RUFORUM Wishes Muslim Community a HOLY MONTH OF RAMADAN


The Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) Secretariat congratulates the Muslim Community on the forthcoming Holy MONTH of RAMADAN, May ALLAH bless all of us with HIS Mercy, Safety, and Good Health. We pray that ALLAH accepts our fasting and prayers.

Blessed RAMADAN

Towards achieving an increased agricultural productivity and farmer income in Malava Sub-County farmers in Kenya


By

Ms. Eileen Inyanji Wanyonyi

The agricultural industry in Malava Sub-County faces lots of challenges from various sources. Within the Sub-County is a huge potential for agricultural productivity which has been left untapped by farmers. The area is largely known for production of sugarcane on large acres of land to provide supply for the two sugar factories; West Kenya and Butali sugar factory. Thus, most farmers concentrate more on sugarcane farming leaving little land for other agricultural activities. As such, there has been increased competition amongst themselves as everybody grows sugarcane. Despite the large supply of cane from farmers, the two sugar factories have commercialized permit for cane cutting with most farmers decrying of lack of market for their cane. Besides, if one is lucky to get the cane permit, collection of cut cane from the farm by the factory tracks may take more than a week which leads to decrease in cane content and quantity. This translates to the farmers going to a loss when the cane is measured at the factory gate hence deceasing their income.

Sugarcane farming in Malava Sub-County, Kenya

But why wait for an entire eighteen months yet they can use alterative agricultural ways of improving their agricultural income?

This question led to the birth of Agrofa Market Link, a business platform that creates linkages for farmers to input markets and produce markets.  The idea was born with the urge to help smallholder farmers to gain access to markets. The internship that began in late December, 2020 saw a team of three; led by myself, begin the roadmap to ensure a food secure country through engagement with farmers in the Western part of Kenya. The team led by Eileen Inyanji, managed to get in touch with at least 30 farmers and five farmer groups within Malava Sub-County, engage with agricultural officers from both Kakamega County and Nakuru County Kenya.

Part of Mr. Makuto’s farm that has been set aside for cabbage farming. The farm is being surrounded by sugarcane plantations
Eileen during one of the field visits to Mr. Momanyi’s farm in late December 2020

Most of the smallholder farmers visited did not practise any substance farming and if they did, they practiced it on a small piece of land majorly of consumption. In trying to inquire as to why they did this, most of them claimed that they are used to sugarcane farming and hence most of their piece of land is for that purpose. Only a small piece of land is left for planting crops for consumption purpose. I interacted with Ms. Beatrice who noted that it is very rare to find farmers planting crops. However she also noted that their farming incomes are not substantial to help them survive through a season. Unfortunately for her, all her “shamba” is under sugarcane farming and she has to look for alternative means for farming.

Eileen assisting Ms. Beatrice to store her bananas using traditional method. The bananas are stored in a traditional basket commonly referred to as ‘Shikono’ which has nylon papers inside it. After the bananas are put in, they are covered with the paper and later stored in a cool dry place. The bananas ripen after four days. She sells her bananas in Matete and Mbande markets.
Banana plantations on Ms. Beatrice’s farm and Ms. Beatrice using traditional methods to ripen her bananas for sell. The bananas ripen after four days using this method.

The team also visited Ms. Hannah who is basically a crop farmer. She grows maize, beans, kales and rears chicken for own consumption. Some of the challenges she faces include water logging due to too much rainfall, livestock theft, insufficient agronomic practices such as weeding and still uses conventional methods for instance in the administration of herbs to chicken. We recommended that Hannah to uses litter (Sawdust) in her chicken house as it would help to absorb moisture and keep the place warm.

Eileen Inyanji with Ms. Hannah in her farm

To help farmers like Hannah, Beatrice and Schein improve on their income, their needs to be continuous efforts by agricultural bodies that aim at encouraging a shift from sugarcane farming to substance farming. Changing the mentality of the smallholder farmers in the region proves difficult as they are already used to cash crop farming.

