Farm Summit: Masaka, Uganda

The farm summit was a wonderful and enlightening introduction into agricultural methods that emphasize maximum use of local resources, cost reduction, and most of all, sustainability. Through these methods food security can be increased substantially as well as creating a thriving communal economy.

A bio-gas unit has been constructed that provides energy for light and cooking. 15,000 farmers have been trained in organic farming.

The farm produces a wide variety of plants and vegetables; lettuces, carrots, spinach, cabbages, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, coffee, and colliandra, to name a few.

500 orange trees and 500 mango trees have been planted. These particular fruits produce high yields, which are a crucial source of food and income. At markets, mango producers can earn an average of 4,000 Ugandan shillings per mango, and with and output of 2,000 kg from a single tree, mangoes are an extremely high commodity.

300 families have been given seeds to produce beans, maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, mangoes, apples, oranges, etc. The farmers are required to bring back the seeds after harvesting so that they can be given out again to other crop growers. This program ensures a constant supply of seeds at very minimal cost.

Apiary units have been set up that produce honey. This honey can be harvested at least four times a year.

Manure making is also demonstrated at the farm.

Farmers are trained in animal management, utilizing goats, pigs and chickens. 598 pregnant goats where given ti 598 families in 2009.

The summit in Masaka created and incredible opportunity for outreach workers and volunteers from different parts of the globe to see first-hand how a single idea could reshape an entire community, and possibly a country.

10 acres of land spawned one of the most amazing agricultural projects seen anywhere. Serving as a demonstration farm, this project not only provides a school for crop-growers but also as a community centre.

It provides youth education, education and training for women, a workplace and training centre for locals as meeting point for discussion of critical issues within the local community and throughout the country.

Domestic violence, health and hygiene, sanitation, HIV/AIDS, gender equality and the importance of sustainable agriculture and food security. This kind of community involvement creates a sense that everyone is a stakeholder in the project, its their project. The need for security is also minimal. Through community policing the locals ensure that there is little need for constant intervention from project directors and coordinators. The farm sustains itself and therefore the local community sustains itself.

On December 14, 2011, volunteers, project directors and NGO affiliates all came together for a common purpose; to learn. What is the purpose of this project? What makes it so successful? Community involvement is the key. These ideas and methods can be disseminated and implemented, not only in other parts of Uganda and Africa, but also other locations around the world.

“Think big, start small.” – Peter F. Luswata -

Important Week for URCSF

During this week, we submitted two different proposals to two different donors.

The first one was for Canal de Isabel II, in Madrid (Spain). Canal de Isabel II is a public company that manages the water supply in Madrid. We submitted this proposal through our spanish partner Paz y Cooperación.

The main facts of the project are:

  • Budget:
    1. Canal de Isabel II: 68.976.41 Euros
    2. URCSF: 22.352.64 Euros
    3. Total: 91.329.41 Euros.
  • Duration: One Year
  • Location: Bukakata & Lambu, Masaka District, Uganda. These are two fishing communities near of Victoria Lake which water, hygiene and sanitation situation needs improve. We are the only development agent in this zone so the importance of the project is crucial for the well-being of these communities.
  • Overall Objective: Increased the coverage of drinking water and sanitation facilities in Masaka District.
  • Specific Objective: Improved on the general health situation of the poor rural peasant women of Bukakata and Lambu, their families and those of community through increasing access to safe clean water, hygiene education and improved sanitation facilities.
  • Results:
    1. Supported 1058 people in community as direct beneficiaries access safe clean water and better sanitation facilities by the end of 1 year.
    2. Empowered and increased awareness through training of 200 women and 858 people in the community with knowledge on good hygiene practices to foster behavioral Change by the end of 1 year.
  • Activities:
    1. Purchase to support 22 members acquires durable rain water harvesting polytanks.
    2. Construction of 21 Ecosan Latrines.
    3. Construction of 7 shallow wells
    4. Conduct 4 trainings for women in water, hygiene and sanitation.
    5. Offer door-to-door extension support to members and the community on good hygiene practices.
    6. Radio Talk Show
    7. Form community Groups for Music dancers and Drummers as a tool for sensitization.
    8. Competition to choose the Dancers/Drummers Group
    9. Organized visits to the community

The second one was submitted to the Belgium Embassy in Kampala. The information about this project is:

  • Budget:
    1. BTC: 34.750.000 Shillings
    2. URCSF: 18.600.000 Shillings
    3. Total: 53.350.000 Shillings.
  • Duration: One Year
  • Location: Kalisizo, Masaka District, Uganda. The project will be implemented in the Model Farm that the organization has in Masaka.
  • Overall Objective: Improving subsistence farming by training poor remote rural communities.
  • Specific Objective: Teaching rural women water harvesting and conservation to increase food security and combat climate change in Southern Uganda.
  • Results:
    1. Community Farming skills Improved
      1. Health-related nutrition community conscience developed
      2. Well prepared and more resilient communities created
    2. Food Security Increased
  • Activities:
    1. Community Training.
    2. Kitchen Garden Boxes provision.
    3. Water harvesting tank provision.
    4. Fruit tree seedling.
    5. Energy saving stoves.
    6. Provision of Seeds.

