By Abdulkarim Ssengendo
Judges of the Best Farmers competition have pitched camp in the western region moving around districts looking at different profiled candidates for this year’s National Best Farmers competition.
The western region team of judges is led by Prof. Ogenga Latigo, a renowned rice farmer and former legislator. The team is part of a larger group of judges who are traversing the country on a similar mission. Best Farmers competition is the brainchild of New Vision, dfcu bank and The Royal Netherlands Embassy.
The Best Farmers competition has been running for many years in which judges select best farmers who are doing best practices in different dimensions more so with impact to community, sustainability and importantly the recognition of maintenance and climate smart agriculture.
Throughout the country 100 farmers were profiled this year. Prof. Latigo said their movement has taken them through Hoima, Kyenjojo, Fort Portal, Kitagwenda, Ibanda, Mbarara City, Sheema, Bushenyi, Ntungamo and will end with Isingiro in what he termed as West and South west sub region, where different candidates are located with different enterprises.
“This is high intensity of farmers, we are here to look what these farmers are doing, look at their records, hear their story and those we shall come up with will be presented to a team of judges and will come with the final two per sub-region which is expected to be done towards the end of this month and the best farmers will be announced early next month,” Latigo stated.
What judges are looking at
During their visit to these farmers, Judges they narrow down specific things that can be emulated, learned, cascaded and have a big multiplier effect. “We want other people to emulate and also practice, it’s a multi-prolonged kind of approach to look at farming,” Patrice Ocungirwoth, the head of Agri-business at dfcu stated. He said they also look at the cost of farmers’ activities on their life, environment, income and on the neighborhood. “It is all about responsible agriculture activities and by agriculture we don’t only mean stopping with the farming, is there some element of value addition and connection with other value chain actors and players,” he added. 18
Latigo calls for long term credit for farmers
Prof. Latigo appealed to President Yoweri Museveni- to provide farmers with long term credit with at least a grace period of two years. Latigo said the move will encourage people to invest in agriculture and those already in the sector to improve their projects.
“Agriculture is something we cannot run away from, the population is increasing and we must be able to produce enough food to feed ourselves and have enough for export and have income, “Latigo stated.
He said the dairy sector, especially livestock, is tremendously improving in western Uganda but the crop sector there is still a challenge, notably the challenge of climate change is affecting them. For the dairy sector he said they identified acaricides as the major problem affecting them and ticks have become resistant and price fluctuation is also another identified problem. Farmers are also affected by the challenge of labour, the challenge of animal theft, all these need to be solved. 97
Lesson learnt from the Best Farmers competition Since the start of the competitions 2013, judges said they have learnt that learning never stops. These discouraged farmers not to cocoon themselves in doing the best things and stopping there but should aim at higher levels in whatever they do.
Ocungirwoth said farmers must look at enterprises in terms of sustainability and must be alert to changes because the market goes with changes. Martin Kananura, one of the farmers, hailed New Vision for the Best farmers project which he said has helped many farmers in the country to get exposure both in and outside the country. Kananura is the director of the Rwenjeru Agro-Tourism demonstration and training farm found in Mbarara City North Division.
He deals in modern agriculture practices, eco tourism, and skills development. His farm sits on over 200 acres of land and has been active for over 20 years. In his presentation to the judges, Kananura highlighted climate change, community mentality of loving free services, shortage of manpower, expensive mechanization and inadequate security as some of the challenges farmers in the region face.