Can Agriculture Professionals roll up their sleeves and blunt the biting effect of drought, occasioned by climate change, on livestock production through research, innovations and entrepreneurship?
Seasonality of forage is one of the major challenges in meeting nutritional requirements of dairy, beef and dual-purpose cattle, goats, sheep, horses and donkeys in Eastern Africa. Feed scarcity for the livestock is occasioned by frequent and erratic droughts some of which are prolonged. To address this challenge, fodder production and conservation technologies such as hay, silage and haylage production technologies have been introduced and promoted as a potential strategy to addressing feed scarcity among farmers. These technologies are aimed at increasing livestock feed availability during the dry periods in addition to diversifying income through sale of hay bales and grass seed among communities. However, while previous studies have shown an increasing trend of acceptance and adoption of forage and its conservation as hay among farmers in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti, farmers in Uganda have not fully embraced the fodder conservation technologies. Failure by farmers to adopt scientific innovations to solve the real challenges of feed scarcity that face livestock farmers during prolonged drought makes us wonder why?
Why the Need for agricultural professors to roll up their sleeves?
Despite the known benefits of fodder conservation, which has been taught at Makerere University and other institutions of higher learning for over 50 years, there is scarcity of information on fodder value chain that is crucial in informing development and up scaling the technology of hay production as a business among the communities.
Prof. Kabi, an animal scientist from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University has innovated an alternative way of taking the university lecture room to the communities. Prof. Fred Kabi has rolled up his sleeves and has dedicated his livestock science knowledge, skills and over 10 acres of land situated in Kapeka to production of Chloris gayana hay intercropped with Centrosema pubscens legume. This could also be a driver for aspiring farmers to open up and learn a new approach to growing pastures and its conservation as hay for livestock feed as a way of diversifying enterprises at the farm. He is optimistic that within four years , he should open up about 40 acres populated with Chloris gayana and Cencherus ciliaris grasses together with Desmodium and Stylosanthes guianensis legumes all of which are drought tolerant pastures. In his words, this action is intended to blunt the biting effect of drought among dairy and beef farmers most of whom lose revenue during prolonged droughts when the milk prices are very high yet milk production drops due to insufficient fodder availability.
Ecological green gold for job creation and sustainable employment
High demand for milk and meat consumption in urban and peri-urban areas irrespective of seasons will be the major market driver for feeding hay to livestock as an alternative to the green chop of elephant grass during the dry seasons in Uganda. While elephant grass can be a promising source of fodder due to its prolific growth during the rainy season, its growth is seriously curtailed during the dry season leading to fodder deficiency. Moreover, it is during the dry season when the prices of milk go very high. Since the crude protein content of Chloris Gayana grass is comparable to that of elephant grass (about 9 to 12 %), Prof. Kabi thinks production of Chloris Gayana grass and the drought-tolerant legume pastures conserved as hay and their seeds needs to be exploited as an enterprise to meet the growing needs of farmers. Uptake of hay and seed production by entrepreneurs with the necessary factors of production, knowledge and skills is one way of turning the challenge of erratic and prolonged droughts into an opportunity for job creation and employment especially for the youth and women.
Together with his graduate students, Prof. Kabi thinks innovation along the dairy and meat value chains can lead to cottage industries where pasture hay can be pulverized into small pieces and mixed with other ingredients such as maize, cotton seed cake and minerals as a total mixed ration. When bagged rather than baling, Prof. Kabi considers this as a practical application of innovative feed solution for not only peri-urban farmers but as a potential export to the region. This is where the University don is advocating for a deliberate effort and government policy to make sure that just like Tourism is advertised, a deliberate effort to create jobs for the youth can be made by advertising Uganda as a possible source of bagged hay as green gold. Production of hay for local, regional markets is one of those efforts that can meaningfully engage the youth in the dairy and beef value chains. For effective exploitation of pasture hay as green gold, there is need for deliberate effort to organize not only production but the market. It is the belief of the professor of animal nutrition that the future of the youth involvement in the dairy or beef value chain only belongs to the organized. But organization of the youth in any production enterprise along any given value chain will only be successful if such production is driven by the market incentives Kabi says.
