Associated with Tooro Botanical Gardens

Science cafés at Tooro Botanical Gardens

Tooro Botanical Gardens organised and ran over 9 scientific cafes throughout BigPicnic. Here are some examples of the ideas presented by different speakers. 

TBG science cafe

Mr Okwiri Joseph

Mr. Joseph Okwiri is model farmer and agro-entrepreneur. In a pleasant, narrative way, he shared with the participants how he started farming at a very young age and how farming helped him to escape from poverty at childhood (he grew up as an orphan) to a successful life. Using common sense and economical thinking was the way to his success. 

He used success stories while sharing how food productivity can be improved.

1st story: On the subject of food waste: “When I realized that, during harvest season, huge amounts of matooke and beans are thrown away, because people have the impression that there is and will be plenty of food all year through, I started study tours in neighbouring regions. I managed to change this situation and to convince people of the fact that good storage systems are important to avoid a lack of food in more difficult times of the year. However, I notice that public opinion in Uganda is still often negative towards this economical way of thinking. 

2nd story: On monotonous food: “still too often, people who grow mainly one single crop (e.g. Bannana) also tend to eat this food all the time.  Therefore, I encourage people to sell the food they grow locally, such that they are able to buy other food types and have a more balanced diet.”

When it comes to the management in agro-business, “I notice that certain people (e.g. the Ankole people of the South-West of Uganda) can show inspiring demonstrations on their farm. A good practice is, for instance:

  • to employ workers on your farm  
  • good practices in food growing can be shared with fellow farmers by broadcasting on the local radio
  • field tours to ‘model farmers’ are highly inspiring, because people can see the results of using good practices 
  • sharing experiences between farmers can stimulate them to adopt new methodologies.
  • a good use of manure is an important key to high productivity. Manure can be collected for free, e.g. by collecting organic leftovers after a market day.
  • demonstration kitchen gardens can teach and inspire people. 

Mr. Okwiri advised the participants to specialize. If a farmer engages in too many different types of production on one farm, chances are high that they will fail in all the activities.  Still it is important to keep in mind the idea of crop rotation and intercropping, therefore one shouldn’t focus on one single crop. Finally, Mr. Okwiri states that kitchen gardening is very important, because vegetables are expensive on the market and provide the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet. 

Mr Clovice Kabaseke

Mr Kabaseke is a lecturer at Mountains of the Moon University .Agroecology is the study of ecological processes applied to agricultural production systems. Mr. Kabaseke explains that successful agro-ecology implies 3 prerequisites:

  1. It should provide food security. 
  2. It should offer a good income to the farmer.  
  3. It should keep the environment intact.

Concerning the ecology of pumpkins, for instance, Mr. Kabaseke tells a story that pumpkins, grown in their natural habitat between weeds, grow better and are less vulnerable for drought. Also, a soil analysis can help farmers to understand what particular crop is better adapted to be grown on a specific piece of farm land. Farmers are advised to ask for a soil analysis at the Mountains of the Moon University located in Fort Portal. Furthermore, it is very important to take good care of the soil on farmers’ land and to avoid erosion.

Green revolution: Mr. Kabaseke explained how the use of chemical fertilizers, selected crop varieties, pesticides brought an increase of food production and food security to some parts of the world. However, in Sub-Sahara Africa the Green revolution did not bring the expected success and led to damage to the natural environment. 

Monocultures: monocultures seem to make farmers’ work easy, but they have many direct and indirect negative consequences on food production. Cutting trees for monoculture reinforces climate change, especially drought. Pests spread more easily in a monocultural land scape. 

Agroforestry: combining trees with food crops helps to create a more natural situation on farm land. It is therefore important that farmers don’t destroy the trees on their land. Some trees are specifically good for the soil, providing for instance, important nutrients. Mountains of the Moon University can advise farmers on this matter. 

Permaculture: permaculture is related to the concept of agro-ecology, and can be defined as a system of agricultural and social design principles cantered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. A permaculture farming system is cyclical: bad leaves of the cabbages are food for the chickens, droppings of the hens can be used as manure of fish food and furthermore hens can weed and manure the orchard.

Mr Abel Tusiime 

Mr Abel Tusiime , a municipal council councillor, appreciated the inputs of the food security project implemented by Tooro Botanical Gardens and called upon all participants to implement what was discussed and promised to follow up on the participants who were residents of his area. He also called upon parents to practically involve their children in food production as a way of ensuring food growing practice amongst generations. 

  • The Ugandan climate has much to offer when it comes to productivity of food crops. People who stay poor or hungry in this country suffer from a lack of knowledge, because all the other resources are plentiful.
  • Fruit trees are very important for the food security of households.

Mr Adam 

Suggested that participants should implement all experiences and ideas shared at the café and requested TBG to organize exchange visits with different farmers to increase on their knowledge and better practices in farming to increase food accessibility and availability to the people.

 

Mr Morris Barns 

Suggested that all people should change their attitudes towards farming if there they are to address the problem of low food production.  for example, most people think that farming is for the illiterate and the poor, that has continuously led to reduction in food production country wide (Uganda). He also called upon participants to be generous and considerate with farmers and appreciate their success stories to inspire them and encourage others in the agricultural sector.