Farm outreach key in increasing adaptation of research innovations

A view of the cattle shade at NaLIRRI. Photo/George Katongole

What you need to know:

  • The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic provided farmers with a 360° learning experience on animal health, nutrition, breeding, disease and foliage production for dairy and goats.

Profitable and sustainable agriculture relies heavily on innovations and new technology to not only support continued productivity but also to increase resilience within the farm and food systems.
Investment in publicly funded agriculture research has, however, stagnated over the years, even though the need to equip farmers with new tools to address new challenges is increasingly necessary.

Dr Sadik Kassim, the National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) deputy director general, Agriculture Technology Promotion reiterated during Saturday’s Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic at National Livestock Resources Research Institute (NaLIRRI) at Nakyesasa that dissemination of research findings is as critical as research itself “after all innovations are much less useful if nobody knows about them”.

The well-attended Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic provided farmers with a 360° learning experience on animal health, nutrition, breeding, disease and foliage production for dairy and goats.
NaLIRRI has five programmes that include; dairy, beef and meats, entomology, laboratory services and vaccines.
Dr Moses Mwesigwa, the programme leader in dairy research at the institute stressed that ensuring a complete value chain with zero waste on farms is increasingly becoming important for farmers. During the training, he illustrated the value-added products on dairy farms including liquid soap extracted from cow dung.
“We have evidence that everything on the farm can be used including what some people think is waste. Apart from keeping animals for milk or beef, farmers can implement zero-waste practices to earn more benefits from their farms while protecting the environment,” Dr Mwesigwa said.

Critical role
The Farm Clinic fills the outreach role in partnership with Naro which provides experts to teach farmers on emerging technologies and best practices. Joshua Watwaluma, the NMG-Uganda brand manager stressed during Saturday’s training that the media group is filling the information gap to enable farmers produce sustainably and profitably.
“As a media company, we seek to educate all people on how to benefit from the farming operations by learning from the expertise of Naro,” Watwaluma said.

Naro is mandated by the government to coordinate agricultural research. At the moment the body’s main focus is on market-oriented research aimed at spurring agro-industrialisation.
“39 per cent of the population are peasants. As we innovate for agriculture, it is important to keep them updated on the new research that can help them get the full benefits of their operations,” Dr Kassim said.
He stressed that Uganda is still endowed with the factors of production such as land, labour, capital and entrepreneurial skills, adding that the Farm Clinic is a driver for knowledge on high yielding and resilient products.

With most farmers expressing challenges of accessing financing, Bank of Uganda assured them of the innovations they can benefit from.
Bank of Uganda’s Prossy Naamala said that the Agricultural Credit Facility (ACF) comes in handy for all farmers as well as the Small Business Recovery Fund. The ACF enables loans to be extended to farmers and agro-processors on more favourable terms such as lower interest rates because the government subsidises the scheme through the provision of interest free loans to the participating financial institutions and through its bearing of some of the credit risk.
“Farmers are free to walk into any commercial bank and ask for the Agricultural Credit Facility to be able to grow their businesses,” Naamala said.

360° solutions
The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic attracted exhibitors from East Africa Seeds, who have solutions such as hybrid forages (sugargraze and Nutrifeed) which farmers can grow for increased milk production especially during the dry seasons, high quality milk and reduced cost of milk production.
Sprinktech, a company dealing in water and irrigation systems showed farmers useful equipment such as a solar-powered submersible pump which can irrigate two-three acres without a lot of hustle. Philesian Tumuramye, the commercial director of the company said that the only challenge is the initial cost but farmers can be assured of uninterrupted benefits for a long time.

“Initially, the system can cost about Shs3m but they are able to grow regardless of the season and earn more from their farms,” Tumuramye said.
The good news for the dairy farmers was carried by Zoetis, an animal health company, who provide solutions to udder health. Dr Brian Arinaitwe of Zoetis, an animal health company that develops and manufactures veterinary vaccines and medicines, diagnostic products, genetic tests and bio devices, among others, farmers need to be cautious of the cow udder health.
Dr Arinaitwe says that mastitis, an infectious disease condition resulting in an inflammatory reaction in the mammary gland of the cow, causes farmers substantial economic losses. 
He says, an average clinical case of mastitis costs the dairy producer approximately Shs700,000 in management explaining that this is among the top three reasons why farmers cull dairy cows. Mastitis also leads to discarding of milk by buyers and reduced milk production. He stresses that solutions are available through Vet Centre at Nakivubo Place while acaricides are accessed at Eram Uganda. Irene Nalubega, a marketing specialist from Stanbic Bank, urged farmers to access financing in groups which can be an effective option.
“Most individual farmers lack the necessary documents a bank may need but working in groups can ease that pain. As a savings group, you can gain access to diversified opportunities to grow your farm operations,” Nalubega said.
She said that among the useful financing options is the Agali Awamu Sacco project which can be accessed as a Sacco. The product has a low interest rate of 10 per cent for agriculture-based Saccos with an unsecured loan of Shs200m for first time borrowers.
For NSSF, voluntary savings are critical for farmers as it provides employers and workers not compelled by the mandatory provisions of the NSSF Act the opportunity to save.
At the same event, winners of the proposal writing competition were rewarded by the Chinese Embassy with an irrigation kit.
Jomil Mixed Farm and Training Centre in Wakiso District emerged winners while Namulonge Horticulture Farmers group came second.

Farm Clinics 
The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinics have become a forum where experts and farmers meet and share information and the most pressing problems facing the agriculture industry. The initiatives have been steadily gaining traction, attracting farmers and agribusiness enthusiasts from all corners of the country, proving to be indeed a one-stop shop where the country’s key food producers, majority who are smallholder farmers, actively interact with experts.