One visit to the local market confirmed lack of food crops in the region forcing traders to search for produce markets from as far as Narok County in Kenya. Sourcing of vegetables products from far made these traders purchase the vegetables at a high price (e.g. Cabbages Kshs.35) which they later transferred it to the buyers (Selling at Kshs. 70) double the price. Unfortunately for them, the buyers are in the middle-class bracket which forces them to sell at a lower price making them go at a loss.

One trader for instance noted that “If we could get someone from within us to sell the cabbages to us, then we would all benefit from the low affordable prices instead of sourcing them from far”. Through the interaction with the traders, the Agrofa team managed to create a demand for Mr. Makuto’s products (Cabbages) which are still in their final growth stage. Certainly, a lot has to be done to ensure that farmers in the region have an alternative way of earning income rather than fully depending on sugarcane farming that takes a whole eighteen months to mature delaying their income sources.

As much as the team tried to manage help farmers, we faced various challenges such as lack of accessing agro-dealer outlets to create input linkages for our farmer database, low technology uptake as most farmers still use outdated technology in farming and rigidity of the farmers to shift from sugarcane farming with most claiming they are just continuing with what their forefathers started and that it is only sugarcane that des well in the area. Practicing crop farming was a waste of time as the crops would be stolen from their farms before their harvest season. We caught up with Ms. Esnas and she had this to say;

“It is not that we do not want to practice farming, we would love to. However, I tried planting maize on my half an acre piece of land and harvested only quarter of it due to theft from neighbors. You plant but people take advantage and pluck it from the farm hence I would rather practice sugarcane farming and buy food for consumption”

Yet again one farmer, Mr. Shitanda, also had the same sentiments to Ms. Esnas and noted that theft of food crops was so high that it forced his father to ask them to go back to sugarcane farming.

Ms. Eileen Inyanji Wanyonyi is pursuing her Master of Science in Agribusiness Management at Egerton University, Kenya. She can be contacted through: P.O Box 1278-50205, Webuye. Tel: +254 702 222 541. Email: einyanji261@gmail.com.

[Issue 79]Media Monitoring: Extract of Press News on Higher Education in Africa

[Issue 80] Media Monitoring: Extract of Press News on Higher Education in Africa

VEFIRS team seals a partnership with Andre Foods International


By Nelson Papi Kolliesuah

Gulu City, 31st March 2021. A partnership agreement was sealed on 26 March 2021 between the Andre Foods international (AFI) and the team of Vertical Farming in Refugees Setting dubbed “VEFIRS”, a team of five innovators and mission-driven African scholars originating from Liberia, Benin, Namibia, Uganda, and Kenya, respectively who have completed Masters of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University, Uganda supported by the RUFORUM and Mastercard Foundation. The aim of the partnership is twofold; firstly, the VEFIRS project team to provide technical support to AFI in setting-up multi-storey vertical gardens for one hundred (100) refugees and the host community at Imvepi Refugee camp located in Arua. AFI will oversee and manage the garden with beneficiaries for phase one of the project which will end in May of 2021. AFI and VEFIRS team will jointly monitor and evaluate the success of the project at the end of May 2021. Secondly, beneficiaries will replicate the idea at the household level. In this case, AFI will provide continuous support to beneficiaries and evaluate the second phase of the project. The success of the second phase will provide a solid foundation for AFI to adapt and cascade the project, one that will ensure the project is sustained over time. It can be recalled that in 2020 the VEFIRS team participated in the Advancing Development Goals International Contest  and the Geneva Challenge to join global scholars at the graduate level in devising solutions to the challenges of social inclusion. Our inspiration for participating was drawn from the need to engage in pathbreaking research that will transform and improve investment outlook for vulnerable groups in Africa, and to develop a community of inclusivity with the aim of attracting and motivating high to reach rural communities in fostering radical change to improve the agri-food systems. The team emerged as the face of Africa and finished in the third-place position globally along with South America. This award came with a minimal cash prize to enable the team to implement the project with the more focused attention by the project team given to the Imvepi refugee settlement as a pilot location. The VEFIRS project team is  committed to community transformation as part of the tenets of our  provided through Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev) programme.

