Kampala — ST. JUDE Family Projects is training farmers in modern Integrated Organic Farming (IOF). For the past 12 years, the project has equipped more than 180,000 farmers with skills in IOF.
Integrated Organic Farming is a process of harmonious co-existence between the various components on a farm - plants, animals, water and soils. Each component contributes directly or indirectly to the other.
The centre, located at Busense, Kabonera sub-county in Bukoto Central, Masaka district, has become a 'presidential model' for small-scale farmers in the country.
The IOF training programme offers 75% practical skills and 25% theory. Practicals are offered in the 17 projects at the centre. These include poultry, fish-farming, bee-keeping, mushroom and vegetable growing, biogas and storm water harvesting.
"The programme emphasises practical participation so that the trainees can successfully implement what they learn. The training can be short-term residential or non-residential," says Josephine Kizza, the executive director St. Jude.
Trainees come from all districts of Uganda. At the time The New Vision visited the centre, 60 people from Nebbi, Hoima and Arua districts were attending a residential training. At times, individuals go to the centre for long-term apprenticeship.
A substantial number of women, children and vulnerable people like school drop-outs have been trained. Eighty percent of the trainees have been women, who make up the bulk of farmers in the country.
Since 1993, the centre has empowered over 180,000 small-scale farmers in Africa and Europe with IOF knowledge. They have also trained farmers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Rwanda.
After training, the participants who have put what they learnt into practice are issued a Certificate of Adoption.
"Our training staff provide effective support and later follow up the trained farmers in their respective communities," says Kizza.
In the past, the training was free, but as the number increased, St.Jude began charging a nominal fee of sh500 for every non-member.
Kizza says plans are underway to expand the training project. "We shall soon put up a hostel with single rooms to accommodate those who want total privacy."
Every year, the project trains about 800 farmers, who are its members.
Today, some trained organic farmers supply organic fruits to St. Jude and other exporting firms. The centre has 87 certified organic out-growers. In January 2006, the 15 out-growers who are still under conversion will be certified.
Once a year, organic certifiers from the Swedish firm, KRAV, visit the out-growers to ensure that they conform to the organic farming regulations.
Kizza has a degree in organic farming from Denmark and together with her late husband, Kizza Aliddeki, they set up the farmers' training centre. Many farmers have embraced the programme.
They grow fruits like pineapples, pawpaws, jackfruit and mangoes, which are processed at the centre.
In 1998, DANIDA helped St. Jude set up their first tunnel solar fruit drying plant. The first consignment was exported to Denmark. The fruits are also dried using two hybrid dryers powered by hydropower, a standby generator or solar energy donated by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.
"Each hybrid dryer chamber can shelve up to 72 trays of sliced fruit. The tunnel dryer takes only 25 trays. It uses hot air to dry the fruits," says Regina Nalubega, the factory manager of Masaka Organic Producers, which is under St. Jude Projects.