Turning the challenge into an opportunity
The CAES Communication office followed up Professor Kabi to Kapeka to establish the motivation behind his involvement in pasture grass establishment for livestock among the communities. The Don says that after careful analysis of the beef and dairy value chains from the perspective of an animal nutritionist, he has established that there were so many people who want to do dairy or beef farming business but lack pasture feed resource for their animals. Moreover, the scarcity of pastures is more prominent among peri-urban farmers with a good market of their milk and beef but with limited land to produce fodder for livestock. So, he took on that challenge as an opportunity.
“Secondly, during prolonged dry seasons which are due to the challenge of climate variability, livestock farmers cannot sustain the same number of animals at the farm kept in the wet season due to limited access to feeds. Since the consumers’ demand for milk and meat has gone up yet the farmers who produce milk and meat for one reason or the other cannot adopt technology for producing feeds for the milking animals during the dry season, someone has to close the gap but at a cost.
Scientists who preach the science of fodder conservation and nutrition in lecture room can now innovate and participate in value addition to pastures to bridge the gap of limited milk and meat supply during the dry season. Producing hay in Kapeka is like constructing a lecture room among the communities. This was one of my incentives to go into pasture production for hay. This will not only demystify the science of fodder production and conservation but will also create jobs among the youth, help in diversification of income and help build market for the hay and seed”, Prof. Kabi explained.
The don cites the experience of farmers in Uganda who planted maize and had to sell it at a price of UGX200 a kilogram. But a kilogram of hay goes for UGX500-700 or a bale of 10 to 15 kg from UGX5,000-7,000 while a kilogram of Chloris Gayana seeds fetches up to UGX3,000-4,000 while that of green leaf desmodium can fetch up to UGX150,000. This puts a farmer’s land and knowledge to good use and contributes to the dairy and beef value chain.
Clad in his blue overalls, the Professor cuts the mature Chloris Gayana, pauses and says, “Here, we are with the question – Can agricultural sciences, innovations and entrepreneurship blended with policies be able to solve the challenge of youth unemployment?”
The answer according to the Professor can be yes or no.
Prof. Kabi observed that farming in Uganda has been mainly on a small-scale subsistence without organized markets and this can never appeal to the youth as a cool engagement. In the affirmative, however, once there is organized market, this will be the driver for accepting scientific innovations and a way of igniting entrepreneurial skills among the youth for as long as they can be able to earn from their engagement in agriculture.
However, Kabi explains that understanding the whole dairy or beef value chains at the local, regional or at international level is crucial for positioning agriculture as a source of employment to the youth. For instance, about 50 years ago, Africa commanded about 6% of the global trade volume. This has been declining over the years and right now, Africa transacts about 2.4% of the global trade volume. To be specific, the current trend now indicates that the volume of trade of Africa excluding South Africa, Egypt and Morocco i.e. Sub Saharan Africa is 1.7% of the entire global trade. According to the Professor, this creates a worrying challenge of unemployment because there is an imbalance of trade.
“So how can agricultural sciences, innovations and entrepreneurship be able to take us back into commercial trade and export that was enjoyed by Africa in the 1950s? This is where export drive livestock production is so crucial to the nation Uganda. Uganda needs to understand the dairy, and meat value chains so that we can be able to position ourselves to penetrate the international market. This can be through non-conventional agricultural produce such as hay and pasture seed production”, explained the Professor as he pointed at the garden.
Borrowing from the Ethiopian experience, Professor Kabi said, at the last quarter of the year 2018 there was a deliberate effort in Addis Ababa for the country to access regional markets in terms of hay. Demand for hay market could go as far as the Middle East as a result of climate change, a development that entrepreneurs were taking advantage of.
In the middle East, Kabi cited that the market is interested in live meat goats of a given conformation. Finishing such goats on processed hay seems like a plausible way of meeting standards for such external markets. Relatedly, in an international meeting organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) under the auspices Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the representatives of Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) opined that some countries can indirectly participate in the dairy and meat value chain by producing fodder that is required for the industry.
Prof. Kabi asserts that Uganda too, can have a cottage industry to process hay and make it ready for farmers who keep dairy and beef animals, spearheaded by professors who are the proponents of feed conservation but driven by the youth. The whole of Kampala for example has small holder farmers practicing zero grazing. The 10 acres of land under Chloris Gayana pasture production for hay is equivalent to 4 hectares. Each hectare can yield 25 to 35 tons of hay dry matter per year, which is estimated to annually feed 5-6 mature cows.
