Chinese rice farm helps boost food security, employment in central Uganda
KALUNGU, Uganda, June 27 (Xinhua) — A large expanse of lush green rice paddies is a major highlight along the highway from Uganda’s capital Kampala to the southern part of the country.
The 3,000 acre rice farm, with a target of reaching 6,000 acres here in the central district of Kalungu, is owned by Zhong’s Industries Ltd, a private Chinese enterprise.
At the farm, workers from across the east African country are busy working.
At the section of ready to harvest rice, dozens of youths battle with swarms of birds that come to feed on the rice. As a daily task, they whistle, shout and flap to scare away the birds.
“I wake up at six in the morning to go and scare away the birds. We are a group of several youths who do this,” 24-year-old Brown Mfitundinda told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Several hundreds of meters away, combined harvesters are busy as tractors ferry the harvested rice to the rice processing facility also located on the farm.
At the facility, there are huge sun drying areas where the rice from the field is spread out on cemented floors by several dozens of youths mostly women.
After the drying the rice is ferried into the processing facility where it is milled before it is packed in 50kg bags with inscriptions “Zhong Yi” rice.
Zhong Shuangquan, managing director Zhong’s Industries Ltd, told Xinhua in a recent interview that there are over 1,200 local employees and five Chinese working on the farm.
The Chinese largely offer technical expertise especially in preparing the land for cultivation, technology, machinery and sales, according to Zhong.
He said planting, cultivation, harvesting and processing and sales goes on throughout the year. On average the farm makes daily sales of up to 40 tons of rice per day.
Zhong said the company plans to also use the out-grower model where millions of acres of land will be opened up for rice farming across the country.
In Uganda, rice growing is considered strategic as it has the potential to contribute to increasing rural incomes and improving food and nutrition security.
Some of the rice of the country has been exported to regional markets like neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.
Experts say the demand for rice is continuing to grow because of the increasing population.
China through a tripartite agreement with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and some member countries has over the years been sending technical experts to Africa through the South-South Cooperation Program.
Uganda is one of the countries that have benefited from this on-the-farm training of small scale farmers to boost production.
At the end of the second phase of the program in 2017, about 3,000 farmers were trained in cereals, horticulture, aquaculture and livestock in Uganda, according to the ministry of agriculture.
During the project, the Chinese technicians introduced the growth of Chinese hybrid rice. Official studies showed that the hybrid rice can yield up to 10 metric tons per hectare compared to the conventional rice which yields 4.5 metric tons per hectare.
Farmers in eastern Uganda, a region renown for rice growing, have already taken on growing the Chinese hybrid rice to boost their household income.
Uganda also established the 220-million-dollar Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park. The park, according to the Ugandan government, will be critical in transforming the country’s economy which is largely dependent on agriculture.
When fully operational, Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park is expected to produce about 600,000 tons of agro-products annually to meet the domestic and regional market demands. Among the agro-products include rice.
Zhong argued that massive investment in rice growing in Uganda will not only boost food security but also create employment.
He said for every youth employed at the Zhong’s Industries Ltd rice farm, there are several people who benefit.
Abel Mfitumukiza, a supervisor at the farm said after several years of looking for formal employment with no success, he left his home district Kisoro in southwestern Uganda and sought to work on the rice farm on recommendation of his brother who was already an employee at the farm.
Mfitumukiza said over the years he has managed to build a permanent house for his family back at home. He also uses part of his savings to pay school fees for his siblings who were on the verge of dropping out of school.
According to the managers of Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park, when the park is fully operational, it will create 25,000 jobs and avail opportunities of training for the local people.
Under the country’s wetland restoration drive, there is increasing concern from environmentalists over the cultivation of rice in wetlands. The activists argue that the farmers should instead resort to upland rice farming instead of what they called destroying wetlands.
Ministry of water and environment figures show that the country’s wetland coverage has reduced to 8 percent from 13 percent of the country’s land surface. The reduction is attributed to the population pressure where people are now resorting to wetland reclamation to farm.
Zhong’s Industries Ltd rice farm has faced this criticism but Zhong said they got clearance from the country’s National Environment Management Authority.
Richard Vvuube, senior environment officer Kalungu district where the farm is located told Xinhua that there is need to strike a balance between protecting the environment and also producing food and creating employment.
“We will advise them on how to protect and conserve the environment and at the same time we are getting the food,” Vvuube said.
Lack of Agronomists worries grape farmers in Mbarara
Grape farmers in Mbarara are concerned that they are earning less from the crop due to the absence of an agronomist to offer expertise on the processes for growing and harvesting the crop.
There are more than 200 grape farmers in Ibaare, Nyamatojo and Nyakayojo, all in the South Division of Mbarara City, where more than three hills are fully covered with the crop. They are mainly planting Muscat and Karmen, which thrive well in semi-arid areas.
But the farmers said that they are growing the crop without clear information on the ideal varieties of grapes grown in Uganda, and knowledge of soil management, site preparation, planting, pruning, pest and disease control, fertilizer application as well as harvesting.
By nature of their work, agronomists work with farmers to help them grow the best possible crops, based on their extensive knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, earth science, ecology, and genetics. They usually conduct experiments to develop the best methods for increasing the quality and production of crops and develop methods for protecting crops from weeds, pests, and harsh climates.
Alex Asiimwe, the Chairperson of Mbarara Grape Farmers Cooperative Limited said that without a specialist in the region, many of them are left to gamble with the crop. Often, he says, they struggle to manage the spread of pests in grape plantations.
