“When we participate physically in the work on the demonstration garden, right here in our village, to test the qualities of improved seeds from Naro, we are in a better position to make informed decisions about what seed varieties to grow. We also learn what to do in order to come up with good harvests.”
This is precisely what Ms Maxencia Nambajo, coordinator of Sossolya Bwatafa Farmers Group, at Bulinda Village in Kalisizo Town Council, Kyotera District, told Seeds of Gold during an interview.
Her group comprises of thirty-five farmers who meet regularly to undergo training in bean production agronomical practices on a demonstration garden of about an acre at Maxencia’s home.
In the last planting season the farmers planted different bean seed varieties provided by Naro ---- Naro Bean 1, Naro Bean 2, Naro Bean 3, Naro Bean 6, Naro Bean 7 and NABE 19 on different plots in the garden.
Community Enterprises Development Organisation (CEDO) which is a seed company, delivers the seeds to farmers groups in the districts of Kyotera, Rakai, Lwengo, Bukomansimbi, and its field agricultural services extension workers supervise the farmers’ activities on the trial gardens.
The smallholders learn ground preparation, fertiliser application, planting of beans, spacing, weeding, pest management, harvesting and storage.
CEDO and Naro work in partnership with a range of other organisations including African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Partnership for Seed Technical Transfer in Africa (PASITTA) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) among others with a view to pass on to smallholder farmers technologies that can address the common challenges they face such as decreasing yields, dealing with pests, enhancing nutrition, improving livelihoods, soil management, and mitigating climate change.
High quality varieties
CEDO Programme Manager, Charles Katabalwa, told Seeds of Gold that the seed bean varieties that they encourage the farmers to grow are bio-fortified and enriched with iron. Consumption of food crops that are rich in iron is recommended for children and pregnant women to enhance nutrition.
“The farmers observe the performance of the different varieties in the field trial gardens. on their villages where they participate in their growing under the supervision of our extension staff. They have a chance to taste them to find out which are best for eating, they notice those that are most high yielding, and the ones that are more marketable. The farmers also observe the varieties that are more resilient to climate vagaries such as too much rain or drought. Such observations inform their decision about which seed varieties to plant in their own gardens.
Upon harvesting of the beans, the farmers share among themselves the varieties of their choices for planting. Some of the beans are given back to CEDO for onward transfer to other farmers elsewhere,” says Katabalwa.
When Seeds of Gold visited Sossolya Bwatafa Farmers Group it was harvesting time. Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) only six of the farmers were present on the group’s trial garden. “We decided to invite just a few of them to the function due to the pandemic but we trust that they will pass on the message to their fellow members,” says Katabalwa.
The beans were planted in different, marked plots each one bearing one bean variety. The farmers, all of whom wore masks, were positioned in such a way that each farmer worked in one bean variety plot, uprooting the beans.
Their CEDO appointed agricultural extension worker, Andrew Mukasa, was also in attendance. As they worked, Katabalwa would ask them individually what they had to say about each bean variety with regard to performance.
Some bean varieties were praised for their good taste, others were said to be high yielding, others were described as quite marketable while others were said to be fast maturing. Katabalwa kept recording their responses in a notebook.
After harvesting the beans from the garden the farmers were tasked to pick one good performing bean plant from those that they had harvested and to count the number of pods on it before shelling the pods and counting the beans.
Naro Bean 1 was found to have 20 pods and 56 bean seeds. Naro Bean 2 had 30 pods and 103 bean seeds. Naro Bean 3 had 28 pods and 66 bean seeds. Naro Bean 6 had 33 pods and 146. Naro Bean 7 had 36 pods and 230 bean seeds, while NABE 19 had 28 pods and 82 bean seeds.
John Talex Mukulu, one of the farmers remarked, “The objective of every farmer is to make money so I will personally go for the two most marketable varieties, Naro Bean 1 and 2.”
Others had different reasons for preferring particular varieties such as John Wasswa who said Naro Bean 2 made the best soup. Dorothy Nakamya said that since Naro Bean 7 had the biggest amount of beans it was the best for sustaining food security in the home if farmers grow it.
Mukasa used the opportunity to emphasize to the farmers the importance of using fertilisers in order to come up with good harvests. “We used DAP here and you have all seen the good yields,” he told them. “Try to observe the difference in yields on the gardens of farmers who use fertilizers and those who don’t. I also want to point out to you that fertilizers that are taken in through the plant root system are always more effective than those merely applied on the leaves.”
John Wasswa said he had noticed that farmyard manure particularly pigsty manure was good fertiliser for beans. “Before I used to think it was only suitable for other crops such as banana and coffee.”
Katabalwa later told Seeds of Gold that, as a seed company, CEDO provides different varieties of bean seeds to satisfy farmers that are aiming at getting money from the beans and to other farmers that merely grow them for eating in their households. “We also aim at helping farmers to access appropriate, hands-on agricultural technologies. It is the reason we work with them on their villages’ demonstration gardens such as this one which you have just seen to teach technologies related to ground preparation, soil preservation, fertiliser application, planting and spacing, weeding methods, pest and disease management, harvesting, storage and marketing. We buy any excess crop from them because it is also their aim to increase household incomes which leads to better quality of life.”
Maxencia Nambajo went on to disclose that her farmers’ group which has existed for thirteen years has had a long working relationship with CEDO and Naro. “Some years ago they introduced bio-fortified sweet potato (lumonde wa kipaapaali) to us. It is rich in iron and vitamins..”