Sustainable Organic Agriculture Training Program (SOATP)
Number of beneficiaries: 70 farmers Introduction The first phase of the project was implemented with financial support from Tudor Trust in the UK. All the training sessions take place at the Kulika Centre. In last 2 years a total of 40 farmers were trained with support from Tudor Trust. However, financial support from Rotary international has boosted the continuity of the training program. 30 farmers are currently undergoing training.
The SOATP aims at building the capacity of small scale farmers including those near Kulika centre, to enable them gain relevant knowledge, skills, attitudes and behavioral changes to improve their livelihoods, through implementation of Sustainable Organic Agriculture on their farms and farmer to farmer extension.
Through the program, farmers are equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of Sustainable Organic Agriculture (SOA) and to promote farmer-to-farmer extension for the purpose of increasing farm productivity, food security and income and thus improving the quality of life among farming households in rural communities.
Structure of the training program: The farmers selected for training are taken through an initial residential orientation program of 3-5 days to further check their suitability for training.
Residential Training: Three residential training blocks are conducted. During that time the farmers learn different aspects of SOA, including soil fertility building through the making and using of compost, plant tea and animal dung liquid manures, digging contours, bridges, and other physical structures for controlling soil erosion. Other topics of training include vegetable nursery establishment, the planting and grafting of fruit trees, mushroom growing by planting mushrooms in polythene gardens,
Trainees are taught as well as sack mounds. They also practice bee-keeping, banana management, coffee growing techniques and including paw paws, passion and orange and mango fruit. The farmers are trained in methods of intercropping and crop rotations as well as identifying and documenting techniques for integrated pest and disease management. During the residential course, the farmers are periodically taken for exposure visits to farms ranked high in “best practices” of SOA in order for them to recognize what other farmers have been able to achieve.
Other training topics include post harvest handling and storage, food and nutrition, growing and using herbal medicine, home hygiene, sanitation and family health, making tip-taps for regular hand washing, gender and family life education, environmental and fuel conservation by making and using mud fuel saving stoves and hay basket fireless cookers, personal planning and farm management, keeping farm records and farmer to farmer extension.
The trainees graduate as Key Farmer Trainers who deliver farmer-to-farmer extension, there is a focus during the training course on the development of communication skills, so that the farmers will feel confident about training others in SOA when they return home.
The farmers are assessed via continuous assessments, as well as written examinations at the end of each residential training block.
On-farm training: On-farm training is carried out via regular visits to each of the trained farmers at home in between the residential training blocks. Guidance is given on site by KULIKA trainers in crop and livestock husbandry, as well as in the different combinations of SOA that farmers implement on their own farms.
The farmers also visit each other’s farms using a “caravan” approach, also called a “joint peer assessment” visit. Each farmer is then able to evaluate each other’s performance and judge his or her own on-farm performance in comparison to the rest of the group. Such visits also encourage the farmers to advise each other on specific areas to improve.
Provision of farm development grants: Each of the KFTs who has been trained on this program so far has written a project proposal with a budget of USh250, 000/= to be funded by KULIKA Uganda. Each of the 20 KFTs has now received and invested Ush 250,000/= into a small project, including pig or local chicken-rearing, banana or vegetable growing and bee-keeping among others.
Lessons learned by KULIKA Uganda during the implementation of the project • Farmers learn more through seeing and physically engaging in the practical sessions taught. • Attaching farmers to farms where other farmers are already practising SOA enhances learning • Family cooperation and active support of one’s family members in the implementation of the skills and practices of sustainable organic agriculture leads to faster achievement of improved quality of the farm and food production • Integration of livestock with crop production helps to generate manure for soil fertility building and thus higher crop yields. This is important as most farmers cannot afford to buy manure for soil fertility building.