KAMPALA — Seventy (70) Agricultural Officers from selected districts across Uganda where the Agricultural Cluster Development Project (ACDP) is being implemented underwent a five-day refresher training on Integrated Production, Pest and Disease Management (IPPM) course at the Continuing Agricultural Education Centre (CAEC) at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK).
This is the second group following the assessment of the first training of 72 participants that was trained by the university in August 2019 based on the same content.
Under the National Agricultural Policy (2016), Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), is mandated among others to provide refresher training for extension staff in Uganda.
This has been spelt out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and CAES. So far, over 2,200 district extension workers have been trained under this initiative, funded by the World Bank and other development partners including IFAD.
This particular training was supported by MAAIF under the ACDP funded by the World Bank at a total budget of about UGX240million.
Makerere Senior Lecturer and Program Coordinator Dr. Bernard Obaa said the main goal of the training is to strengthen the capacity of extension workers based at sub-counties in three main aspects namely; Climate Smart Agronomic Practices, Diseases and Pest management and Post-harvest Handling.
“Over time we have realized capacity gaps among extension workers. After studying at universities for some years when these people are deployed in the field, new innovations and other techniques come up and they may be having deficiencies in accessing new information and approaches.
So the main goal is to strengthen their capacity in three key areas for five priority crops for Agricultural Cluster Development Project (ACDP). These priority crops are beans, coffee, rice, maize and Cassava,” Dr. Obaa said
Dr. Obaa said the training focused on three main aspects namely Climate Smart Agronomic Practices, Diseases and Pest management and Post-harvest Handling. The other aspect was on Cross cutting issues including Soil Management, Cost benefit analysis and Ethics in farming as business.
“The participants are very excited about these themes. One of the main challenges the participants tell us is not having sufficient information to tell farmers what disease or pests are affecting their crops. So with this kind of training, they are able to identify diseases and pests and advise farmers on how to manage”. The coordinator said.
Dr. Obaa said, as facilitators they learn a lot about what is going on in the field since many times dons are accused of working with academic peers and being theoretical. The training, he said, provides an opportunity to interact with people who directly interface with farmers who give perspectives and experiences of what is going on across the country that can be used to improve university teaching, guiding students for attachment and research.
Speaking on behalf of the Principal CAES and the Vice Chancellor Makerere University, Prof. Archileo Kaaya welcomed and thanked the team from MAAIF and the trainees for attending the training.
“The key message to you participants is that, you put in practice what you have learnt. Most of the information that has been provided is possible and appropriate for you “, Prof. Kaaya said.
Prof. Kaaya, also one of the facilitators on post-harvest technology especially on management, extension of shelf life, quality and safety of produce said the training focused on five crops that are part of the 10 priority commodities of Uganda.
He said management and extension of shelf life, quality and safety are key in determining the nutrition, economic benefits and overall food security.
“The extension officers have been very excited but they said that they face challenges in terms of implementation of post-harvest technologies that are sometimes influenced by politicians or voters. There is need for Local governments and policy makers to come up with bylaws for enforcement.
They have also indicated that a number of technologies are in place but they are obsolete because farmers do not have money to use and upscale them and sometimes the attitude is a big problem but they agreed that they encourage farmers to have positive attitude, train them how to use the technologies, and try to convince politicians the need for consumers to have quality products than focus on votes.” Prof. Kaaya explained.
He said post-harvest losses is a serious problem in Uganda estimated to be 20-50% and this loss is terms of quantity, quality, money and nutrients. In case of maize, appropriate drying, off ground, use of tarpaulins, concrete floors, driers can be adopted to mitigate the loss.
Mubende is one of the district where a bye law prohibiting maize drying on bare ground has been passed. Whoever is found drying maize on bare ground is punished and his/her maize confiscated.
While officially closing the training the Agronomist for ACDP MAAIF Francis Nuwagira said the ministry organized the TOT for IPPM to harmonize the understanding between the extension officers, researchers and trainers from Makerere university.
“We want to harmonize our understanding on new technologies to increase production and productivity of the main commodities that are being promoted under the ACDP so that trainers from this course can go and train others to extend services to the farmers as the target beneficiaries.
The training is trying to address the issue of low production on grounds that as a country the target is to increase marketable volumes for beans, coffee, rice, maize and Cassava. Our expectation is that the technologies from this training are going to be passed on to the farmers for adoption”, Mr. Nuwagira said.
As facilitator, Nuwagira observed that extension officers need more practical lessons to be able grasp and train farmers the new technologies and approaches.
The representative of Oyam District Agricultural Officer, Judith Agero Aluma said; “We tackled the challenges like Cassava Brown Streak Virus very well with the lecturers. They trained us on how to go about it. We have realized that we have not been using integrated approach in fighting pests and diseases because our focus was on chemical application. We have also realized that post-harvest handling is a big problem. We have been producing a lot but the way we have handle the produce sometimes causes food poisoning.
Apac District Agricultural Officer Betty Okori said; “The content has been very elaborate because it covered the value chain of the different five commodities covered under the ACDP from production, post-harvest handling. The method of content delivery encompassed both the theoretical and practical aspects”.