Virtual Farm Clinic goes to Kawanda 

Saturday November 28 2020
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Farmers listen as an agronomist (white gown) explains the process of planting banana. This was during the Farm Clinic in 2018. PHOTO/RACHEL MABALA

By George Katongole

Banana farmers will access a free virtual Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic today which will help them to improve cultivar selection and management for bananas.

The second virtual event which will be conducted from the National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda, will highlight key factors that need to be considered by farmers to ensure that bananas meet target specifications required by processors and consumers.
The clinic will also address vegetable production techniques with emphasis on seeds, water and market development, among others.

Elizabeth Namaganda, the Head of Marketing – NMG Uganda, said that the Farm Clinic will provide farmers with the skills and knowledge to maximise their output and minimise the risk of pests and diseases.
“Our aim is to help banana farmers optimise their returns and understand effective production techniques of the bananas. Food security means a lot and for banana farmers, this is a huge opportunity to bridge the gap since many people consume their product,” Namaganda said.

“The virtual Farm Clinic will also demonstrate how the farmers can get the best out of their crop as well as providing valuable market-driven insights to stock selection and farming,” she adds.
The second event complements the successful initial Farm Clinic held at Mukono Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MuZardi) last month which focused on coffee and fish production.

It will allow farmers to access the same information from the comfort of the farm office.
As the practice of social distancing has become more widespread recently, Nation Media Group (NMG) is looking for new and innovative ways to reach their customers.
Namaganda says that “though there is no possibility of physically connecting with customers, they are aware that customers are still available, albeit remotely, and consuming more online content than ever.

“With some people out of work, people of all ages are turning to the internet for entertainment, education, and a welcome relief from the constant media updates. Now more than ever is a great time to share the experience of farming through virtual farm clinics.

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The virtual Farm Clinic will also give producers an opportunity to learn more about the whole supply chain and insight into value addition.
Namaganda adds: “Although focusing on cost of production is fundamental to improving farm profitability, there are opportunities to maximise returns through careful selection and presentation of seedlings.”

Why bananas?
Bananas are among the most important food crops in Uganda especially in the Central region, and an essential source of income and nutrition for smallholder farmers. About 75 per cent of the farmers grow the crop.
Its future, though, is in jeopardy because of pests like nematodes, diseases especially bacterial wilt and black Sigatoka as well as drought stress.
New technologies which harness scientific advancements help in effective crop protection and address the balance between demand and production.

The National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) has since 1994 conducted research including introduction and evaluation of accessions, conventional breeding, transgenic breeding and biotechnology to produce banana varieties that are resistant or tolerant to pests and diseases, and meet the end-user needs.
Consumption attributes such as soft food, colour when cooked, flavour and taste, form the choice of what farmers can grow from the basis of recent studies between local cultivars and hybrid banana varieties (HBVs).

How the lessons will be delivered
NTV, who are the prime partners, will film the demonstrations from the National agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda in real time and will be aired in the evening between 4:00pm and 6.30pm.

The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic is an initiative and innovative way that bridges the information gap by bringing together farmers, banking institutions and experts to learn from each other. The clinics, normally held at Naro stations, raise awareness of value addition.

Namaganda stresses that apart from NTV, sessions will be hosted via online platforms as well as in the Seeds of Gold magazine which is available in the Daily Monitor free of charge every Saturday.
In conjunction with the live television coverage and NMG Social Media handles, sponsors Stanbic Bank and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), will stream the proceedings on their channels.

When the virtual Farm Clinic is done, those interested farmers can still connect with experts at Naro stations to discover more that could be missed during the one-hour planned screening of each enterprise where 20 minutes will be spared for the question and answer session.
The Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic is funded by Stanbic Bank and NSSF in partnership with Naro and NTV.

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