Helping Ugandan farmers

That was in 2002, when she enrolled for a doctorate degree. Masaka district in central Uganda was her project location.

Dr Kabirizi, 58, a mother of three and now a PhD holder in crop science (forage), said the farmers were accustomed to the traditional ways of farm management, and did not see any value in learning new technologies.

At the National Livestock Resources Research Institute, where Kabirizi worked, her research was on the affordability of livestock feeds through the integration of maize crop and forage legumes.

How long would the feeds sustain the livestock when properly fed? Would this boost milk yields?

“It was very difficult to persuade the farmers to test the technologies,” Dr Kabirizi recalled.

Time was running out and she had to get the research started, but the farmers remained adamant.

She had to invite four farmers to her farmhouse on the outskirts of Kampala, where she rears cross-breeds of exotic cattle, kept primarily for milk production.

She has a hay store, forage chopping machine, feeding troughs and a milk selling point. Outside the home, she owns three acres of land on which grows forage and sells the surplus to other urban farmers.

The visitors were made to see and participate in the daily chores of managing the livestock for the two days they spent at her home.

Convinced that what they were being asked to do was possible, they became her ambassadors and things changed for the better.

“It is very important for researchers to transform themselves first, if we are to improve agricultural productivity in the country,” Dr Kabirizi said.

The first year proved worthwhile. The farmers intercropped maize with forage legumes.

When the maize was harvested, they were taught how to use the stovers (remains from maize fields) to feed the animals. In the past, the farmers burnt the stovers even when the livestock lacked pasture.

The results were amazing. When Dr Kabirizi started her research, farmers hardly had enough feeds to sustain their animals through a year.

Often, they suffered lack of pasture in the dry seasons and burnt the stovers at the same time.

The farmers can now make optimum use of their lands to produce feeds and food. Her research saw the farmers maintain a feed supply for over 360 days.

The milk yields improved from between three to five litres per day from the local breeds to 16 litres. Many neighbouring farmers also adopted her technology. It was a success.

This technology is being up-scaled to the rest of the country including the semi-arid Karamoja, where farmers are being trained in pasture management and soil fertility, thanks to a Food and Agriculture Organisation grant.

She has disseminated this knowledge widely within the urban farmers who attend her hands-on-training in good farm management practices. Elsewhere, farmers have acquired the same skills and taken the project for income generation.

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