“My expectation is giving farmers in Uganda a better livelihood.“

An Interview with Daniel Olol, program officer for crop productivity enhancement of Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA)

Daniel Olol visited Germany for more than seven weeks during the project ”Growth for Uganda“ so as to train on the methods of soil analysis and research, to which he was supported by the Institute of Applied Plant Nurtrition (IAPN) as well as the University of Göttingen and the K+S Research Institute in Heringen. The project is jointly carried out by Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and K+S KALI GmbH since April 2013.

Daniel Olol was born in Lira, a district in Northern Uganda. He spent his early childhood in the country side and studied agriculture at Makerere University, Faculty of Agriculture. After University Daniel Olol worked in the agro-input industry before joining Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) in April 2013 as a program officer for crop productivity enhancement. In this function Daniel Olol trains and supports local farmers to maintain and enhance the soil fertility and productivity. (Photo: IAPN)

Mr. Olol would you like to tell us a little bit about SAA and its work? At first sight the Japanese name of the foundation surprises, what´s the story behind it?

First of all, SAA is not a foundation; it is an agricultural development NGO – Non- Governmental Organisation – registered in Geneva, Switzerland. SAA has had a Japanese connection from the very beginning. It was founded by a Japanese philanthropist, Mr. Ryoichi Sasakawa who was moved by the hunger in Africa in the 1980s. He founded SAA in 1986 together with Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, and former US President Mr. Jimmy Carter with the aim of fighting hunger in Africa.

In which countries is the SAA active?

So far SAA has worked in 15 African countries namely Ghana, Zambia, Sudan, Tanzania, Benin, Togo, Mozambique, Eritrea, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Uganda. SAA aims to improve the livelihood conditions of small holder farmers in Africa by increasing agricultural productivity and profitability without deteriorating their natural resource base. SAA started operations in Uganda in 1997. Our main target is food insecure farmers with special emphasis on women farmers.

Why exactly does the SAA run a project with the German K+S KALI GmbH? Do you have certain criteria for the selection of partners and projects?

Well, whoever shares our belief of improving the livelihoods and resource of poor farmers is welcome to partner with us. We have been funded by foundations, development organizations, partnering with research institutions and governments. We made contact to K+S KALI GmbH and they were open to the project. Normally, when we reach out to private sector partners, we prefer those that are in a related business to SAA activities, and all projects have to meet our goals and targets.

In how far can/does K+S KALI GmbH help Sasakawa to improve agriculture in Uganda?

K+S KALI GmbH can help SAA in two ways:

  1. By providing resources to the project so we can carry out our activities to train farmers,
  2. Share their knowledge and expertise through their research and development, IAPN etc.

We would like to know more about Uganda and its agriculture, not only to understand the framework of the project. What should we know about your country and its agriculture in general? What are the most important strengths and challenges?

Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over 80 percent of the work force in Uganda. Majority of the farmers are doing subsistence farming. They inherited the farm lands from their families. The average size of farms is about 0.4 to 1.2 hectare.Often the farmers till the land using hand hoes or ox-ploughs.

 

It is rain fed agriculture and the climate is tropical; generally rainy with two dry seasons (December to February, June to August); semiarid in northeast.

 

The main crops grown in Uganda include Maize, common beans, soybeans, groundnuts, rice, sesame, sorghum, sweet potatoes, field peas, pigeon peas, sunflower, cassava, coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, banana, and in the highland areas we have wheat and barley.

 

Farmers have been harvesting much less than optimum yields, and because of increasing population pressure on the land, the farms are getting smaller. In most areas there is a lack of proper infrastructure.

 

There is limited knowledge and the agricultural extension system is not sufficient. This is where SAA has intervened, training the extension agents and giving them the resources to do a better job. SAA always maintains a lean number of staff; however, by working with the existing national extension system, we are able to reach a great number at the grass roots.

One of the main topics of the project is “Soil Fertility”. How would you describe the soil fertility status in Uganda today?

Uganda has deep fertile soils, however, in the last decade, over cultivation and poor farming practices have affected soil fertility leading to lower yields. Uganda has very low fertiliser use rates at about 1 kg per hectare.

What is the common practice of fertilisation in Uganda?

