Agrilinks Blog Carnival: Challenges in the Field
By Linda Naeve, Extension Program Specialist, Value Added Agriculture Program, Iowa State University, and Co-leader of the project.
This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID's John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers shared their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.
We learned early in the project that there were many challenges in the field. Some we could help solve, others we could not. We also realized there are many things in our everyday lives that we take for granted. There were many challenges we faced with each of our objectives so I will focus on the challenges the farmers and volunteers faced with increasing soybean production, use and marketing.
Although we were told about the severe malnutrition in the Kamuli District of Uganda, I don’t think any of us fully understood the scope of it. Malnutrition in children is different than starvation. Starving children don’t get enough to fill their bellies, malnourished children fill their bellies with foods that don’t offer a balance of essential vitamins and nutrients. Once we saw the children, we knew that this was a challenge we needed to address by introducing and increasing soybean production in the Kamuli District. Soybeans could not only increase the farmers’ profitability, but also improve the health of their family through increased protein consumption.
Photos 1 & 2. While visiting farms in the Kamuli District we saw young children suffering from protein-energy malnutrition caused by a diet that lacks sufficient sources of protein, resulting in a weakened immune system. Symptoms include distended abdomens and brittle, thinning hair that turns red or yellow.
Photo 3. A challenge was to get the women to plant soybeans and grow the best variety available.Volunteer Dana Foster, along with her team, Chris Henning, Brenda Zylstra and Margaret Smith, helped a group of Ugandan women prepare and plan a soybean demonstration plot that compared varieties and the use of inoculant. The project showed the farmers that the MAK-soy 3N variety was well-suited for their area and was the highest yielding. Farmers were given seeds of this variety to plant on their farms. All of the approximately 140 farmers said they would plant soybeans again and many were going to increase the amount of land planted in soybeans.
Photo 4: Getting the women to prepare the soybeans for their familys’ meals was not much of a challenge. They loved them. Mbira Rose, farmer and group leader, demonstrated how she prepares soy milk and porridge using roasted soy and maize. Rose said “Before I was buying soy powder for 200 Uganda Shillings every day for my child’s food. Now I make it myself and sell the excess.”
Photo 5: Keeping the soybean fields productive year after year can be a challenge. Volunteers taught the farmers how to test the germination rate of their soybean seeds. This was important because the farmers save their seed from year to year for planting and poor germination results in poor plant stands and reduced yield. In a follow up survey, the farmers said they were now testing their seeds prior to planting to determine if it has a viable percentage for planting.
Photo 6: A challenge for the women farmers is the hours they spend winnowing and cleaning their soybean. This challenged was addressed in a project led by Margaret Smith that followed this Farmer-to-Farmer project.
Photo 7: The farmers cleaned their soybeans while attending a group meeting with the volunteers. The bags behind them are full of cleaned soybeans ready to be collectively marketed. Getting the best price for their crop was a challenge. Through the project they learned strategies for collective marketing and they reported the profits helped them pay school fees and scholastic materials for their children, pay medical bills, purchase additional farm inputs and rent additional land for increased production.
Photo 8: In addition to collective marketing, a majority of the farmers sold their excess crops to middlemen. Receiving a fair price from the middlemen was a challenge with both types of marketing. By giving each group a simple scale and calibration weight, we empowered them solve the problem and command a fair payment for their crop. They told us that this resulted in much greater profits. They were very excited when I presented group leader, Sabi Jane, with their scale.
As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food. Read more articles on this topic on Agrilinks. Also, make sure to subscribe to receive a daily digest in your inbox, for one week only!