VEFIRS team and AFI during the partnership agreement signing at Dessert Breeze Hotel in Arua

PBL skills for university academic faculty across Sub-Saharan Africa


A new generation of skilled and entrepreneurial graduates becomes reality through reforming the curricula from subject-based to competence-based. Two experienced pedagogical trainers from Finland held a virtual PBL training session for bioeconomy university academic faculty from Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

RUFORUM, in partnership with the Häme University of Applied Sciences (HAMK), organised a training for African academic faculty, titled Problem Based Learning: Delivering 21st Century Skills in Higher Education. The training focused on preparing university academic faculty to appreciate and adopt PBL based methodology in their teaching and learning processes.

Teachers should understand the competences that graduates will have at the end of the degree programme.

Dr. Eija Laitinen and senior lecturer Ulla-Maija Knuutti from HAMK explained how instead of concentrating on the knowledge that will be passed on to the students, teachers and university authorities should focus on the competences that the students will have upon graduation. Teachers and students alike should know the purpose of each course and understand the competences that graduates will have at the end of the degree programme. Sounds simple, but it makes a huge difference.

But what exactly is competence?

Competence is not just about knowledge and skills. It is about being able to use the knowledge and skills.

In a competence-based curriculum, the methods of learning and teaching should also be described along with the aspired results. This is where problem-based learning (PBL) comes in. People learn best when they can apply new knowledge in real-life contexts. In solving a real problem in a real company, students need to figure out what they already know about the subject and what is the information and the abilities they yet need to gain for solving the problem.

“There is a huge difference in learning in a classroom or on the field. According to research, students that learn in real-life challenges alongside with the theoretical teaching graduate faster and with higher scores”, says Dr. Laitinen, the project manager of PBL-BioAfrica.

This training in PBL aligns with the overarching interest by RUFORUM under its TAGDev flagship. TAGDev accelerates the transformation of the African agricultural universities to contribute to growth and development. In particular, the programme focuses on delivery of quality education, training of practical and entrepreneurial graduates, and reforming and engaging universities.

The training was coordinated by Dr. Anthony Egeru, RUFORUM secretariat and administrator of the TAGDev programme. Dr. Egeru emphasises the synergies with the programme and PBL-BioAfrica.

“This partnership with HAMK helps to make the transformation in agricultural education a reality in the near-term”, he says.

Opportunités de Formation de Troisième Cycle dans le cadre du Programme d’Assistanat d’Enseignement Supérieur de RUFORUM (GTA)


Lors de la réunion annuelle des Vice-Chanceliers / Présidents / Directeurs de Section / Recteurs des Universités Membres de RUFORUM (voir les liens sur le Dépliant de RUFORUM et l’Aperçu de RUFORUM) qui s’est tenue le 11 novembre 2020, les Vice-Chanceliers ont réaffirmé leur engagement envers le Programme d’Assistanat d’Enseignement Supérieur (GTA) qu’ils ont initié en 2014. Les objectifs du GTA sont les suivants: i) Améliorer la qualité de l’enseignement supérieur et augmenter le nombre du personnel académique formé au niveau du doctorat dans les universités Africaines; ii) Fournir à la recherche doctorale des opportunités de contribuer plus directement au développement de l’Afrique; iii) Renforcer la collaboration interuniversitaire dans le domaine de l’enseignement supérieur en Afrique; et iv) Promouvoir la mobilité du personnel parmi les universités membres de RUFORUM et à travers l’Afrique.

Suite à la réunion des Vice-Chanceliers du 11 novembre 2020, le Secrétariat de RUFORUM est heureux d’annoncer la disponibilité des opportunités de formation dans ses différentes Universités Membres dans le cadre de l’accord GTA. Le Secrétariat sollicite plus d’offres d’autres universités membres pour former des candidats GTA.

Postgraduate Training Opportunities under the RUFORUM Graduate Teaching Assistantship Program (GTA)


During the annual meeting of Vice Chancellors/Presidents/Principals/Rectors of RUFORUM Member Universities (see links about RUFORUM flier and RUFORUM at a Glance) held on 11th November 2020, the Vice Chancellors re-affirmed their commitment to the Graduate Teaching Assistantship Program that they initiated in 2014. The objectives of the GTA are to: i) Improve the quality of higher education and increase the pool of PhD-level trained academic staff in African universities; ii) Provide opportunities for the doctoral research to contribute more directly to African development; iii) Strengthen inter- university collaboration in the field of higher education in Africa; and iv) Promote staff mobility among RUFORUM member universities, and across Africa.

