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Jemima ALLA HOUESSOU during the 15th Gulu University graduation

Jemima ALLA HOUESSOU, a Beninese by nationality and a former RUFORUM scholar under the Nurturing grant project completed a Masters of Science in Agri-Enterprises Development at Gulu University and Graduated on 11th January 2020. As a former RUFORUM scholar,  She applied for the field attachment (FAPA) award which is a competitive grant program aiming at supporting graduate students to link thesis research findings and recommendations to application and use at community level. She received the ward and shares her story of how she impacted the community.

Based on the recommendations of my study entitled ‘’Analysis of Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) Marketing in Gulu and Nwoya Districts of Northern Uganda’’ my Field Attachment Programme Award (FAPA) focused on disseminating and creating awareness on the best practices for profitable watermelon marketing in Gulu and Nwoya districts, Northern Uganda’’. The overall objective of this field attachment was to inform watermelon primary stakeholders (producers, wholesalers and retailers) on best practices in profitable watermelon production and marketing in Gulu and Nwoya districts of Northern Uganda. It was a four months project which took place from November 2019 to February 2020 in Gulu and Nwoya districts of Northern Uganda.

Cut Melons

Photo: New Vision

During the program implementation, ten groups comprised of 240 stakeholders (watermelon producers, wholesalers, retailers, member of formal and informal farmer groups and students from a vocational school) were trained. These were 180 women and 60 men. These stakeholders were chosen because they are the primary stakeholders in watermelon marketing and were actively involved in the research. To ensure adequate participation of stakeholders, the training methodology involved active participation, experience sharing, group tasks and brainstorming sessions. The main learning facilities were note books, pens, manilas, training guideline and sample of watermelon fruits for each of the ten farmer groups trained.

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Some of the trainees

Activities conducted involved a brief training on the importance and opportunities in watermelon production and marketing with the 240 stakeholders from the ten groups in Gulu and Nwoya.  Stakeholders were informed that watermelon is a short term crop, often consumed as vegetable or fruits and is appreciated for its flavor as well as nutritional and economic value. They were also informed that cultivation of watermelon is quiet simple and can be done by smallholder farmers in all the agro- ecological zone of Uganda. On the nutritional value, it was emphasized that watermelon has high levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, antioxidants and amino acids and the lycopene has been proven in fighting heart health, bone health and prostate cancer prevention. On opportunities, farmers were informed that watermelon has readily available market, short germination period, diversified use (food industries, bakery and pharmaceutics) and high nutritional value (A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids). Stakeholders were informed that watermelon has the potential of improving rural livelihoods and alleviates poverty amongst smallholder farmers through efficient production and marketing.

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Melon before Harvest

Importance of value addition was also emphasized. Stakeholders learnt that apart from slicing and processing watermelon into juice, this fruit can also be processed into very many other products. Watermelon juice can be used in the formulation of a watermelon wine; sun dried watermelon seeds can be processed into oil which is very rich on protein; watermelon rind that is a by-product of watermelon juice processing can be used in the production of watermelon jam; the juice can be utilized in the production of fruit yoghurt and watermelon powder can be used as a food additive or it can be reconstituted.  Furthermore, information were given on accessing marketing information, whereby participants were advised to access information through radio, extension officer, fellow traders, government representative, news paper, local officials such district production officer and leaders, political gathering and group meeting, and NGOs dealing in agricultural information research.  As far as sources of credit is concerned, information on formal sources (Commercial banks, agricultural banks, micro finance banks, cooperative societies and VSLA) and informal sources (friends, relatives and money lenders was shared. Participants’ feedback was positive and they were grateful to RUFORUM for the opportunity offered to educate them on best practices on profitable watermelon production and marketing. They were excited to make good use of the information and they were convinced that this training is an eye opener that could help improve their income. They then urged RUFORUM to always support them and to continuously mentor them in their business journey. Here are some feedbacks of the training.

I never knew that marketing channels choice is very important, as a producer this information will help me target key actor such as exporters and expand my production said OCELEM James from PUR-BER vegetable group.

I did not know about the health benefit of watermelon, this training is an eye opener that will enable me to market watermelon accordingly. Thanks to RUFORUM for the initiative said ORYEMA Walter from PITODONG vegetable group

I just used to sell whole fruit of watermelon, now I can think of value addition to improve my profit said Okello Alfred from Homa Farm

We never knew watermelon seed could be processed into oil and we are very excited to learn more about said Lacca Stella and Opio Peter from Aber group.

I am happy to be part of this training and learn about the market potential of watermelon said AROMOO Fia thanks goes to RUFORUM.

This field attachment provided me with exceptional experience. I was able to share with farmers my research findings and educate them on the best practices in profitable watermelon production and marketing. Stakeholders were so impressed and excited to put into practices the knowledge acquired during the training. I never expected farmers could be impacted that way and take my research findings into consideration in their day to day activities. I am grateful to RUFORUM and the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment of Gulu University for their support.

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