Dr Jolly Kabirizi’s journey of training other farmers
What you need to know:
- The crux of Dr Jolly Kabirizi’s research is about the economic benefits of urban dairy farming based on agricultural wastes from the market and agro-industrial wastes such as breweries.
Dr Jolly Kabirizi has had an illustrious career as a farmer whose academic doctorate in animal science has been beneficial to farmers in different parts of Uganda.
And she is one who practices what she preaches. Her home, sitting on about 0.1 of an acre, doubles as a demonstration of urban dairy, soil and soilless farming. It is called Kyakuwa Farm in Seguku, on Entebbe Road.
She started it in 1990 to make money but also walk the talk, as a researcher. At the time she was undertaking her research with Akamira Eyiye in Kitenga and Anasumagira Group in Lukaya, Masaka District. While at it, one of the farmers commented that some of these researchers go to communities but do not even have a cow as active farmers. Dr Kabirizi took the comment seriously.
In the next meeting with the group, she sacrificed her per diem and transported three people to Kampala to show them what she does.
When they visited her farm, they were impressed and proved that she is a researcher who walks the talk and preaches what she practices.
She rears for demonstration: five cows, 10 goats, tilapia pond, poultry project and crops. She started her farming career in Masaka District and moved further west to Mbarara where she trained big dairy farmers on how and which grasses to plant for livestock. Later, her scope of work expanded to include Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania.
She was training, coordinating and supervising dairy projects in the countries. Encouraging urban farming among home owners is something she continues to carry on. She says urban homeowners can successfully and effectively carry out dairy and vegetable farming on small spaces on their residential premises. In order to draw in youths to embrace agriculture, she does not charge a fee for the training. She has a bigger farm of 130 goats in Busunju.
Driven by innovation
The crux of her research was about the economic benefits of urban dairy farming based on agricultural wastes from the market and agro-industrial wastes such as breweries. Dr Kabirizi grows elephant grass on 15 acres. The idea was born out of observation.
She woke up one morning, at 4am, went and staged at St. Balikuddembe Market (Owino Market) to observe how much garbage of crop residue was collected in Kampala.
She contracted one of the loaders, Enock Karuhanga, to collect and deliver residues such as sweet potato vines to her home. She would convert the high nutrition value vines into silage to feed cattle and goats. Besides her, Karuhanga has been supplying her for 10 years and his customer base has increased to 20 urban farmers.
Dr Kabirizi acquired a PhD at Makerere University under the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) in 1975.
One of the expectations under research is development of technologies. Her focus was dairy farming. During and after her academic research, she interacted and worked with a number of dairy farmers in 100 districts of Uganda sharing knowledge but also writing project proposals for funding.
The ambassador of the US to Uganda visited Dr Kabirizi to interest her in training locals living in Internally Displaced (IDP) camps as they relocated back to their homes.
“It was not easy because the first time we were there, we were almost ambushed. I never gave up. Gulu Women Dairy Farmers Cooperative Society made and continues to make an impact. When I first interacted with the women, some had no ears, lips were cut off. It was sad,” she recollects.
The group got the cows, planted the grass, and got more donors.
Today, the Gulu based female farmers have processing equipment and are able to pack yoghurt, ice cream and cheese and sell it in Gulu and in Southern Sudan.
The World Bank funded a project known as Commercial Production of Dairy Perret which benefitted farmers in Hoima, Masaka and Mbarara, Luweero and Wakiso by funding the International Potato Centre which requested Dr Kabirizi worked for them on how to conserve sweet potato vines for more than six months.
She involved young people to grow them and sell them to livestock or cattle, pigs and goats.
Her experience has endeared her to consult with Heifer International Uganda as a trainer for farmers on how to conserve feed for dry season in Gulu, Kyotera, Wakiso, Mityana and Kiboga.
Tips for urban dairy farming
“With a small piece of land, one can use garbage and turn it into wealth. You can make silage from potato vines, pineapple peels and fresh banana residues mixed with grass hay. I encourage youths who might not have the money to buy the cows but can make money out of silage. That garbage will also help KCCA to reduce their expenses,” says Dr Kabirizi.
She also advises that the breed of the cow is key: many farmers are interested in the pure Frisians- the black and white- because they say they produce a lot of milk but milk is a function of so many factors.
“I recommend cross breeds which can give you 25 or 30 litres per a day. They are easier to manage, and are tolerant to diseases. You have to ensure that you have sufficient feed before you get into urban dairy farming as well as manure disposal,” the agriculturalist explains.
Importance of research
She says that research will be important in turning around fortunes of the agricultural sector in Uganda.
“Agriculture starts with research. We are not going to use the same technology which our ancestors used. The most unfortunate thing is that the money allocated to research is little. In fact, most of the money used in research is donor funded. Now there is donor fatigue, the donors don’t have money, so the government should give more money to researchers to improve productivity,” the seasoned agronomist advises.
Dr Kabirizi acquired a PhD at Makerere University under the National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) in 1975. One of the expectations under research is development of technologies. Her focus was dairy farming. During and after her academic research, she interacted and worked with a number of dairy farmers in 100 districts of Uganda sharing knowledge but also writing project proposals for funding.