Following the meeting of the Vice Chancellors on 11th November 2020, the RUFORUM Secretariat is pleased to announce the availability of training opportunities at the different Member Universities as part of the GTA arrangement. The Secretariat invites for more offers from the other member universities to train GTA candidates.

Nector Soft Drinks in Northern Uganda


The soft drinks market in northern Uganda is currently dominated by industrially processed, carbonated drinks. The more health conscious consumers have high demand for freshly processed fruit juice. Realizing this market niche, a group of four students MSc. Agrientreprise development  pursuing from Gulu University took up this business opportunity and start processing fresh natural fruit juices, under the brand name, the nector point. With financing from the agribusiness incubation hub of Gulu University, we received  UGX 4,000,000(US$ 1,100) to start up the business. Our primary target market is the corporate working-class people, working in universities, NGOs, financial institutions and government civil servants.  includes Boba-Boda cyclist, Gulu University staff and students, and civil servants, financial institutions, market venders. Nectar point also supplies fresh juices for events such as weddings and marriage functions.

Ms. Juliet Ochama, The Manager of nector Point serving a client

From the start, the business was profitable, with daily net profits of at least Shs. 20,000=, equating to net profits of Shs. 600,000=.  However, the outbreak of covid-19,  and the subsequent five-month lockdown almost put an end to our business venture. This was a devastating scenario because it was uncalculated uncertainty anyone had ever thought of. As a result, sales went down from  a daily profit from shs 20,000 to less than Shs. 5,000.  The easing of the lockdown from July-2020, and the emphasis on the need for people to take Vitamin C as a means of boosting immunity, became advantageous to our juice business  as health personnels were encouraging people to take a lot of fresh juice. As a result, we refocused our marketing and promotional strategies and focused of emphasizing the health benefits of consuming vegetable and fruits juices such as immune boosting. Currently, we are able to make  a net daily profit of 100,000(2,800,000 monthly).

As we complete our Masters from Gulu university, we now plan to develop an online app for selling fresh juice within Gulu city. We are also expanding our product lines to include ice cream and coffee. Additionally, we have opened 4 juice selling points within Gulu City.

Through this business, we have been able to create jobs for community youth, we currently employ 5 out of school youths(4 girls and a boy).  As students’ entrepreneurs, we have been able to acquire relevant business skills and experience needed to operate business individually, and with the experience  we will be able to open and operate own businesses and create jobs in our communities. We are therefore grateful to the faculty of Agriculture and environment for giving us the training, funding and the business mentorship.  We would always be thankful for this immense opportunity.

Business Team:   Ochama Juliet, Kut Joseph Aluong, Okumu Peter, Kichican David

Transforming my community through vegetable farming and sensitisation


By Stephen Ongaria

(BSc. Education Agriculture –Gulu University)

My name is Stephen Ongaria, a student at Gulu University, Uganda. When I started my university education, I never expected to be so much inspired to become a change agent within my community. It did not take long for me to understand that vegetable farming has huge potential in terms of income generation. Few months ago, I started growing vegetables commercially. My interest was in three vegetables: tomatoes, onions and collard (locally known as Sukuma wiki) because of the ready market these vegetables have throughout the year. Consequently, that means these vegetables have the potential to provide year-round employment to the youth and women in the community of Usuk-County, Katakwi District, in eastern Uganda whom I have been working with. While demand is often high, much of the vegetables consumed in the community currently comes from neighbouring districts such as Kapchorwa, Mbale and Sironko. This gives me a competitive advantage over the other farmers, because of the proximity I already have to the market.

I started my project with a working capital of 250,000 Uganda Shillings (UGX). However, I anticipated to earn at least UGX 4 million per harvest season, with the possibility to grow crops over three successive seasons in a year. With access to improved farming technologies such as irrigation systems, the earnings could even go much higher to UGX 12 million in three seasons over a 12-month period. The first returns of my project came with the Sukuma wiki, which was ready for harvesting, and which made me earn at least UGX 70,000 on weekly basis. I also expect to make a decent income from the onions and tomatoes. A kilogramme of tomatoes currently retails for UGX 3000, and I expect to harvest at least 200 kilogrammes. This will generate about UGX 600,000. On the other hand, a kilogramme of onions costs UGX 5,500, with an expected harvest of 400 kilogrammes. Aside from growing these vegetables, I have also planted cassava, peas and groundnuts.

