Mpigi. An attractive green vegetation is what greets one’s eyes on arrival at the Songhai Model Pilot Project at Kampiringisa in Mpigi District.
Established on a 100-acre piece of land at the Kampiringisa Rehabilitation Centre, the home for children found in conflict with the law, the farm was developed under a partnership between the government of Uganda and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development with support from UNDP, the Songhai Model Pilot Project is a brain child of the bigger Uganda Green Incubation Programme (UGIP).
It is aimed at creating economic growth, environmental conservation and social inclusion for all to meet present and future needs.
Type of gardening
The different crops are grown in sub-plots of one crop or more that are inter-cropped.
The crops are majorly vegetables, fruits and a few tubes such as cassava.
There is hope that this farm will be a demonstration of how to create green jobs for the youth and women in Uganda. The main pillar for Songhai Model organic farming is to add value to the products.
This means that jobs are available for youth and women right from crop production, to post-harvest, especially processing and packaging, and marketing of the products.
Green jobs are decent jobs that help in reducing negative environmental impacts and promote safety and health at work.
The core ingredients of green jobs include promotion of good working conditions, improvement of energy and raw materials efficiency, minimisation of waste and industrial pollution and protection and restoration of ecosystem.
Specialised agricultural training
An impromptu visit to the Kampiringisa site by Daily Monitor, two youth, Mr Samson Luwagga and Ms Sauda Apolot, avail themselves to explain the processes going on at the farm and also the different crops.
They are part of the 13 Ugandans who were sponsored by UNDP to undertake specialised agricultural training at the Songhai Centre in Porto-Novo, Benin in November and December 2017.
On return to Uganda, the young men and women have used the acquired skills to put up the farm.
The Songhai Centre in Benin was established by Prof Fr Godfrey Nzamujo, a Dominican Republic priest who currently exports tonnes of organic agricultural products to the United States of America and to the West African market monthly.
“In Benin, it was a very unique experience. We had never seen such kind of growing different crops, fish farming and animal husbandry on one piece of land in Uganda. This was amazing and encouraging for us,” recounts Ms Apolot, the projects administration and operations officer.
Whereas for Mr Luwagga, the project assistant in-charge of development and training, the fact that such a modernised organic farm was thriving in the humid conditions and on poor soils of the West African country was a challenge to Uganda which boasts of productive soils.
“On arrival in Benin, no one thinks there can be such a farm because the picture of a hot and undeveloped country is so disturbing. But when you get to the site, it is just amazing with the green vegetation,” Mr Luwagga says.
At the Kampiringisa project site, with the use of mulching and application of non-chemical sprays to kill pests, crops such as pepper, tomatoes, cabbages, African garden egg, garden egg, strawberry, cucumbers, greens beans among others are at their prime stage ahead of the first harvest. This reporter tasted the sweetness of a raw African garden egg (entula) by a pick and eat method because the attendants advised it was organic without any pesticides.
What a nice entula it was!
“On the farm, there is a demon. Hey, don’t run away because this is not the spiritual demon but rather a species of pepper,” one of the guides says
The seed of demon pepper were among the varieties imported from Benin.
“It is called demon because of being the most bitter of all pepper varieties on earth. But those people (Beninese) like it so much for pepper soup,” explains Mr Luwagga.
Away from food crops
On the project site, there is promising infrastructural development. The administration block that will have offices, a training hall for groups coming to learn from the project and a recreation centre, has been completed.
There are other facilities already in place that include the pig stay for the piggery project and the poultry whereas final touches are being put on the 18 ponds for fish farming.
Ms Apolot says, the fish fry (young ones) are about to be transferred to the ponds for the start but a project hatchery for tilapia and cat fish will be established to ensure that breeding is done there.
She narrates that the food for the fish will be manufactured at the site too, using processed products from the crops on the farm.
“At the start, we will import the feeds for the fish but when we start processing our harvests and other products, there will be enough for the fish to feed on. Our fish will need enough food because they feed twice a day,” says Ms Apolot.
Also on the farm are trees. One of them is the Moringa tree that is inter-cropped with pawpaws because when its leaves wither, they provide manure to the fruit tree.
But also, Moringa leaves can make a good delicacy for humans. The Moringa dish the guides say, goes well with chicken and beef.
The permanent secretary in the Gender ministry, Mr Pius Bigirimana, says all the enterprises on the Songhai Model Pilot Project have been done in just six months on only 20 acres out of the 100 available acres.
He says the first crops will not be used for commercial purposes because they are just a pilot but going forward, a processing plant ready, for different products will be established.
Mr Bigirimana says the products from the farm such as yoghurt, tomato saurce, packed fish, tinned meat, soap from cucumbers, oil from Moringa and okra (lady fingers), cosmetics from avocados, shoes, belts, and butter, among others will be sold on both local and international markets.
According to a statement issued by the UNDP Country officer, ahead of the official launch of the project by President Museveni during the International Youth Day celebrations at Kampirigisa, the Uganda Green Growth Incubation Centre (UGIC) “is one of many such interventions by UNDP to support the government of Uganda address youth unemployment, increase agricultural productivity and foster the growth of a sustainable and inclusive economy in which no one is left behind as envisioned by Vision 2040 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
“We are pleased to have partnered with the government of Uganda in establishing this centre of knowledge that we hope will be replicated country-wide as one of the key tools to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030,” the UNDP statement added.
The Songhai Model Pilot Project was approved by Cabinet in 2016 and the government entered a partnership with UNDP to ensure it becomes a reality. The government provided land and is working on the infrastructure worth Shs2 billion and UNDP has so far spent Shs6 billion focusing on training and technical services.