Agriculture in Ruhiira MVP (Uganda)
Partnering up with Millennium Promise MVP has provided larger South African Boa goats to 150 farmers who meet certain criteria. This improved variety of goats is larger, grow faster and sell for more; a local goat for slaughter sells at USH 80 000 to 150 000 while the improved variety sells at USH 300 000 to 500 000. Qualifying criteria include a goat shelter (see picture), pastures of fodder, a pit latrine & fuel-efficient stove. A goat shelter enables farmers to control goats’ grazing, protecting their other crops.
The condition of this goat grant is that if a farmer is given a female, the first female offspring must be given to another farmer in the group, and if the farmer is provided a male, he must allow other farmers within the group to use that male for breeding purposes.
A challenge for farmers remains the fact that they must walk with their goats to Kabuyanda, an onerous downhill journey which takes several hours, to sell them, by which time goats are exhausted and do not look in good health. Farmers blame this as one of the reasons for on not receiving the price they deserve for their goats. Due to different breeding and hence selling times, farmers are unable to cooperate to hire a vehicle to jointly transport all their goats at once.
On our day of livestock rotation the MVP veterinary facilitator, Dr. Aziku, took us around, He provides veterinary services free of charge to farmers in the cluster and they are required only to pay for the drugs required to treat their livestock’s ailments. Prior to this farmers would have to call a private vet, the closest one being in Mbarara, pay their fuel and labor costs as well as the cost of the necessary drugs, an amount which could be as much as USH 100 000 excluding drugs.
We had previously noted the lack of donkeys seen as means of transporting goods, but during the livestock rotation we visited a farmer who had received a donkey from the project, purchased from Eastern Uganda. We were told that the MVP had provided 8 donkeys to 4 farmers, but this farmer only had one because the other one had died. The donkey looked thin and unhealthy and Dr. Aziku said it didn’t look like it was being fed sufficiently. The farmer said he let neighbors use the donkey in exchange for them agreeing to feed it and provide it drinking water for the time that they used it.
We began the second day of our agriculture rotation visiting one of the 5 demonstration and research plots established by MVP in easily locations enabling easy access by the community. This one had soya bean crops with some sub-plots planted in different patterns (reflecting different practices in the community), others planted late to demonstrate the importance of timely planting. However, the majority of the action comes in the measurement of differences in four different treatments: one plot is treated with full rate DAP (inorganic fertilizer), one with half-rate DAP, another with rizobia (organic fertilizer), another with rizobia and DAP and the last with no treatment. Data recorded on the difference between plots includes the height of the plants, the length and width of leaves, and the number of branches.
MVP is also interested in subsequent maize yields of plots where soya beans have been planted compared to where they have not, because despite the crop’s ability to provide protein and milk soya beans improve soil health. Yields are expected to increase by 10%. However, because farmers are unlikely to plant soya beans for soil conservation reasons, the agriculture facilitators generally emphasize the nutritional and enterprise opportunities of soya bean crops.
MVP provided 2 varieties of soya bean seeds (supported by a $360 000 grant by AGRA) to some farmers early in the project. The project has then bought seeds from these farmers and provided them to other farmers, so that over time all farmers have now received free seeds from the project; in fact, government agricultural extension officers have extended this program beyond the project area by 2 sub-counties. The project has also provided training to farmers on the importance of not mixing the seed varieties and to retain a portion of their seeds from each harvest to replant.
We were also taken to a fruit orchard where we were shown grafted fruit trees. Saplings are transposed onto the trunk of another tree (e.g. a lemon tree which is particularly resistant to pests and drought). The tree then grows the fruit of the sapling, although all the grafted oranges we tasted were very sour (or like sweet lemons depending on whether you’re a half-empty or half-full kind of person). But we’ve seen them being sold around Mbarara, so perhaps if you don’t grow up with the Ceres valley in your country you don’t know the difference.