GAYAZA – More than 800 students drawn from various colleges and high schools were exposed to immense agriculture career opportunities during a weeklong Annual Farm Camp held at Gayaza High School.
During the opening of the week-long camp officiated by Buganda Premiere Charles Peter Mayiga on Friday, at least 18 out of 114 schools exhibited their agricultural project including diary projects, rabbit rearing, poultry, mushroom growing, value addition projects such as baking cakes and other confectioneries.
Schools were assessed on originality of the exhibitions, lessons drawn from the previous farm camps, innovations, clear submissions and expressions, viability and sustainability of the projects among others.
Mary Hill High School won the exhibitions, Gayaza High School finishing second followed by Muyenga High School while Iganga SS and Bombo Army tied in the fourth place.
Best students from different categories received various medals.
The Gayaza Farm Camp is a 6-year-old initiative in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
The camp brings together participants from over 100 schools across Uganda and more than 1000 students with their teachers at Gayaza High School, with new entrants each year.
The annual farm camp aims at promoting youth involvement in agribusiness development.
The camp brings together leaders in agriculture best practices, showcasing actual projects in the school farms as a practical approach to increasing food security, improving livelihoods and ensuring sustainable techniques for future generations.
This year’s camp which ended on Tuesday, August 22 attracted students from schools such as Maryhill High School, Gayaza High School, Iganga SS, Bombo Army Bukedi College among others.
Under the theme “Youth in Agriculture: learning to do and doing to learn” students explored the opportunities in the farming value chain with sponsorship from Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI) under the Sky project which is supporting in skilling them in agriculture innovations across the country, World Food Programme among others.
Dr. Charles Owach, the assistant FAO Representative who spoke on behalf of Dr. Antonio Querido, said that the young people form a big part of the future leaders, farmers, future policymakers and that they represent the immense possibilities that the future holds in terms of capacity to impact lives.
FAO has been at the forefront of supporting the Annual Farm Camp since inception as it is a unique opportunity to empower young people to embrace agriculture and agribusiness.
“Interventions such as farm camp are increasingly drawing more young people into the [agricultural] sector,” said Dr. Owach who commended the organizers and reminded the youth that they are the youngest population in the world and that it is important [for them] to actively engage in the agriculture sector.
Dr. Owach also highlighted some areas where FAO has collaborated with Gayaza High School including launching a telefood project for vegetables and piggery project, funding the annual Farm Camp, supporting biogas facility and establishment and maintenance of one-acre woodlot.
“What you have been learning here for the last couple of days feeds directly into our mandate. We pledge to support initiatives like this until we achieve the target,” he said, reiterating FAO’s commitment to achieving zero hunger.
The Ag. Head Teacher of Gayaza High School, Agatha Ssenyonjo, thanked the experts and facilitators for the impacting practical sessions.
According to Ssenyonjo, besides gaining knowledge on farming, the programme opens learners’ minds enabling them to become innovative enough to tackle challenges such as food security, environmental degradation, market exploitation, and poverty reduction.
Mr. Brian Kibirige, the Farm Camp coordinator urged the students to go back home and practice what they learnt.
The World Food Programme awarded each of the best five schools with silo storage tanks and the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO), gave them sprayers and seeds.
The best two, Mary Hill and Gayaza High School respectively received additional training in rabbit rearing.
Students speak out
In 2017, students of a school club, Bombo Army SS Young farmers club started growing tomatoes and mushrooms to pay for their tuition.
The students said they started with UGX600,000 start-up capital from their school with technical support from NARO in Kawanda.
The students now earn over UGX1,000,000 per term from the sale of mushrooms and over UGX100,000 in tomatoes.
The students sell a kilo of dry mushrooms at UGX 35,000 while the fresh ones go for UGX5,000. Their customers are hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets within Kampala.
“We have expanded into piggery and as another business, with plans to add poultry production,” explains Joseph Ggaliwango, a S5 student.
In 2018, the club also acquired two high breed cows Safina and Mariam. Each of the cows gives them over 10 litres of milk per day.
The School Farm Camp is organised by Gayaza High School in partnership with AVSI Foundation and funded by FAO and NARO and WFP provide agricultural expertise and training.