ICRISAT-HOPE holds field days on improved finger millet production in Uganda
The ICRISAT-led HOPE project in partnership with the National Agricultural Research Organization, Victoria Seeds Ltd and Support to Holistic Advancement and Responsible Engagement (SHARE) organized two field days in Amach and Ayer sub-counties of Lira district, Uganda on 15 and 16 July, respectively.
The field day in Amach attended by 133 farmers (40% women), was held on 43-year-old Molly Okello’s farm. The farm has 3 acres of cropland planted with improved finger millet variety Seremi 2, local finger millet variety Okelo Ociba, cassava, maize, and beans. Ms Molly who runs a 9-member household, reported that the March-July or long rain mid-season drought would mean no maize and beans harvest. However, she is optimistic of harvesting 300 kg and 100 kg each from her 0.5 acre of Seremi 2 and Okelo Ociba, respectively. She has adopted row planting and used only 1.0 kg seed of Seremi 2, and expects to sell about 200 kg grain of Seremi and 50 kg grain of local finger millet Okelo Ociba in the local market at Uganda shs 1000 (US$ 0.4) per kg and Uganda shs 700 (US$ 0.28) per kg, respectively. The early-maturing Seremi 2 fetches a high price and is most preferred in the market because it is blast resistant, easier to thresh, has better food qualities and is higher yielding than the local Okelo Ociba.
The second field day in Ayer with 145 farmers (65% women), was held on the 8-acre farm of 65-year-old Mr Francis Chan, where he has grown Seremi 2, maize, pigeonpea, cassava, beans, and grazing pasture. He has also adopted row planting and expects to harvest 1,200 kg of grain from Seremi 2 this month. He began planting Seremi 2 in the long rains of 2011 when he received a one-fourth kilogram mini-seed pack from the project. Chan expects to support his five-member household by selling 1000 kg grain of Seremi 2 in the local grain market at Uganda shs 1.0 m (US$ 400).
Farmers reported that the improved practice of row planting being promoted by the project made weeding very easy, and that men readily participated in it compared to the traditional
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system where back-breaking weeding was done only by women. Finger millet threshing was
rated as the second most difficult task after planting and farmers sought the project’s assistance in accessing mechanical finger millet planters and threshers.
About 25% of the farmers said they had heard of Seremi 2 while about 10% said they were growing it. They felt that the limited diffusion and use of the improved variety was due to inaccessibility to quality seed and information on positive attributes and management practices, for which they sought the project’s intervention.
SHARE Director Robert Opio said they would start to promote value addition, collective marketing and a warehouse receipt system for finger millet from next year. ICRISAT and NARO promised to obtain mechanical planters and threshers for testing and adaptation.
Among those present during the field day were officials of 11 farmer producer groups with a membership of 107 farmers, Victoria Seed, SHARE, agro-dealers, local government and religious leaders and ICRISAT represented by Henry Ojulong and Patrick Audi and NARO represented by Robert Olupot.