Project planning and review meeting held in Soroti, Uganda
Forty three-year-old Vincent Amote from Apac district in the Northern Zone of Uganda first heard about improved finger millet seed from Victoria Seed Ltd. He bought 4 kg of Seremi II, an early
maturing, blast-tolerant and market-preferred improved variety, which he used to seed 2 acres of land. He harvested about 8 bags of 90 kg each. He has concrete plans following harvest – 5 kg will be retained as seed; 6 bags will be used to make a local brew; and 2 bags will be used as food (porridge and “ugali”). Today, Vincent is optimistic he will earn about Uganda shs 180,000 (US$ 72) per bag through value addition.
Production of finger millet, the main cereal food staple in the Eastern and Northern zones of Uganda, is constrained by low productivity, blast disease and useof improper management practices. In 2010, under the ICRISAT-HOPE project, ICRISAT and partners – National Semi- Arid Resources Research Institute (NaSARRI) and Victoria Seed Ltd – began test adaptations of improved early, high-yielding, blast-resistant finger millet varieties and disseminating seed and improved management practices in six districts
each in the Eastern Zone (Soroti, Serere, Pallisa, Kumi, Kaberamaido and Bukedea) and Northern Zone (Apac, Gulu, Kole, Lira,Oyam and Pader) of Uganda. With a view to reviewing this past work and planning future activities for 2012, NaSARRI organized a planning and review meeting in Soroti, Uganda during 29 February-1 March. Launching the meeting, the project’s national coordinator for Uganda, Nelson Wanyera (NaSARRI) emphasized that the project would focus on deepening impact in 2012 and 2013 by up-scaling participatory variety selection (PVS) trials, seed distribution and training in improved management, post-harvest handling, group marketing and value addition.
In 2011, the project established R&D networks with at least 3 farmer groups (about 20 members per group) in each of the 12 project mandate districts. In Serere district, it has linked with Soroti Sorghum Producers and Processors Association (SOSPPA), a 350-member farmers’ cooperative, to produce, process and market Seremi II. PVS trials of promising finger millet, demonstrations on blast-tolerant varieties, micro-dosing on finger millet and row planting were undertaken in these districts. An estimated 1200 farmers (60% women) attended field days to learn about production techniques. Victoria Seed Ltd and NaSARRI distributed about 4.5 tons of Seremi II in the 12 districts. Each farmer received about 0.5 kg to plant a minimum of ¼ of an acre. About 9,000 farmers who accessed improved seed through the project seeded about 2,250 acres of Seremi II. The average yield was about 360 kg per acre. The meeting concluded with visits to two farmer groups, one each in Apac and Gulu districts, respectively, and an individual farmer, to seek their feedback on the challenges and successes of finger millet production. Late seed delivery, flooding (at the start of planting), mid-season drought and inadequate labor availability for row planting and weeding were reported as major challenges.
Future plans include PVS and demonstrations that will continue in 2012 to reach more farmers through four farmer field Schools: Ng’eta (Lira district – 200 members); Bungatira (Lira district – 600); Odok Oyieng (Kaberamaido – 50); and Ocan Onote (Apac district – 200). Victoria
Seed Ltd and NaSARRI will distribute 1.5 kg seed to new farmers. Group members will be trained in improved post-harvest handling, processing and value addition, management of farmers groups and group marketing and agribusiness management. The meeting was also attended by Dennis Ong’ora (Victoria Seed Ltd), 4 farmer representatives, 2 agronomists (NaSARRI), Henry Ojulong, Daniel Ajaku and Patrick Audi (ICRISAT-ESA).