Kabi says, if we have several of such hay farmers organized into a cooperative, we can feed the dairy industry at a local level but with excess available for export to countries like Kenya which are yearning for feeding materials. But is there a deliberate effort by Uganda to organize both production and market of non-conventional produce so that people do not only look at growing priority crops such as maize but diversify to fodder as an alternative source of foreign exchange?” He asked.
Prof. Kabi notes that Uganda can be able to export hay to Kenya and middle east but this requires a deliberate effort to get both production and market organized. This he said is what happened when colonialists were able to organize markets for coffee, minerals and cotton.
“This explains why paradoxically the African share of the global trade almost a sixth of what it was 50 year back. The decline in the volume share of trade from Africa as a proportion of the global trade is certainly a reflection of the real poverty on the continent and together with unemployment for the youth”, He said.
The professor thinks that the only way to solve the challenge of imbalance of trade is to think beyond conventional trade especially of agricultural produce and to diversify it with alternative ecological exportable produce including processed hay for income and employment creation for the youth. Value addition through cottage industries where science, innovation and entrepreneurship is blended with deliberate policy of production driven by export trade is needed. Uganda can surely be marketed and known to be a hay basket for the whole region.
Prof. Kabi further notes that if a deliberate effort is not taken to create the markets for unconventional products, then the country can never have its agriculture produce access regional and international markets. However, he emphasized the need to export produce in a sustainable way, where sustainability means making use of low input natural resources like the Chloris Gayana intercropped with Centrosema as a legume that is naturally occuring but with value addition to be competitive in the market. This can be the basis for inspiring the youth to get involved in agriculture.
Nutritional value of Chloris Gayana
The high yield of Chloris Gayana of 25 to 35 tons per ha per year coupled with its high crude protein content of between 9-12% is comparable to that of 10 to 50 tons of elephant grass with crude protein content of 10 to 13 %. The most important point is that Chloris Gayana can withstand dry conditions making it the right crop in the face of climate change. It simply rejuvenates after cutting unlike elephant grass which is only prolific in growth during the rainy season. Besides, Chloris Gayana can be intercropped with legumes such as centrosema , desmodium (both green and silver leaf), siratro (Bishops purple), stylosanthes and glycine.
Farm management practices
The seedbed for Chloris has to be a fine tilled just as is the case for millet, because the seeds of the pasture are quite small. After seedbed preparation, you have to ensure that you plant at the onset of the rains in the same planting season of maize. Furrows are dug either manually or mechanically. Chloris Gayana is planted in rows like maize at spacing of 2ft from one row to another to allow ease of weeding because while young it can easily succumb to weeds. The seeds are mixed with sand, black soil or preferably composted cattle manure and broadcast within the dug furrows. A thin layer of soil is used to cover the seeds so that they do not fail to emerge and to protect them from being systematically eaten up by birds. After some 7 to 14 days, the seed will germinate. However, if it is dry, it may fail to germinate. If the germination percentage of the seed is 50% and above, the seed bed should be entirely covered by three months. If the germination percentage is below 50%, allow the seeds to shutter in the garden. With proper weeding and rains, the next ratoon will be ready for seed harvesting after 30 to 50 days. After harvesting you weed and manure the grass to that it can maintain the growth vigor.
Unlike the Chloris gayana seed which has to be harvested as soon as it is ready to avoid shuttering and its destruction especially by the birds, hay should preferably be harvested at dough stage when half way the garden is flowered. However, the harvesting should coincide with the onset of the dry season to avoid moulding. The cut grass should be raked to enable thorough drying to only 15 % moisture content like maize grain. The dried hay should then be baled using either tractor driven hay balers or hand-operated hay baler boxes. Baled hay should then be kept in a cool and dry shelter that is water proof preferably raised on pallets or in a crib like maize. Failure to adhere to these conditions will lead to moulding.
Challenges of farming Chloris Gayana
Growing the fodder on ten acres requires machinery including a tractor and accessories such as a reciprocating mower, a rake, a tractor-operated baler and a drying shed for green curing so that customers end up with green rather than golden hay color before its storage. This is crucial in conserving the beta carotene or the precursor for vitamin A necessary for the yellowish creamy color of milk.
The other major challenge challenge is labor. Youth do not think hay is a lucrative business to be engaged in. However, professor Kabi thinks if organized and turned into an enterprise, the youth will realize hay production is green gold that is worth getting engaged in especially if the market is streamlined. This is the reason why the professors should roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty as role models for the youth and attempt to turn the challenge of prolonged drought occasioned to livestock by climate change into an opportunity.
