My attitude to farming changed when I visited Israel on an internship programme

Wednesday July 6 2016

Acham at the 2015 Agric-Tech Show in Israel,

Acham at the 2015 Agric-Tech Show in Israel, which she visited on an internship attachment. COURTESY PHOTO 

My name is Merab Acham, 25, a veterinary Graduate from Makerere University. I completed my course in 2015 after which I got an opportunity to go for a one year agricultural apprenticeship programme in Israel under Agrostudies.
Agrostudies is a programme at Makerere, Kyambogo, Busitema, Busoga, and Bishop Stuart universities to encourage the young graduates to consider agriculture as a profession.
They are placed as interns where they participate in the day-to-day activities of the farm. This is how I was assigned to Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm.

Lots to learn
It is a large nursery for flower cuttings like Petunia and Calibracoha, which are exported mainly to Europe and US.
During the peak season, that is December to March, we would harvest over 1m flower cuttings per day.
On this farm, I learnt how flowers are propagated, transplanted, harvested, how and when to irrigate, quality control, how to pack, and how to pick the best cuttings for export (quality control).
I also learnt to handle, use and maintain irrigation systems. Through this, I was able to get hands-on experience and appreciate how irrigation systems, which most farms in Israel use.
It was from this experience that I was recommended to Netafim, which manufactures irrigation systems. It is represented in Africa by Balton CP Group—and in Uganda by Balton Uganda Limited as I later came to learn.

Networking
Ran Kadosh, the senior agronomist at Netafim in charge of Africa, recommended me and other interns to Balton CP for interviews upon return to Uganda.
Others who have since joined me at Balton Uganda include Husseini Asega, now an agronomist assigned to Northern region. The others are Tony Semeere and Tarmlex Ankwantsa as product developers assigned to Karamoja, Kiboga and Western region.
Annually Israel hosts an agricultural show, known as AgriTech show, where multi-national agriculture companies exhibit their products, expertise and innovations.
Companies dealing in different sectors like floriculture, irrigation, greenhouse technologies, seeds, horticulture, aquaculture, fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides are always represented.

The participants not only exhibit but network with people from all over the world.
It was during this Agritech show, that we (interns) met a team from East Africa, which included representatives from Balton Uganda (Marianne Namanya) and Balton Tanzania (Linda Byaba).
Upon our return, in December 2015, we were called in for interviews.
All that were invited for interviews were students that had been in Israel for the internship programme. We are now employed there because of our experiences acquired in Israel.
The most important transformation for us was our attitude towards agriculture especially as a career option.

A different story
It is possible to do agriculture and actually be successful at it, because we saw it being done at large, medium and small scales.
Before we went for the internship, we thought farming was for the, old, the poor, failures, its dirty, and only used for punishment, therefore probably not worth investing in but this has all changed.
Currently, we work in various regions, which are surprisingly similar to Israel but we believe with the knowledge, know-how and exposure, we will tell a different story by transforming these regions.

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