THE PLIGHT OF AFRICA’S GRASS ROOT FARMERS: DEMONSTRATION FARMS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
BY: MOSES HATEGEKA
African economies are agricultural based, with majority of its people engaged in agriculture both for basic and food sustenance, living in rural areas. Millions of grass root farmers in this continent live in hard to reach areas, where infrastructural facilities such as good roads, clean water, health facilities and power, are absent.
I have been to various African countries and am on compassionate ground, always working with grass root farmers deep down in their localities, teaching them application of agricultural best practices and agribusiness skills, I have observed and noted that, one common problem/challenge that these grass root farmers are faced with, is that, they have totally been left behind in adoption of new agricultural technologies and usage of evolving methods of increasing production. They still use traditional tools such as hand hoes, pangas, etc., which cannot and are not enabling them, to properly till their lands on a much bigger scale they would have wished to like in case they had tractors.
Millions and thousands of these grass root farmers lack knowledge and skills in proper land preparation techniques, how to properly store seeds for planting in the next season, how to properly plant crops, how to improve fertility of their lands, how to control soil erosion and how to control pests and diseases, which is making it so hard, for them to produce enough food they wish to, for their proper survival. In many communities, farmers still largely traditionally practice growing of one type of crop like maize, cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes, etc., year in and out and this has contributed and is contributing to loss of fertility of their lands, which in turn, is resulting into low crop yields and because of this, many farmers are increasingly find it hard to sustainably feed their families. In fact, many of the households, survives on one meal a day and only takes plain porridge and in some cases water, as their supper before going to sleep. Sleeping hungry is very common in many of these farmers’ homesteads. Their children are malnourished because of lack of balance diet and this is severely stunting their normal growth.
All these problems/challenges, can greatly be overcome, by establishing a well/fully built demonstration/teaching farm/s in grass root farmers’ areas and in this case in Uganda, which is a country found in East African region that is comprised of five countries, namely, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.
When the demonstration/teaching farm/s, is/are established, grass root farmers’ groups, from various parts of the country and in the region, will always be hosted and practically be trained, in the application of appropriate agricultural technology and in the application of suitable practices as evidenced from the teaching farm. They will then be routinely followed up and guided by the skilled team from the teaching farm, on how best to apply the knowledge and skills gained from these trainings.
These demonstration/teaching farms, will also be used, for researching purposes, from where the researched information about improved agricultural technologies and farming methods, will always be disseminated, to the grass root farmers’ in an appropriate time. This will tremendously help in sustainably improving the farmers’ yields which ultimately, will enable them in overcoming hunger and poverty in their homesteads. I strongly believe that continuous grass root farmer’s trainings, is an assured and clear channel way of enabling grass root farmers in achieving sustainability of high yields. The farmers I have personally trained in embracing application of improved farming methods and agribusiness have harvested three times higher yields than they used to before the training. With teaching farms in place, the yields will even be higher than that and on a bigger scale since many farmers will be covered on a continuous basis
The establishment of a fully established teaching farm including the purchase of the land (120 hectares of land) where the farm is to be established, hiring of two tractors, purchase of various irrigation tools, fertilizer application, labor, professional fee, purchase of various seeds and seedlings, pests and disease control as well as routine farm management and maintenance will cost approximately, $120,000 (US DOLLARS).
In sum, grass root farmers in Uganda and Africa at large, are always eager and wiling to learn when given an opportunity. The establishment of a teaching farm(s) targeting to benefit them will be a blessing to them and will sustainably transform their lives in regard to overcoming hunger and poverty in their homes.
MOSES HATEGEKA, is a practicing farmer with a mission compassionate of where resources allows, to always help grass root farmers in Africa, to adopt new agricultural technologies and usage of evolving methods of increasing production. He is also a Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs analyst and writer.