With these two new proposals, URCSF focuses its efforts in two of its main sectorial priorities, Water, Hygiene & Sanitation and Food Security & Climate Change.

The final decision about the projects will take place during this year. For the first one, we´ll have to wait until October-November 2012. The resolution about the second one will be known in April 2012.

Growing Fruit

An article about the URCSF in the Daily Monitor:

M2: FEATURES | December 16, 2009
Harvesting your money in less than three months

Michael J. Ssali

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, is an old English saying and many people these days have accepted the wisdom, making fruits part of their usual diet.

They are good for digestion and an important source of Vitamin C and a whole range of other nutrients. For some people, it is now an occupation to sell packs of fruit salads and they will move from one office to another and from one shop to another selling fruits as their source of income. Many restaurants nowadays serve fruits as part of the main courses (dessert). Fruits are on demand in all urban markets and fruit stalls are a common feature in nearly every trading centre and roadside market along our highways.

It is therefore a good idea for farmers involved in crop agriculture to devote some attention and energy to growing fruits or to altogether specialise in fruit farming. The goal of making money notwithstanding, he is expected to grow fruits to keep the family well fed and healthy. By the very nature of his labourious occupation, the farmer must feed well to be strong and “to keep the doctor away”.

An NGO in Rakai District at its model farm, Uganda Rural Community Support Foundation (URCSF), located at Kirumba in Kirumba Sub-county, has undertaken to teach modern farming skills to farmers with a view to improve their diet and to increase household incomes. Fruit growing is one of the skills offered at the demonstration farm. They teach fruit tree grafting and also prepare seedlings to give farmers. A recent visit to the farm drew my attention to the watermelon – a fruit so common on the market stalls and from which many smallholder farmers mainly in Mpigi and Masaka districts have earned money and improved their livelihoods.

The watermelon grows fast with good care and fetches money quite quickly. It bears fruits which may be harvested within just three months after planting. The seeds are normally obtained from farmers’ shops where it may also be possible to get simple guidelines on how to proceed with growing the crop. Depending on its size, a watermelon could cost anything above Shs3,000. The number of fruits varies per vine from three to 15 or even more. The fruit may weigh anything from two to seven or even more kilograms depending on the fertility of the soil and the amount of rain it received.

According to Mr Fred Mpanga, the Farm Manager at URCSF, it is always good to prepare the ground into which the farmer intends to plant the watermelon. It should be clear of weeds and the holes should be dug about a foot deep and perhaps two square feet. Since the watermelon belongs to the gourd family with its vines growing prostrate it is good to allow for reasonable spacing between the plants of some seven or 10 metres or a little longer. The hole should be filled up again with top soil. He strongly advises the application of organic manure by mixing perhaps two spades of such manure as animal dung with the soil. About four seeds of watermelon may be planted in each hole, one in every corner of the square, Mr Mpanga recommends.

Even for people who have never grown the watermelon in their areas, perhaps unsure if it could do well there, should give it a try. The crop, according to research, is native to Tropical Africa and is known to be under cultivation on every continent with suitable climate and soil. It might be interesting to learn that the watermelon is one of the fruits depicted in early Egyptian art, indicating that it has been under cultivation for at least 4,000 years.

Since the seeds are planted in a hole from where the crop grows and spreads its vines to the neighbouring area it is easy for the farmer to water it when the rains fail by pouring the water right at the spot where he planted the seeds.

Fusarium wilt, anthracnose, downy mildew, stem end rot, and root knot are some of the diseases to worry the watermelon grower. Among the most disturbing pests are certain beetles, cutworms, melon aphids and mites. Fortunately these can be kept under control with the application of the common pesticides often available in farmers’ shops. It is always good to discuss any such issues with the agricultural advisory services provider in the area.

The water melon has a fairly long shelf life especially when it is well handled during and after harvest. The farmer must avoid causing cuttings or bruises on the fruit’s surface.