial so as to compete with the farmers in other parts of the world.
She was speaking at Ag Content Café, a monthly informal interaction of journalists and professionals in agriculture or agribusiness. It is an initiative of the Usaid Feed the Future Agricultural Inputs Activity,
“Modern farming is not about acreage as claimed by many farmers in most African countries including Uganda. Once a farmer manages his or her farm well on a small piece of land she or he will always reap good yields. Those in Ankole were pastoralists but now they are keeping their cattle in paddocks,” she said.
One of the technologies adapted by Naluyima involves growing fodder using hydroponic systems. It is a method of growing plants without soil but the crop survives on moisture and other nutrients provided during the growing period.
There are many advantages like a greater yield over a shorter period of time in a smaller area than traditionally- grown crops.
The technology ensures a reduction in use of pesticides and herbicides because the plants are in a protected environment.
Farmers tend to use this technology in a year-round growing system that produces a consistent quantity and quality of plant material, fodder for livestock feed being one of them.
Naluyima uses a hydroponic fodder- making machine to make feed for her animals mainly pigs. And she uses a computer package called Pig Champ for monitoring and recording keeping on her pig farm.
This works just like a how a mathematician would use the calculator in his or her arithmetic calculations.
“This technology will enable the farmer to access all the information about the pigs in the farm because it is complete file, it gives instant messages to farmer to check on his or pigs to monitor their health and what right medication to give in case of sickness or the right feed,” she explained.
Different animals have different packages of such technologies but for crops and dairy cattle, Naluyimba is still using computer packages like MS Excel to do the record keeping.
To her it is not enough to say I am a farmer, but attach value to it and determine your own price of the farm commodities not the buyer.
Guidelines to follow
“Nomads have a lot of cattle and need vast land to graze them, yet the pasture and water is also lacking. In modern farming, farmers do not need all that chunk of land. For instance, on my farm, I have less than five acres of land but I have separated it into decimals for matooke, piggery and dairy farming,” Naluyima said.
“I have realised that half an acre is producing more yields than what is produced on a vast chunk of land besides not spending a lot on labour. If I don’t have a worker, I can do it myself.”
She went ahead to explain guidelines that farmers can follow in modern farming; listing them as ethics and genetics, feeding, and management.
In ethics and genetics, she urged farmers to know what type of farming one would like to engage in.
“When it comes to handling issues of genetics as a farmer, you must know the genes of your animals, crop varieties, and poultry as well as fish species.
In case of the East African highland banana commonly known as matooke, look for varieties from which you can harvest good yields. If you know the gene of your animals, this will enable you to appropriately feed them; the right feed and right amount of water,” she added.