Active and prospective farmers, in hordes, arrived at the Mbarara Zonal Agricultural and Research Development Institute (MBAZARDI) on Saturday ready to gather knowledge and left equipped to produce high yields.
Some came on foot, others on motorbikes, personal vehicles, taxis and mini bus buses.

So eager were the participants that they arrived early enough to catch the general briefing conducted by Director General National Agriculture and Research Organization (NARO) Dr Ambrose Agona, Dr Imelda Kashaija, the deputy director NARO, Prof. Johnson Nkuhe, Chairman Advisory Committee MAZARDI and Dr Halid Kirunda, the director MBAZARDI.

As farmers went through the main gate, their expectations must have been catered for immediately for the sight of bean, cassava gardens and large cattle farms on the hill that habours the institute said a lot of what lay ahead.

As the over 1200 participants were swallowed up in the main compound, each was given free agribusiness information leaflets, mainly on the enterprises they had come to learn – beans, bananas, dairy and passion fruits – and later served with free fresh milk and lunch.

In their hands were notebooks and pens, and a copy of Seeds of Gold, all in anticipation of what they were going to learn at the event.

Farming without learning is hallucination
Agona asked farmers to take advantage of the learning opportunities like the farm clinic to acquire knowledge and treat their enterprises for economic improvement and improved food security for the fast growing population in the country.

“We want to see changes in farming systems. We are talking about feeding a fastest growing population. When these agriculture enterprises are sick you are also sick nutritionally and economically,” he stressed.

There were farmers giving tangible testimonies who the last clinic session at MBAZARDI had greatly transformed their lives and made them exemplary farmers in the area.

Since most of the participants originated the districts of Mbarara, Ibanda, Kiruhura, Bushenyi, Sheema, Isingiro, Mitooma, Ntungamo, Rukungiri, Mbale, Buhweju, Rubirizi and Kamwenge, their key questions were limited to challenges within their vicinity. As it turned out, the facilitators said the same remedies forward can cut across all farmers.

Commercial farming on the boom
Subsistence farming is gradually paving way for commercial farming in Uganda and you could see farmers, regardless of the age, hell bent on learning the latest best practices to get high productivity in farming.

Back in the day, farmers would even ask to be paid to attend refreshing sessions such as farm clinics but with the trend changing, many even travelled from as far as Lira, Soroti and Mbale to tap from the resourceful farm Clinic in Mbarara.

“I am a profound reader of Seeds of Gold Magazine and I have closely followed the Monitor farm clinics for a while now. When I heard of this one in Mbarara, I just got my farm boys and we came to learn more even when we are fasting,” said Noorali Hasham, the managing director of Kingo Estates Limited in Masaka, who grows coffee and bananas on over 30 acres.

In-depth theoretical and practical knowledge vs. need for new technologies
A big round of applause goes to the selfless facilitators Dr Peace Kankwasa (Cassava), John Bosco Muhumuza (Passion Fruits), Dr Moses Dikhusooka (Dairy Health), Dr Irene Mbatidde (Dairy Hygiene), Geoffrey Beyihayo (Dairy Nutrition and Pasture) Dina Nabasumba (Mangoes), Amos Aturinda (Maize) Shedrach Muhangi (Bananas), Daniel Mineno (Beans), John Ssendawula (Land management), and Dr Halid Kirunda (supervisor) for tirelessly attending and addressing farmers’ needs though the day.

The rapport created after the one-on-one interactions is one to last ages and a beneficial one obtained at special occasions like Farm Clinics.

From the farmers’ feedback, the organizers and facilitators learned that new farming technologies like latest machines should be availed to the participants to upgrade their standards and get better yields.

We picked vital lessons for Farm Clinic – Namaganda
The lessons did not stop at the participants but the organisers, exhibitors and sponsors. Monitor Publications Ltd brand manager Elizabeth Namaganda says apart from being able to able to interact with farmers from all walks of life, getting feedback from partners and exhibitors, they identified content areas that will enrich the subsequent farm clinics.

“We are going to look into the farmers’ proposal of having the farm clinics at least for two days, bringing in latest farming technologies, adding on other enterprises and moving the clinics to all Naro centres in the country,” Namaganda revealed before thanking the sponsors aBi, Heifer and Bank of Uganda that made the event a success.

According to Charles Tabu the Seeds of Gold Editor, the practical experience shared in the maize, banana and dairy enterprises satisfied the farmers even when disease scare prevented the visitation to other plantations.

The Mcee, Dembe Fm’s Robinah Mbabazi aka Bina Baibe, relying on her Kabale roots, skillfully balanced the usage of Runyakitara dialect with English which smoothened the learning mood at MBAZARDI.

Mbarara businessmen, boda-boda riders and hotels surely reaped big from the weekend event.
Any traces of thirst for trending agribusiness information left among the participants will surely be quenched at the Bulindi-Zardi Farm Clinic that comes at the end of this month in Hoima District.