Report compiled by;
Principal Communication Officer, CAES
Mak Commissions CoVAB@50 Celebrations, Awards Certificates
The College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB) on Thursday 17th June, 2021 commenced celebrations to mark 50 Years of Veterinary Higher Education, Science, Technology, Innovation and Services (HESTIS) in Uganda. The blended event held at the Industrial Livestock Research, Incubation and Skilling (ILRIS) Center at Nakyesasa, Namulonge as well as online was presided over by the Chancellor, Prof. Ezra Suruma and First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports (MoES), Hon. Janet Museveni both represented by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.
The event, held as part of Makerere University Centenary Celebrations (1922-2022) was a moment of celebration for 1,930 skilled livestock agribusiness entrepreneurs who were awarded certificates in recognition of completion of their respective courses. Owing to the strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) instituted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to curb the spread of COVID-19, the students from Incubation Hubs in Atiak, Butaleja, Mubende, Nakyesasa, Sheema and Wakiso were awarded their certificates virtually.
In her remarks read by Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Hon. Janet Museveni thanked Makerere University for supporting grassroots level development through groundbreaking innovations under the Africa Institute for Strategic Services and Development-Skills for Production Enterprise Development and Accreditation (AFRISA-SPEDA) model.
“I am extremely pleased that Makerere University, through those innovative approaches, has developed and launched the alternative approach to building human capital and transferring knowledge to enterprises in communities.
“I would like to encourage all those involved in skills development to adopt methodologies that transform those trainees that go through these programs in ways that enable them also transform the societies they live in” read the Minister’s remarks.
She further noted that commissioning of the CoVAB@50 celebrations was both timely and rewarding. “The commissioning of the college innovations indeed has made meaning. This is a true path to growth of an Academic and Development College of the University, and we congratulate you again.”
Addressing the congregation as Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe congratulated CoVAB alumna and incoming Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI) under the Office of the President, Dr. Monica Musenero upon her recent appointment. “We thank His Excellency the President for identifying you. Science is in good hands.”
Prof. Nawangwe urged Dr. Musenero to address the structures of managing research and innovation in Uganda, “including the role of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and the apparent need to establish a Research Council for Uganda.”
In the same breath he thanked the outgoing and pioneer Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumuwesigye, for his role in ensuring that the ministry is empowered to carry out its mandate.
The Chancellor congratulated CoVAB upon training the bulk of Veterinary Doctors in Uganda over the last 50 years and more recently, Laboratory Technologists at the highest level. He recognised Makerere University‘s obligation to contribute to the economic self-determination of Uganda and thanked CoVAB for conducting research that addresses hindrances to national development, especially in the livestock industry.
“The anti-tick vaccine is one of such innovations which will solve the huge problem of tick-borne diseases that have caused enormous losses to our farmers. There are many other problems on which the college is researching and we thank you for the enthusiasm” he added.
The Chancellor commended CoVAB for being the vanguard of transformation of the grassroots communities through the SPEDA model. “I urge Government to fund this important initiative so that it can more meaningfully contribute to solving the big problem of youth unemployment.”
In her remarks, Dr. Monica Musenero commended the Principal, CoVAB, Prof. John David Kabasa for fulfilling the College’s dream of enabling the masses who drop out of the education value chain as well as those who complete education but have no skills for livelihood, to attain certification in agribusiness entrepreneurship.
“Many people attain academic success and write papers, publish and they become professors but without demonstrable impact on their nation. You have shown by the thousands that you have touched nationwide that indeed you are a professor of national transformation. Congratulations,” remarked Dr. Musenero.
She therefore congratulated the teams at CoVAB and AFRISA upon successfully conceiving and executing a model that is non-traditional, informal, not easily understood and not documented in any textbooks.
As Minister, Dr. Musenero noted that witnessing thousands of individuals from across the country whose skills had been honed through a university programme receiving certificates gave her a lot of hope and material to embark on her tenure with. “I will be looking forward to harnessing these resources as we initiate work on the next leg of Science, Technology and Innovation in the country under the President’s Office.”
The invitation to the Principal, CoVAB to present students for the award of the ordinary diplomas, ordinary certificates and artisan certificates was given by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Dr. Umar Kakumba. He congratulated the awardees upon successfully completing their respective courses and graduating with evidence on an enterprise.
