By Joshua Kato
The 9th edition of the best farmer competition was launched last Tuesday.
The 2023 competition is unique because it is the first ‘open’ contest for every farmer in Uganda, since COVID 19.
Last year, the competition was not open because it featured only previous winners. So far, 95 winners have been awarded since 2014 while a total of sh1.2bn has been given out.
The launch took place at Dr Emma Naluyima and Washington Mugerwa`s farm and school at Bwerenga, off Entebbe Road, on a day that was blessed by heavy rains.
“When I see rain, given the hot weather that we have just gone through, I see this as a blessing,” Victoria Ssekitoleko, the Chief Judge joked.
Most of the delegates had on gumboots and others had overalls to create a typical farming environment, under the rain.
Mugerwa, the host called upon farmers to embrace the competition because of the many benefits.
“Dear farmers, there are a lot of benefits from this competition. At the time Dr. Naluyima won, we had plans of having an education institute but we didn’t really know how to set it up. After visiting the Netherlands as a reward for the winner of the best farmer competition, she visited a school that was teaching farmers’ children, and it is from here that she borrowed the idea that led to the birth of MST Junior school,” he explains.
Mugerwa stressed that Naluyima also brought along the mobile food vehicle idea that saw the birth of their moving pork market, where they drive to any place especially expos, exhibitions and events to sell their roasted pork.
The 2023 best farmer competition was yesterday launched at Dr. Emma Naluyima’s MST Junior school at Bwerenga-Entebe and this year it is open to all farmers in the country who believe they have something other farmers can learn from them.
Don Wanyama, the Vision Group ED, said that the competitions are aimed at promoting farming as a business in Uganda by creating exemplary farmers who other farmers who want to engage into farming can learn from.
“We are grateful for our sponsors led by the Netherlands embassy, KLM royal Dutch airlines, dfcu bank and Koudjis BV nutrition who have been with us for all the years and we are still moving on well,” he says.
Ten winners will be selected across the country and all winners will be taken to an expenses paid learning visit to the Netherlands. They will also share sh150m where the overall winner will take shs50m, the second position will take sh30m, third position shs20m and the other seven will share sh50m.
But how does a farmer feature in the competition?
Profiling of farmers for the 2023 competition starts on March 24 and it will go on up to November 2023.
According to the judges, the competition does not consider the size or enterprise on the farm, and this is why some of the previous winners operated on just two acres of land. For a farm to compete, it must have been in existence for at least two years.
The competition, however, considers farm management, knowledge of the enterprises, good environmental practices, record keeping, family involvement in the enterprise, value addition, post- harvest handling and the general cleanliness of the farm.
“For a person to effectively compete, they must be full-time farmers or at least spend most of their time on the farm,” Ssekitoleko said.
She explained that during the previous competition, there were people with good farms, but they were let down by their absence from the farms.
“Setting up a good farm, with wonderful structures is not enough. You must be able to ably explain the operations of these farm structures,” she said.
Cleanliness of the farm is also a sign of good management.
“I consider this farm as your office so you must keep it clean. If I visit you and I find overgrown grasses, dung spread around the farm for those who keep cattle, then you cannot win,” reiterated Josephat Byaruhanga. This is why farm set up is very important.
The judges also pointed out that for farmers to survive in the trade, they must be innovative.
“It is no longer fashionable just to have a good expansive cattle farm for example like many in the cattle corridor, but without planted grass or even stored hay and silage,” Augustine Mwendya said. He explained that if a cattle farm has water and grass, it will not suffer adversely from the extremes of climate change.
The farmers are also asked to be trustful and transparent in their dealings because that is the best way they can sustain their farms.
Prof Ogenga Latigo, former MP and a member of the judges panel advises farmers to prepare irrespective of their farm sizes.
“We have seen farmers with small but innovative farms win. So, do not fear the size of your farm, if you are innovative,” he says.
A farmer can nominate themselves or be nominated by any other person. Nomination can be done by sending an SMS to 8338, indicating name and location of farmer, sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or by visiting any of the Vision Group outlets across the country. These outlets include Vision Group offices on Third Street Industrial Area, TV West/Orumuri offices in Mbarara, Etop offices in Soroti, Rupiny offices in Gulu, Arua One radio in West-nile or any other Vision Group office. After nomination, the farmers will then be visited by a Vision Group journalist for a story interview.
- Social impact: The farm must be supporting other farmers to grow, with either knowledge or employment.
- Level of income vis-à-vis size of farm: Production on any size of land-the farm should show clear earnings and expenses
- Innovation & technology: Use of any type or kind of technology is an added advantage
- Conservation practices/Environmental Management: Farms should not be seen destroying the environment to advance
- Application of farming practices: The farmer should be able to explain how he uses the various enterprise farming practices at his disposal
- Bookkeeping, Financial management: There should be a clear indication of earnings and expenses of the farm
- Post-harvest management/Value addition: The farm should show good post-harvest handling practices, with value addition an added advantage.
- Diversification: The farm should be able to show integration of the various enterprises
- Family participation, involvement, agri-skilling for sustainability: Members of the family, be it children, or spouse should be seen to genuinely take part in the running of the farm
- Investing in knowledge: The farmer should show how he is developing a knowledge base for the farm
- Have integrity and transparency in your farm and business dealings
The country has been divided into 10 regions, with each producing one winner. These are;
- South-West (Ankole, Kigezi)
- West (Bunyoro, Toro, Rwezururu)
- Central (Buganda minus Greater Kampala Districts)
- East (Busoga)
- Mid-East ( Elgon region : Busia, Tororo, Butaleja,Pallisa, Budaka, Kapchorwa and Bugisu sub region)
- North-East (Teso, Karamoja)
- West Nile (Zombo, Adjumani, Arua, Koboko , Maracha, Nebbi)
- Northern (Acholi sub region )
- Mid-northern (Lango sub region)
- Kampala (Greater Kampala: Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts)