With Improved Farming Skills, Richard Sabiiti Can Now Sustain His Family
According to Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), agriculture contributes 36% to the employment sector and it remains the major source of livelihood in Uganda. However, most of the farmers are unable to earn from the business and sustain their lives due to poor methods of farming and poor varieties of crops among other challenges.
Richard Sabiiti is one of those farmers from Kiyombya Sub County in Bunyangabu District who had, for a longtime, engaged in agriculture without being able to meet his family’s basic needs due to financial constraints.
But thanks to Agriculture Development Project (ADP), one of the programs under Caritas Fort Portal – HEWASA mandated to strengthen the capabilities of poor farmers through promotion of sustainable agriculture, access to market and value chain development.
In 2018, ADP started working with Kyamatanga Tweyimukye Farmers group where the project facilitators trained famers in dairy production and provided them with a heifer for zero grazing. The group chose Sabiiti as a host farmer and supported him with feeds for the animal.
“Group members collected cow dung for making manure and I used manure from cow dung in my banana plantation and vegetable gardens,” Sabiiti says.
He add that before the project, the banana wilt disease had heavily infected his plantation, the bananas would be small and he would not earn much from them.
However, two years later, Sabiiti is now seeing great improvement in his yields and he is engaged in growing vegetables that are adding to his income and source of food for his family.
“I have vegetables like egg pants, Dodo, Green pepper, Carrots, and Sukuma wiki throughout the year because of manure from the cow dung. My children are enjoying milk and I have managed to make savings from milk sales that have enabled me to buy a young heifer.” Sabiiti narrates.
The calf that was produced by the Heifer that ADP gave them has been given out to the other members of the group in a revolving form.
The project also trained farmers in proper land management, where they got skills in banana management, soil fertility management, agroforestry and soil and water conservation among others. This enabled Sabiiti raise income from the sale of bananas, chicken and milk to pay school fees for his children and meet other basic needs.
Anne Manyindo, the ADP coordinator, says that Sabiiti’s story is shared by thousands of other farmers in Fort Portal Diocese that have benefited from the programme since its inception in 1998.
She explains that at the beginning, they were operating in 13 administrative parishes in Kitagwenda County, Kamwenge District that is in present day Kitagwenda District. Since then program, has increased its coverage and has worked in the Districts of Kyenjojo, Bunyangabu and Kabarole western Uganda.
Manyindo says that over the years, the programme has registered a number of successes that include establishment of improved banana, cassava, piggery, goat, local poultry demonstrations and multiplication centers in Kyenjojo and Kamwenge Districts.
“We have supported the formation of Kyenjojo Agro-input Dealers Association, facilitated the formation of Kyenjojo Farmers’ Marketing Association (KYEFAMA), which is a high-level farmers’ organisation,” the coordinator says.
The other achievements of the project include construction of three Banana collection shades and three cereal stores in Bunyangabu District, construction of 24 food security granaries in Kabarole and Bunyangabu district and supporting farmers’ groups with five Zero grazing units with dairy heifers.
Through ADP, Manyindo says they have learnt that implementation of saving and lending schemes is not only improving farmers’ capacity to save but also group cohesion and that successful agricultural technologies done as demonstrations continue to spill over to non- members.
They have also learnt that community-based facilitators who are active members of the farming groups are effective and sustainable trainers mentors and access to market not only depends on market information and storage but also on access roads, value addition and effective cooperation among farmers.
Despite the several achievements, the project has also faced some challenges that include unpredictable weather and seasonal changes that affect crop growing which partly discourages farmers from investing in crop production because of losses that result from either prolonged dry season or too much rain.
Occasionally, pests and diseases also attack bananas, maize and beans while low price of agricultural produce especially banana also pose a threat to the farmers.
Manyindo says that due to the impact of the project on the lives of the farmers, they have, in different ways, ensured that its benefits outlive its life span. This has been achieved by providing skills to farmers through capacity building. This will ensure the skills remain with the communities even when the program is no more.
“We have linked farmers to input buyers and suppliers and we shall work closely with extension service providers especially government extension staff such as veterinary officers, community development officers, agricultural officers, environment officer,s, etc., to ensure that farmers continue benefiting from the project,” Manyindo says.