Although I currently run this project at family level, I was able to extend the knowledge and skills by training the youth in the community to take on vegetable farming-both for commercial production and home consumption. I am glad to note that some of them are already applying the skills learnt to their own benefit. This has substantially contributed to change young people mindset about vegetable farming for the benefit of the community. On a light note, I also volunteered as an Ambassador for the MasterCard Foundation in the fight against teenage pregnancies, which are rampant across the country, but specifically in Eastern Uganda. I participated in talk shows, wrote poster messages, and took part in door-to-door sensitisation of community members about the dangers of teenage pregnancies.

Finally, it is now a fact that the Coronavirus pandemic has seriously affected livelihoods and slowed down many activities, as the Uganda Government observed several months of lockdown. I spent my lockdown period achieving other targets. I particularly invested time to make 10,000 bricks for my three-bedroom house project. With the internet data bundles provided by RUFORUM, I also enrolled and subsequently completed two online courses in agricultural risk management and agricultural economics. I’m already applying that knowledge to my farming project. I also took part in the RUFORUM entrepreneurship training, and was able to participate in the proposal writing. As I end my story here, I wish to acknowledge the support from the TAGDev project at RUFORUM, funded by the MasterCard Foundation. It is my hope that sharing this story will motivate other young people or students in Africa.

Contact information :

Email: stephenongaria@gmail.com

Phone: +256774313414 / +256707976776

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Berakha Vegetable Enterprises (Maku Martin, Alumnus, MSc. Agri-entreprises development, Gulu University)


I am so grateful to Gulu University Faculty of Agriculture and Environment for the support they have given me through the student enterprise scheme. I received financial support and mentorship from the faculty to implement my business plan on off-season vegetable production. I am involved in the production of tomatoes, cow peas leaves (boo) and cabbages. Upon receiving the  funding in November 2019, I rented a 2-hacre piece of land and immediately started with the cultivation of cowpeas and preparing the nursery bed for tomatoes. Boo production in December and January was very profitable and gave the business a good kickstart. For instance, I invested Shs.300,000=(US$ 83) in the production of boo and got a gross revenue of Shs.800,000=( US$ 220) by mid-February 2020. It was after this time that there was a lot of boo in the market and so the profit margins reduced as prices came down. In mid-January 2020, I put the first phase of tomatoes on the nursery bed and by early February, I was transplanting. These tomatoes matured in late April and I harvested for 1.5 months. Through growing of the tomatoes in phases, I was able to get both profit and loss. In the first phase, I spent Shs. 2,500,000 (US$ 690) and I got a gross revenue of Shs. 4,500,000(US$1,233). In the second phase, I spent Shs.2,000,000 and got Shs.3,100,000=(US$548). In the 3rd phase, I spent Shs.1,000,000(US$274) and got Shs.130,000(US$36). While the business was able to make profits at the beginning of the year, prices of vegetables dropped towards June as many people resorted to vegetable production during the COVID-19 lockdown. COVID-19 did not only affect the supply of vegetables but also reduced the purchasing power of most consumers, hence a drop-in price. Through the revenues I received through this business,  I was able to buy a piece of land in Gulu city.  I am very grateful to the support and mentorship as it has helped me to establish myself and take off having finished my master’s degree in agrientreprises development.

Convergence of the Action Research Program and producer groups’ business models: the case of two rice producer groups in Nwoya and Amuru districts


Introduction

Gulu University as a member of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) won two Community Action Research Program Plus (CARP+) grants in the Pig and Rice value chains in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The CARP+ is an initiative supported by RUFORUM to enable member Universities reach out, engage, and conduct actionable novel research in communities. The CARP+ enables Universities to broker Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that tackle multi-dimensional wicked problems (Wicked problems are issues that are difficult to define and can be assessed as either problems or opportunities. Strijker-van Asperen, Z.M, & van Tulder, R. (2016). Wicked Problems Plaza – Principles and Practices for Effective Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue. The Partnerships Resource Centre (PrC). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/93223) facing smallholder farmers. Consequently, Universities are able to fill institutional voids that are of a public goods nature. Moreover, the PPPs increase partnering space among congruent partners hence enhancing their relevance and contribution to shared value creation.