James Mugabi, a grape farmer said he once lost more than 25 tons of grapes to fungus, which he didn’t know and failed to get the best drug. He narrates that once the crop has been attacked by either a pest or disease, the entire plantation is destroyed.
Allan Namanya, a grapes farmer from Katojo said the absence of an agronomist is costing them a lot since grapes are considered the most lucrative crop at the moment. He says that a kilogram of grapes costs between 2,500 and 3,000 Shillings and a bottle of wine costs 20,000, yet it can even cost much higher than this if they are advised on the right farming practices.
Mbarara city Agricultural Officer, Vincent Mugabi, said that the department also has a shortage of personnel knowledgeable about the relatively new crop for the area. He wants the government to consider taking them for training to acquire knowledge.
Grapes are harvested twice a year, in April/May and November/December seasons. They were introduced in Mbarara at Nyamitanga hill the Catholic seat by missionaries in the 1960s.
Original Source: URA via The Independent
Farmers in Napak want security forces deployed in gardens
A section of farmers in Napak District is demanding for the deployment of security personnel in gardens to prevent attacks by suspected Karamojong warriors.
This follows a message that was sent to one of the phones belonging to the community member in Nabwal sub county threatening people to stop cultivation or else their cattle will be stolen. Suspected warriors have also been dropping leaflets in the villages warning farmers of possible attacks in case they risk going to cultivate in their gardens.
Robert Koryang, a resident of Lotome trading center, says that they are worried of going to their farm gardens which are far away from their home because of threats from the cattle raiders.
Koryang said the warriors are still hunting for cattle and they see the farming season as an opportunity to target farmers who use oxen for ploughing.
He observed that the persistent insecurity in the region frustrated their efforts to cultivate last year leading to a hunger crisis.
Judith Anyakun, another farmer recalls that early last year a suspected raider chased them out of their farms before making off with four oxen that were used for ploughing.
She suggested that the security forces should be deployed in their settlements nearer to the fields so that they are able to respond to any attack that may occur during farm activities.
John Paul Kodet, the LCV Chairperson for Napak, says that they are taking the threats seriously because the warriors have been issuing warnings to the communities before attacking.
Kodet said they have distributed seeds to the farmers but he is skeptical if communities shall be able to cultivate due to threats from suspected warriors.
He noted that some villages in the sub-counties of Lopei, Lokopo, and Lotome are very distant from the military installations and this puts them at high risk of being attacked.
Kodet appealed to the government to tighten security in the targeted areas such that people will be able to cultivate without fear.
Denis Okori, the Napak Resident District Commissioner said that the security forces already have the intelligence about the planned attacks and measures have been put in place to protect the communities.
Okori said they have designed strategic plans on how the deployment will be conducted and therefore farmers should not get worried because the government is trying everything possible to ensure there is peace.
He also confirmed receipt of the phone used for sending threats and it has been taken to the Internal Security Organization for tracking.
Okori urged the communities not to worry but instead clear the gardens for farming in order to fight hunger in the families as security does its part to protect them.
Last year, the residents of Napak district suspended the use of oxen for ploughing over fears of being attacked by suspected warriors. The cattle were only kept from the confined kraals and only released during the day for grazing, and returned in the evening when the army took responsibility for keeping them.
Original Source: URN via The Independent
Mbarara struggling to contain Rift Valley Fever, no livestock quarantine yet
The government is reluctant at imposing the livestock quarantine on Mbarara despite registering five confirmed cases of death among humans resulting from Rift Valley Fever, the Resident District Commissioner, Emmy Turyabagyenyi Kateera has revealed.
According to Kateera , when they informed the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries about the outbreak, they deployed a team on the ground to manage the situation. Mbarara District Veterinary Officer, Andrew Bakashaba, says that registered fifty cows infected by Rift Valley Fever in Rwanyamahembe Sub County on different farms.
He, however, says that they are currently managing the situation through sensitization. Bakashaba has warned residents against eating meat from animals that have died on their own, noting that Rift Valley Fever is only transmitted from animals to humans through infected meat.
He has also asked people to always watch out for meat that has a veterinary medical stamp as proof that it’s been tested and found to be clean. Turyabagyenyi said that they have directed extension workers to hold engagement and sensitization meetings with farmers and livestock traders on how to do self-preservation on their farms and the movement of animals.
He said they asked the Ministry of Agriculture to hold on imposing a quarantine as they monitor the situation on the ground noting that if the situation goes out of hand they would be left without any choice but to announce the quarantine.
He says they have deployed veterinary doctors at all known slaughter slabs and asked them to double-check the meat before and after it is delivered to butchers. Dr. Richard Atuhairwe, the in-charge of Bwizibwera Health Centre IV, says that the disease was detected among 30 people, and results from Uganda Virus Research Institute returned positive. He says that five of the thirty have since died.
Rift Valley Fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic fever that is most commonly seen in domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats and can also cause illness in people. It is caused by the Rift Valley Virus. Meanwhile, a Quarantine has been imposed on Byembogo Village in Nyabisirira Town Council after a case of foot and mouth disease was confirmed on one farm.
Turyabagyenyi says a farm belonging to one Mr. Mungonya with over 1500 cattle had been stopped from sending out cattle and animal products like milk from the farm. He says that they have also temporarily closed the Kyeshema livestock market that is shared between Kiruhura and Mbarara districts noting that Kiruhura had last week closed its side.
He says they are now moving to vaccinate all animals in the village as they monitor the situation.
Original Source: URN via The independent
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