Some farmers fallow their fields, but because of population pressure, the practice is decreasing; some farmers use organic fertilisers and others use inorganic fertilisers (2%-3%) mainly to selected crops and without consideration to the nutrient levels in their soils.

What are the main messages respectively knowledge aspects Sasakawa and K+S KALI GmbH intend to make farmers aware of? Is it only about fertilisation or which are the other factors?

Fertilisation is just one aspect of crop productivity enhancement that we train on. SAA has a value chain approach in its interventions, organized under 5 themes:

Theme 1 handles crop productivity enhancement which trains on increasing farmers yields through integrated crop management and best agricultural practices.

Theme 2 which trains on postharvest handling and agro-processing.

Theme 3 which trains on marketing, cost accounting, and creates linkages and partnerships to benefit the farmers.

Theme 4 handles the human resource development aspects.

Theme 5 does monitoring and evaluation of the project and disseminates the impacts and lessons learnt.
 

We also handle any specific problems that the farmers bring forward.

How do you train the farmers – could you give us some information concerning e.g. methods, material, regions, planned use of the truck?

We train communities through a farmer participatory method called farmer learning platforms, which consist of field demonstrations, training sessions, close supervision and technical backstopping from SAA. We also get key actors in the agriculture value chain linked to farmers like suppliers to take part in the training (Traders, Agro process, machine manufacture, input companies & Micro Finance Institutions/banks). We always include farmers in all our methods, and emphasize that the farmers learn by doing as in the Farmer Learning Platforms.

Left: “Farmer Learning Platforms” are part of the SAA concept. They are designed to transfer knowledge by means of demonstration trials and on-site training. (Photo: K+S KALI GmbH)

Right: Daniel Olol, program officer for “Enhanced Crop Productivity” in the SAA team of consultants, Uganda. (Photo: K+S KALI GmbH/Fischer)

Do you train the farmers directly or are there any multipliers that will help you to get more farmers involved?

We work with and through multipliers. We work with national extension agents but also with Community Based Facilitators (CBFs) at lower communities. Commodity Associated Trainers/Traders (CATs) and host farmers all responsible for training farmers.

What exactly is your job in the project?

My job is to plan and implement extension activities in my theme area, organize and conduct training, follow up project activities by making regular field visits to project sites to provide technical guidance and advice to the extension field staff on time and collect data and produce field reports.

Could you please describe a typical day at your work?

A typical day begins by meeting with the other team members to draw out a work plan including assigning topics for trainings within the team. We then meet the farmers at the training venue where we facilitate the training depending on the topics earlier prepared and respond to any issues raised by the farmers. A field visit follows where we evaluate whether the previous training is being followed. In the evening we then meet the extension team to map a way forward for the next day.

What are your very personal expectations and hopes for the project?

My expectation is that farmers will adopt the methods we are training them on and be able to achieve higher yields which will translate into higher incomes for them thus giving them a better livelihood.

The project “Growth for Uganda” started in April 2013. What has happened until now?

Since April 2013, “Growth for Uganda” has intervened in two districts of Uganda, Dokolo and Apac, covering 11 subcounties, 100 parishes, 400 farmer groups, and 10,000 farmers have been trained in the first season. We have reached an additional 10,000 farmers in the second season. Through a multiplier effect, we hope to reach an additional 20,000 farmers.

In how far does your stay in Germany support you in your work?

I have learnt a lot especially about soil analysis and plant nutrition.

“Collecting soil samples is hard work”: Soil analysis is an essential part of and condition for providing farmers with appropriate advice. In the future, all the information will be recorded in a “soil mapping system.” This will provide an overview of local soil conditions. (Photo: Dach)

What will be the next steps of the project? Do you have regional partners to go along with?

When I go back to Uganda, it will be a month till harvest time I shall carry out monitoring visits, and end of season evaluation of the farmers. Then prepare and plan for the next season as well plan for the use of the truck and expand to more villages. I will also share the knowledge I have gained in Germany with the rest of the team back in Uganda.

 

We always partner with the national extension system and we are always willing to have partners.

 

I thank K+S, for supporting our communities to improve their livelihoods, and support to my capacity building and training me. In a short time, I have learnt and shared a lot with the teams I interacted with.

Thank you very much for the Interview Mr. Olol!

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