Of the two CARP+ projects, the rice CARP+ “Enhancing Agribusiness Rice Clusters and Market Linkages for food security and Incomes in northern Uganda” sought to intervene in the rice value chain using a two-pronged approach. The first approach which focuses on the production and supply side of the rice value chain, promotes Good Agronomic Practices (GAPs) and post-harvest handling technologies through on-farm demonstrations and learning plots to improve the production and productivity of rice. The second approach seeks to create vibrant producer organizations and market linkages with various actors along the rice value chain for enhanced access to rice output/input markets. The synergistic combination of the two approaches has resulted in “low hanging fruits” that point to: (i) improvements in rice production, productivity and market access for smallholder rice farmers, (ii) strengthened rice producer groups, and (iii) diversification into Local Seed Businesses (LSBs) with a number of producer groups selecting NAMCHE (1, 2 and 5) rice varieties for Quality Assured seed multiplication. Other potential impactful results include parboiled rice, energy briquettes from rice husks, and rice noodles from broken rice.

Description of activities of Rice producer groups

  1. TIC RYEMO CAN FARMERS’ Group

The TIC RYEMO CAN FARMERS’ Groupis a rice producer group registered in Nwoya district, with total membership of 30 farmers (14 males and 16 female members). The group is being supported by the Rice CARP+, Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD), National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO), the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADs)/Operation wealth Creation (OWC) and Nwoya district Local Government. Through this partnership, the group has been certified to produce and trade Quality Assured Seed (QAS), has acquired a tractor, a rice cleaner, and a bulking store. The group now boasts of increased acreage under rice production (overall acreage is about 460 acres), and increased revenue from sale of QAS-rice seed to the tune of 22,500,000 Uganda Shillings (USD 6,000).

TIC RYEMO CAN FARMER GROUP Achievements
  1. Pabbo Rice Cooperative society

The Pabbo Rice Cooperative society is a rice producer group located in Pabo Sub County, Amuru district. In terms of composition, the group is made up of 120 members (50 males and 70 females). The cooperative has been supported under the Rice CARP+ since 2019. Through the rice demonstrations and learning plots, a number of rice varieties (both released and ‘near release’ varieties) were exposed to the farmers. From the varieties demonstrated, the cooperative members selected NAMCHE 5 and E22 varieties for further multiplication. Through the CARP+ support, the Cooperative has reported significant increases in rice acreage, and rice volumes traded.

It is worth noting that the cooperative plans to package, brand, and trade their rice under a recognized label. Further, the cooperative plans to diversify into LSBs by obtaining certification to produce and trade Quality Assured Seed (QAS). Through support of the rice CARP+ team and the area sub county agricultural officer, the Cooperative was supported to apply for a grant of 350 million Uganda Shillings from the Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP. Amuru and Nwoya district are under cluster 6 which targets the Rice, Beans and Robusta coffee value chains https://www.agriculture.go.ug/the-agriculture-cluster-development-project-acdp/) . In order to be eligible to apply for the grant, farmers in the cooperative had to contribute 33% of the required amount (114 million Uganda Shillings) in-kind (e.g. land, local construction materials and labour). This grant will enable the cooperative to construct a better store, drying rack, and install necessary state of the art milling machines and equipment. 

Pabbo Rice cooperative Society Achievements

Conclusion

The CARP+ provides a window of opportunity for Universities to broker and operationalize PPPs to solve ‘wicked’ problems in agricultural value chains. By attracting congruent partners, broadening the partnering spaces and mutual contribution to shared value creation, interventions that align with existing or emergent producer groups’ business models are likely to succeed. For instance, through PPPs, two rice producer groups one in Amuru and the other in Nwoya districts were able to improve their organizational capacities and hence their external appeal for external support.

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