Smallholder farmers in Mbale City have for long grappled with poor methods of farming, limited markets for their produce, poor preservation methods, prolonged drought, poor quality of seeds, pests and diseases and the fake agro chemical inputs that have greatly affected their production levels. The need to develop a more resilient food system for sustainable food production for Mbale City raised concern hence the intervention by RUFS Uganda. Ms. Sarah Gamisha believes that farmers invest a lot in farming but are so much affected by limited outputs due to counterfeit inputs, limited markets and limited knowledge on the use of agro chemical inputs. According to Mr. Wamimbi Andrew, an Agricultural Officer of Mbale District Local Government (DLG)-Wanale Sub-county, there is need to strike a balance between intensive farming and environmental conservation, “Ecosystems can’t be compromised at the expense of intensive agriculture,” he said. It was on this basis that the Unlocking the Potential of Smallholder Farmers Urban Food Systems Resilience in Uganda Agriculture Food Security (RUFS Uganda) Project’ team organized a two-day capacity building workshop for Mbale City smallholder farmers. The workshop held on 11th and 12th April 2022 at Mbale City Northern Division Offices was a follow up on the recent Needs Assessment workshop at which a range of issues including the need to organize farmers into groups, need for training on sustainable land management practices, and access to financial resources were identified and prioritized for action, in a bid to empower smallholder farmers with skills on sustainable agriculture.

Dr. Paul Mukwaya giving his remarks during the Smallholder Farmers’ Capacity Building Workshop held in Mbale City Northern Division

The implementation of the RUFS_Uganda project is guided by three (3) main objectives including: assessing key vulnerabilities to urban food systems; facilitating a process of coming to agreement on the key priority areas and/or policies or actions, and supporting decision makers to develop evidence-based policies and activities. In line with these objectives, RUFS Uganda in a participatory way, initiated the formation of Mbale City Food Systems Platform (MCFSP), with an aim of bringing together all relevant players and stakeholders to the City’s food shed. The platform will be key in mobilizing different interest groups towards a common goal. Ms. Angela Neumbe, CDF Mbale City has urged smallholder farmers to take advantage of the opportunities that Makerere University through RUFS_Uganda has availed them for sustainable agricultural production in Mbale City. The formation of the platform is one among the many other achievements the project has registered including: commitment by the City managers to prioritize smallholder farming in City planning; changed perception and appreciation of smallholder farming as source of income; knowledge acquisition on enhanced farming methods; appreciation that large scale agricultural production is possible on intensively cultivated small pieces of land; knowledge on group dynamics and financial literacy by smallholder farmers. “RUFS_Uganda has empowered us with skills to grow a wide rage of crops”, Mr. Mudoma Qassim, a smallholder farmer testified. According to Mr. Namurome Patrick, RUFS_Uganda has developed smallholder farmers interest in farming which has increased the quality of food produced in Mbale City “Wanale farmers can now apply irrigation at a small scale for increased production,” he said.

Smallholder Farmers during the Capacity Building workshop held in Mbale City Northern Division Offices

During the two-days workshop, Mbale City Smallholder farmers had an in-field opportunity to get the real feel of how urban agriculture can do wonders if given the utmost attention it deserves for increased production.  Smallholder farmers were trained on how to grow passion fruits, vegetables and tomatoes, among others. They also had an opportunity to know how different ways of affordable and sustainable irrigation can be applied during the long dry spells especially the use of drip irrigation, water hydrants, basins and mineral water bottles for continuous cultivation. During the field training held in Lwaso Sub-County, Mbale City, one of the farmers demonstrated the use of an insect trap, a technology he had applied after being hit by white flies that affected their tomatoes gardens. Smallholder farmers were also enlightened on efficient ways of land utilization that enhances land productivity through multiple cropping and better management, group dynamics and how it can be used to their advantage especially in acquisition of financial resources.

Smallholder farmers during a fied training held in Malukhu Mbale Prison by Mr. Ssenkooto Julius

In his remarks, Prof. Frank Mugagga, Head Department of Geography, Geo-Informatics and Climatic Sciences, and Team Leader of RUFS_Uganda Project appreciated the stakeholders for showing commitment in coming together as a group. “As RUFS Uganda we pledge to support you to actualize MCFSP.” He acknowledged support by funders in implementing the project activities.

Prof. Frank Mugagga giving his remarks during the two-days capacity building workshop held in Mbale Northern City Division

The Deputy Mayor Mbale City, Her Worship Kakai Harriet, applauded the Makerere University team for choosing Mbale and the development partners for funding the project. “Mbale is ready to welcome more partners in this regard, thanks Prof. Mugagga for prioritizing us, as well as the participants for sacrificing time to attend the training. It has been an eye opener that you actually don’t need a lot of money to start, lets start small and grow big”, she said.

Her Worship Kakai Harriet, Deputy Mayor Mbale City giving her closing remarks during the Capacity Building Workshop held in Mbale Northern City Division
Makerere University team and Mbale City smallholder farmers touring Modern Urban agriculture at Mr. Wepukhulu Juma’s home

The project team will be heading to Kasese Municipality for a similar Exercise.

Mr. Ssenkooto Julius demonstrating irrigation with a basin for sustainable agricultural production
Prof. Frank Mugagga showing participants how tomato seeds can be preserved at Mr. Wepukhulu Juma’s home
Lwaso smallholder farmers showcasing irrigation with water hydrants
Mr. Wepukhulu Juma showcasing drip irrigation at his home

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