A cool breeze wafted from the swaying vegetation at Mukono Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MuZardi), Ntaawo in Mukono where Seeds of Gold held its 19th farm clinic last Saturday.
The virtual event started afew minutes after 4pm with experts from the National Coffee Research Institute, Kituuza, braving the downpour to train the farmers with the activities streaming live on NTV.
Ivan Ssabwe, an aquaculturist with Koudijs said on-farm sessions just like for most education platforms, teaching methods have changed because of Covid-19.
Ssabwe said as feed suppliers, they have also been limited on delivering sessions to their clients.
“There are quite many things we cannot do this year and that is why I am happy NMG (Nation Media Group) thought out of the box to hold a virtual farm clinic session. We have learned a lot,” Ssabwe said.
According to organisers, more than 30,000 people streamed the virtual farm clinic, which included in-depth sessions on coffee and fish production at MuZardi and the National Coffee Research Institute (NaCORI), Kituuza.
Farmers participated in the virtual learning opportunity on NTV and their social media handles.
“Our virtual farm clinic was a great way to give farmers a first-hand experience at the fish and coffee industry, while introducing available opportunities like financing,” Elizabeth Namaganda, the head of marketing – NMG Uganda, said.
From the comfort of their sitting rooms and phones, farmers heard from a variety of agriculture experts, including aquaculturists and crop specialists.
Farmers caught a glimpse of what makes fishing profitable, as well as optimising coffee production.
They also had an opportunity to ask live questions about fish feeding, cost of production, new crop and fish technologies, and more.
Dr Godfrey Kagezi, a senior research officer at NaCORI, stressed the importance of pruning, stumping and keeping shambas (gardens) disease free. The centre is at the forefront of coffee research and it was an opportunity to learn about coffee value-addition, lotions, cakes and specialty coffee- as well as agritourism opportunities.
“I am excited to be part of this experiment because it has been so engaging. This virtual farm clinic was so perfect,” Denis Noah Kusasira, a follower on the live stream page on Facebook, remarked.
The second part of the training took place at the aquaculture centre where farmers heard from Andrew Izaara, a senior research officer in aquaculture.
Izaara talked about the production and consumption deficit of fish that must be bridged by 2030 through fish farms.
Izaara explained that 120,000 metric tonnes are currently produced in fish farms but stressed that production must be increased by more than 300 per cent to achieve the 1m metric tonnes target.
“You cannot increase that fish by looking at the fish coming out of the lake. We have to increase it by growing it,” Izaara said. Stanbic Bank Uganda, a leading financial institution that offers a range of agricultural loan facilities to input seed suppliers, equipment, agro-dealers, primary producers, commodity traders, aggregators, and agro-processors, sponsored this year’s farm clinic. The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) were the other sponsors.
What they say...
Ms Mellisa Nyakwera says: "We are lucky to be associated with the Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic. Stanbic Bank has been instrumental in providing affordable loans and credit facilities to individual farmers, cooperatives, large-scale plantation owners, farm suppliers, and other stakeholders.”
Ms Clair Ichumar says: “Knowing that agriculture has for long been the backbone of Uganda’s economy, we shall keep using these Farm Clinics and the voluntary savings platform to encourage farmers who are not catered for under mandatory contributions to save and plan for retirement. The clinics are a game changer in bridging the information gap in the agricultural sector.”
Ms Barbra Zawedde says: "NARO is committed to fulfilling the facets of the National Development Program (NDP III) which requires ensuring that we are making agriculture more technologically relevant."
Mr Joshua Watwaluma says: "Whereas the edition of this Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic was limited to fish and coffee training, we were overwhelmed by questions from farmers. The farmers’ queries ranged from agro-inputs to pest and disease control to farm management, soil testing, crop and livestock husbandry, feeds and feed preparation, market for produce and agriculture financing."