Martin Jadribo, an Agronomist at Asili Farms explains to the farmers how to cultivate soy beans. This was during the Farmer Day in Amuru District. Photo: ASILI FARMS LIBRARY
For 32-year old Christine Ajok, the two-acre piece of family land that she cultivates represents not just a livelihood, but also food security for her family.
As has been the norm, the mother of three along with husband and eldest son spend the better part of their mornings on this piece of land cultivating maize. They claim it is easier to grow maize because “it doesn’t require a lot of care unlike other crops like soya.” And so, maize it is… season after season. All that matters to this small family is that there is corn growing on their land every season.
This narrative is mirrored across the various households in Amuru district because everyone believes it is easier to cultivate maize compared to other crops. They also feel it is better to stickto what they know best than take a ‘risk.’
“There was a time I wanted to grow beans but everyone else discouraged me saying I was going to make losses. Since then, we decided to stick to what we knew just like everyone else, but we have been getting very miserable yields. I have nothing to do because we have to survive,” Ajok narrates.
Richard Oyet Bongo, another farmer explains that majority of the farmers in the Kilak Community in Amuru District use hand hoes and because of this, they are barely able to cultivate an acre despite owning on average 4 acres.
Oyet is however the envy of many in the community because he is one of the few who use ox ploughs for cultivation. As such, he received the honorary appointment of ‘Chief of Hoe’ for his exemplary farming techniques. He then uses his experience to educate other farmers in thecommunity.
However, just like Ajok, Oyet has also concentrated on planting only maize, again because it is easier to cultivate than the other crops.
Farmers are taken through the farming protocols at Asili Farms in Amuru. Photo: ASILI FARMS LIBRARY
But just how easy is it to plant maize on the same piece of land every season? Moreover the farmers in this community whose average acreage is 4.3 acres per person, barely use improved seeds, fertilizers or even have good post-harvest practices. Instead, part of the harvested yield iskept aside as seeds for planting during the following season. Little wonder therefore that their yields, let alone quality of harvest has been depreciating every season.
With this information in mind, Agilis Partners recently invited over 200 smallholder farmers from the Kilak community to its Farmer Day at the Asili Farms in Amuru. Farmers came from the four sub-counties of; Lakang, Laima, Amuru and Omoro.
During the Asili Farmer Day, smallholder farmers are trained on good agronomic practices and are also connected to different input dealers. We also share with them the farming protocols that we have developed and currently employ on our farms so that they too can replicate on their small farms so as to increase yields per acre.
One of the key farming practices that we are advocating for and empowering farmers with is Conservation Agriculture. This type of farming employs key principles such as minimum tillage of the land, maintaining soil cover at all times and crop rotation, a practice that is seemingly non-existent in Amuru District as seen from the experiences of the farmers.
During an interactive session at the event, Julius Otim, the Amuru District Production Officer noted that farming in the district is majorly subsistence focused and is thus characterized by low quality inputs and as a result, low output and productivity.
“While there’s potential for expansion, there are still gaps in organizing resources and even then, farmers are not able to access the right inputs,” he said. Adding, “We are also faced with the challenge of accessing markets. We may have the produce but have nowhere to sell it and this leads to wastage and losses for farmers.”
To ensure that farmers maximize their potential, Agilis will be introducing a farmer support programme in Kilak. This will ensure that farmers receive genuine inputs, are given the necessary extension services throughout the planting season and access markets. This we hope will help empower the farmers to adopt good agronomic practices so as to maximize their yeild potential.
Michael Lakony, the LC 5 Chairperson of Amuru Districtwhile speaking to the farmers encouraged them to put the knowledge gained from the Asili Farmer Day into practice.
“This is the first time that a company has opened their doors and invited us to learn from them. What this also means is that we now have ready market for our produce right in our neighbourhood. We therefore have to take advantage of this opportunity and ensure that we make use of the farming guides given to us so that we can produce the quality needed by Asili Farms,” he said.
As part of the activities, the farmers were taken through the protocols employed by Asili Farms and also tipped on how tomaximize yields and increase profit while utilizing the same piece of land.
At the end of the event, the district leadershiprequested Asili Farms to consider expanding their agricultural supportprogramme to other parts of the district.
It is important to note that at the Farmer Day, more female farmers attended that the male. We believe that this is a great start because the women and more involved at the starting phase of farming and empowering them with the right agronomic know-how is the beginning of a great harvest down the line.