Prof. Kabasa clarified that the approach used to train the day’s awardees was not simply a vocational skilling. “The combination of action research with knowledge transfer, skilling, plus assessment and accreditation processes done by organs like the DIT (Directorate of Industrial Training, MoES) has given us this result, for the University to provide true leadership and transformation of the community.”
Present at the celebrations were the Director, DIT, MoES-Mr. Byakatonda Patrick and the Deputy Commissioner Social Services Development, MoES Madam Elizabeth Bateme who have worked through the Academic-Community-Public-Private-Partnership model to ensure that students graduate as entrepreneurs with micro enterprises.
Prior to presiding over the ceremony, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, on behalf of the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports officially commissioned the SPEDA Training, Incubation and Research Centre – Nakyesasa.
UNMA Advisory on Agriculture and Food Security Jun-Aug 2021
The Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) on 7th June 2021 released the seasonal rainfall outlook for the June-July-August (JJA) 2021 period. Contained in the outlook were advisories to various strategic sectors of the economy.
Particularly, the advisory to the Agriculture and Food Security sector was;
- JJA season is often part of the normal dry season in the areas of South-western, western, parts of the eastern, and central Uganda. The farming communities in these areas are therefore advised to be vigilant during post-harvest handling by considering proper drying of the harvest on clean surfaces, use of tarpaulins and drying on racks;
- Preparation of good storage facilities of produce to avoid compromising on quality and safety;
- Channeling of the run-off water into the gardens in order to maximize on the soil moisture conservation;
- For those areas where near normal to above normal rainfall is expected (most parts of northern and eastern Uganda), farmers are encouraged to continue with regular weeding, pest and disease surveillance and control;
- Due to the expected enhanced rainfall in those areas, water logging and proliferation of fungal and bacterial crop diseases are likely to occur.
- Open drainage channels around household and gardens to reduce risks from stagnant water causing damage to root tuber crops;
- Flash floods and waterlogging are highly anticipated to occur in low lying areas expected to receive enhanced rainfall such as Katakwi and Kapelebyong. Therefore, communities are encouraged to keep watch over their crops, animals and property;
- In Karamoja sub-region, where wetter conditions are expected, the pastoral communities are advised to diversify into boosting the production of cereals (sorghum, millet, and maize), beans, and ground nuts and sustain pasture availability for livestock.
Please see Downloads for the detailed outlook.
4th Call For Applications: MURBS Departmental Ambassadors
In February 2018, the Makerere University Retirement Benefits Scheme (MURBS) launched the Departmental Ambassadors Programme. MURBS hopes to use this Ambassadors Programme to engage more directly with its membership and enhance member education. MURBS further perceives this Programme as a means to mitigate succession planning risks.
MURBS Fund Value continues to grow, and as at 31st March 2021, it stood at Ushs 235.5bn as compared to Ushs 209.6bn as at 30th June 2020. Given this growth, there is increased need for prospective Trustees, who are well equipped with relevant knowledge and skills, and with practical exposure to the management and governance of MURBS.
- Must be employed by the University on permanent terms
- Must be an Active Member of the Scheme (currently contributing to the Scheme) and appear on the Official Register of the MURBS Active Membership as at 30th April 2021.
- Must be willing to commit time to trainings and other ambassadorial activities organised by the Scheme.
Mode of training for 4th Cohort of Ambassadors
Training for this (4th) Cohort of Ambassadors is envisaged to be conducted over the zoom online platform only, due to Covid-19 restrictions. The Scheme does not envisage any face-to-face interactions.
Tenure of Office & Termination or Withdrawal
There is no tenure of office for the Departmental Ambassador. As long as a member is willing to continue serving as an Ambassador, and the Ambassador continues to satisfy the eligibility criteria above, she or he will remain a MURBS Ambassador.
How to Apply
Interested members should complete the MURBS Departmental Ambassador Application Form 01-0218. The completed Form together with the requested attachments should be sent to info[at]murbs.mak.ac.ug and copy to wilber.naigambi[at]mak.ac.ug no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, 14th June 2021. We discourage hand delivery of applications.
MURBS shall acknowledge receipt of each application received within 12 hours and will respond to the applicants to confirm the status of their application in writing (by e-mail). Upon approval of the application, the name of the approved Ambassador together with the Department and School/Unit will be updated on the list of the MURBS Departmental Ambassadors in the Group 4 category and published on the MURBS website.
NOTE: There is no limit as to the number of ambassadors that MURBS can have in a department.
Please see Downloads for the detailed call and application form.
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