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Ugandan Farmers Awed By Dutch Farm Innovations

by Jacquiline Nakandi
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By Joshua Kato

“The Dutch are very strict on the processes and details of their farms,” Phillip Kalera, a dairy farmer in Gomba district, said after touring Bles Dairies, one of the best dairy farms in the Netherlands.

Details and processes are like a religion to both small and large-scale Dutch farmers. One of the highlights of the 2020 Best Farmers’ tour of the Netherlands on the first day was a visit to a medium-sized dairy farm, on October 9.

The owner of the farm said some of his cows produce 55 litres each per day, while the average daily per cow was 35 litres.

This was obviously incredible, especially to the Ugandan farmers whose daily production per cow average is less than 10 litres. The farmers toured the Netherlands between October 7 and October 14.

 Then on Tuesday, the farmers visited Heileuver Cheese Farm, a dairy farm whose herd was only 45 dairy cows, but produced 1,000 litres of milk per day.

All the milk is processed into cheese. The owner told them that from 10 litres that he would ideally sell for euros 8, he was earning twice as much after processing it into cheese.

Ugandan farmers were impressed by the dairy technology used by the Dutch. Photos by Joshua Kato

Besides, the processed cheese could even last for as long as two years. On the other hand, unprocessed milk lasts one or two days.

“I looked at the cheese store room, which was about 20×10 feet and realised that it had cheese worth billions of shillings,” Kalera said.

The story of the apple farm was another eye-opener to the farmers that the proper utilisation of technology can increase production.

“We visited a farm that produces about 50,000 tonnes of apples per season. We took part in the harvesting and we saw a truckload of apples coming from the farm,” Dr Bernard Obaa exclaimed.

The farm, irrespective of its huge production has only six workers. There is one harvesting season per year.

In nearly all the farms visited, one aspect that came out strongly was the Dutch’s attention to detail.

“There is evidence of meticulous planning before any farm activity is carried out and attention to detail at every stage,” Josephat Byaruhanga, the senior policy officer at the Embassy of the Netherlands who led the farmers, said.

Byaruhanga noted that this is certainly what makes the Dutch tick. On the contrary, he says most Ugandan farmers regularly skip many key steps in the production system.

For example, if a dairy cow must drink 100 litres of water per day, do not give it 20 litres and expect positive results.

Farmers must understand that every step one skips or does poorly grossly affects the final product.

This country that you are visiting is four times smaller than Uganda, however because they decided to adopt technology and observe processes, they are the second leading exporter of agricultural produce in the world, Byonabye B.B Mwesigwa, the third secretary at the Ugandan embassy in Brussels told the farmers.

She represented the embassy during the best farmers’ training on Friday. She pointed out that Uganda had more arable land compared to the Netherlands, but just needed more innovation to utilise the land.

Practical training

Thursday, October 12 was perhaps the highlight of the trip. The farmers were divided into four groups and each of them spent the entire day at a specialised farm practically engaged in their activities.

The dairy group, which included Phillip Kalera, Titus Sebayiga and Gloria Rwamafa, studying under the Dairy Training Centre, visited a fairly large dairy farm 45 minutes outside Amsterdam.

The farm had about 100 cattle, several tractors, milking robots and hundreds of tonnes of stored grasses. According to Willem van der Bent who took the three farmers through the details of managing a successful dairy farm, the sessions included touching, seeing and learning compared to previous periods when farmers just visited, looked around and went away.

“They spent the entire day at the farm, touching, learning and understanding things. It was a practical session,” he said.

The horticulture group that included Dr Bernard Obaa, Peter Masiko, Joseph Munerya, Opiyo Kadogo, Samuel Kange, Ben Amodoi and Immaculate Akullo was at Proeftuin Randwijk.

The piggery group, including Jacent Namyalo and Bob Kagoro, were at the Aeres Training Centre, where they visited a pig farmer with over 5,000 pigs.

“I had never seen or been near a pig that weighs 350kg and delivers 25 piglets,” Namyalo said.

Kagoro observed that the level of hygiene inside the pig houses was beyond belief.

“The pig houses looked like hotel rooms, complete with cleaning systems, Air Conditioner and sleeping beds,” he said.

He was also amazed by the fact that the pigs were even fed on liquor to stimulate alertness to feed more. Jan van den Berg, the country co-ordinator of PUM (Netherlands Senior Experts), who addressed the farmers on Friday, October 13, reiterated the need for innovation.

“There is a lot of potential in Uganda. It is a matter of you farmers thinking deeply about your farms and finding ways of improving them to earn more,” he said.

Jan van den Berg emphasised several key basics that farmers must look at all the time and these include a business plan for the farm, management, market assessments and technologies that are viable and can improve productivity.

“We have seen, touched and admired many technologies. We have talked to the farmers and now it is time to go back home and see what we can implement,” Rwamafa said.

Overall, the farmers were satisfied with what they saw, but equally awed by the level of technological advancement. Byaruhanga implored them not to copy everything, but to pick those that are locally adoptable.

“For example, there is no reason why you should not do things on time. If it is time to feed animals do so, if it is time to plant plants, if it is time to harvest, do so immediately, aspire to get the right inputs and, gradually, your harvests will improve.”

LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: Farmers learning about pastures at the dairy training centre in the Netherlands.

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