Archive for the ‘Farming section’ category

Farmers in a knowledge fair exhibition!

May 2, 2007

Gathering at Luwero district, the CELAC farmers’ knowledge Fair, a yearly event organized by BROSDI in close collaboration with the CELAC Luweero Agricultural Network attracted farmers from the districts of Luweero, Masaka, Bushenyi, Kabale, Tororo, Apac, Sironko ,Manafwa, Kasese, Pallisa Mayunge and Lira, involved in farming of Bananas, Orange Sweet potatoes, Cassava, Tomatoes, millet, Groundnuts, Maize, Irish potatoes, Onions, Green pepper, Chicken, Turkey and goats.

Preparations
From the look of things, this was to be a very successful event. On the eve of the event, farmers gather at New Eden Primary school in Luweero district, where the event is to take place the following day.

The following morning, farmers are called for a meeting to set an agenda for the day. They are divided into three groups to participate in one of the three major cross-cutting activities of the day,

  • Debate: Mobile telephones have improved the lives of the rural grassroots farmers
  • Mock Radio Program: The grassroots farmer was intended to remain poor
  • Knowledge Fair Sharing Forum: Knowledge Sharing Forums for improved Grassroots farmers’ Livelihoods

These were to become the attention-grabbing activities of the day. Next step is to set their stalls. As they set up their stalls, we realize that some items are missing! So we rush to the nearest town to buy some masking tape, glue and a piece of white cloth for the power point presentation. Ednah had suggested we present photos that were being taken during the event and also old photos that had been taken during field visits by Maria, the CELAC program Coordinator.

The idea behind this is that such technologies excite farmers and rural folks as Ednah the Managing Director of BROSDI reveals to us and indeed it does as we later found out. Having acquired our items, we rush back to the exhibition venue to finalize our setup.

The main activities
Having done all these, the event is set to begin with a debate first on the agenda. Tapping on the theme of the event, “the role of Mobile telephony to grassroots farmers in rural Uganda”, farmers had prior to this activity divided themselves according to those who were for mobile phones and those against them; and they were ready to present their case!

Those against the mobile telephone could not hide expressing their anger on how it has led to many family breakdowns. That instead of them focusing on how to earn a living, their attention is now drawn to settling families disputes brought in by mobile phones. However, those for phone failed to concur to this. One farmer from Apac district expressed that mobile phones have helped her reduce costs and the burden of moving to Kampala when she wants agricultural related info. All she does now is to call Maria and the info is sent direct to her phone. Another farmer Mrs. Kambugu from Masaka district comes in to note that ‘through the mobile phone message I can be able to sell my produce at a reasonable price since I have the prevailing market price.’

Having successfully presented their case and since there is no judge to rule out who has won the debate, next on the agenda is the mock radio program. Here farmers discuss issues agreeing and disagreeing that the grassroots farmer was meant to remain poor. This is followed by the knowledge sharing forum, where farmers are taught on how to host successful knowledge sharing forums.

Amidst these activities, other farmers are busy exhibiting products on their various stalls. On visiting these stalls, farmers are demonstrating how to grow a certain crop right from the nursery bed to the final product even exhibiting the various products got from these crops and animals.

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The most interesting stalls to visit were banana (matooke) growing from Masaka, growing of Millet from Bushenyi district, Orange sweet potatoes from Luwero district, who later won prizes for the best exhibitors respectively. The most fascinating facts were the way these farmers diversify their crops to expand their income generating base. We learn that with the orange sweet potato one can bake cakes and doughnuts from the sweet potato flour, in addition to making bathing soap and Vaseline out of it!

On deep interaction with other farmers, their appreciation for the role of CELAC project in helping them achieve their dreams through the use of mobile phone messaging to get market prices, use of the radio programmes and the literature given to them inform of how to guides can not be denied.

However, their main concern now is the need to access markets where they can sell their produce as they are being cheated by the middlemen. This is one thing perhaps the CELAC project needs to look at since it has promoted knowledge sharing for the farmers and as such they have been able to increase their produce. The next step should be to provide them with market opportunities to sell their produce!

Summing up the event are speeches from special invited guests and the awarding of certificates and prizes to the best exhibitors. While presenting the prize to the best exhibitor, the LC5 of Luwero district who happened to also be the guest of honor, urged farmers especially women to indulge in income generating projects such as the CELAC project so as to get exciting opportunities such as the one got by the farmer who was invited to Italy to participate in Cheese making workshop.

Masaka district won a fully connected village phone as the best exhibtors, followed by Bushenyi district who won three hoes and three pangas; and Luwero district who won two hoes and three pangas. However, a certificate of participation is given to all participating districts. On this note, since most farmers put in a lot to participate in this event, it would be nice if CELAC provided a prize for each district so that the farmers do not lose hope.

Listen to interviews from the farmers