Urgent Evoke

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Title: Improving food access and livelihoods for rural farmers and beyond!


Presented by: Ssozi Javie


For EVOKATION


Vision


To help rural farmers improve on their livelihoods through improved farm yields, for sustainable development.


Abstract:


Uganda's economy widely depends on the agricultural sector. The biggest population of Ugandans benefits from Agriculture - both directly and indirectly.
Many regions in Uganda are practicing subsistence agriculture - mainly because
the land is owned by private individuals in small plots; so, the people choose
what to do on their plots of land.
Because families practice subsistence agriculture on small plots of land, their
target is to produce enough to feed their families until the next
harvest. In many cases they fall short of their target. Often yields are not
enough to feed the family until the next harvest. This has greatly been
attributed to the poor farming methods (many farmers have chosen to remain
local - NO diversity in their farming methods), prolonged droughts, pests and
diseases.
Under circ**stances, the farmers are faced with situations where they have to
sell part of their produce to cater for emerging needs - access health
facilities, pay for school fees, rent, provide for their families, name it...
In many cases they sell their produce at very low prices because the market is
not readily available plus the middlemen exploit them because they are
desperate to sell.


The rural farmers of Uganda have faced various challenges and these include the following factors among others:


Poor methods of farming: While a small percentage of farmers remains particularly conservative and not willing to advance or
modernize their farming methods, many rural farmers have not been sensitized
about improved methods of farming. As a
result, such practices like cultivating up and down the slopes leading to
massive soil erosion, over cultivation - not giving soil enough time to regain
fertility among others, growing the poor local breeds/ local crops - which
cannot survive under poor weather conditions and more prone to pests and
diseases.


On the same note, modern farming equipments also remain very expensive for one subsistence farmer to afford.


Lack of access to the common market/ market support: many rural farmers remain unemployed and they greatly rely selling on part of their agricultural produce to provide the
basic needs to their families. This implies that they need a reliable and
accessible market to be able to sell their products to earn a decent living.


The land tenure system: Because the land in Uganda is owned by private individuals, some people have no land at all (the tenants),
some have very small plots and while others have very big plots of lands (land
lords). Those who have small plots of land have big families. Usually these
small plots do not provide enough space for them to practice large scale
farming. As the families and communities expand, the rate of production remains
the same and sometimes the yields become smaller due to natural factors. In
essence, the produce is much less than the subsistence and market requirements.


Low productivity: As stated earlier, the small plots of land and mentality of subsistence farming coupled with poor methods of farming can only permit low productivity. In
addition many farmers don’t have access to crops and/ seeds at the beginning of
the season. This is mainly because most of the seeds are either consumed or
spoilt by the pests and often nothing is spared to be planted for the following
season. This is a problem because the farmers cannot reach their full potential
and as a result many rural farmers remain poor as they barely produce enough to
feed their families.


Gender imbalance: of course we still have issues of domestic violence and gender inequality. The men in most cases dictate what the women grow on the family plots. As if that’s
not enough, they want to be in charge selling the surplus of the total produce.
This means that they control the cash flow in the families and in many cases they
first full fill their needs – usually alcohol! This leaves the women the
position of the woman in the family undefined! The abuse and/ violation of the
rights of the women in various ways, such as work without pay or underpayment
in comparison to their input.


With the above mentioned problems, my proposal idea is:


First of all, as an Urgent Evoke Agent, I intend to sensitize and enlighten the rural farmers about changing their mind set. This can be done by volunteers who go out in the field to teach farmers on the “grass roots”, peer groups, training
of trainers, exchange visits to demonstration farms, also through agricultural organizations.
The enlightenment does not only affect the women, but also the men. In so
doing, they both contribute to the desired changes, that is, improved farm
yields, improved rural livelihoods, hence ensuring food security in rural
communities and beyond).



Get farmers to work together in groups such as the “tukorehamwe womens group” in Masaka district of Uganda. This will help reinvent the spirit of cooperative farming,
helping individual farmers enjoy advantages like economies of scale and many
others collectively.


This way, the problems like low productivity, gender inequality and limited land for agriculture will be solved. Farmers in small or big groups would be able to produce agricultural products and create volumes
from their numbers. Of course this will also involve training of effective
group formation and management which wouldn’t be hard with the minds set.


In addition, the problem of marketing would be easier solved. Because now the farmers have teamed up, they have more produce to carry to the market in bulk and now they can target bigger markets. The transport
cost is shared among the group members or better yet covered using the group
savings making the average charge per member affordable.


In groups (small or big) farmers would also be able to acquire soft loans (for low income earners) from the available banks on group security. These loans usually come with low or no interest. The various
commercial banks can be approached by these farmer groups. Such banks include Centenary
Rural Development Bank, DFCU, Stanbic bank and Housing Finance bank. This way,
the loan’s liability is split and shared between the various parties involved.


Target Group


Rural farmers in Masaka District of Uganda.


Implementation


· One demonstration farm to be set up in Masaka
district as a centre for training and perfection as the idea spreads to other
district inside and beyond Uganda.


· Conduct one day seminar in Masaka for already
established farmer groups and farmers in general.


· The Masaka demonstration farm will be used as
training centre to train more farmers in improved farming methods and sharing
best practices.



Way forward


1. I hope that by completing the demonstration training centre we will have trainers to train other farmers.


2. There will be a monitoring and evaluation exercise every three months


3. Farmers will be encouraged to start by growing enough food for their families with a little surplus for sell.


4. Farmers will be encouraged to work in groups to reinvent the spirit of cooperative farming with its unsung advantages.


5. We shall connect/ affiliate these farmer groups with other non-profit organizations working in the field of agriculture both local and international – these include: Food and Agriculture Organisation, National
Agriculture Research Organsiation, Dimitra, World Food Programme, National Agriculture Research Organisation - Kawanda and other already established
demonstration farms in the country.


Views: 81

Comment by Jeremy Laird Hogg on May 14, 2010 at 5:49pm
I'm going to find time to comment on on this great evoke some more.

Strip talk of enlightenment though, for sure, that's way way out of favour in the current moral climate. Try instead talking about empowering peeps to feel comfortable augmenting their regular practice by showing them greater-yield techniques that successful farmers in proximity (at least in Africa) have used.

bbl

Oh, and please don't be overwhelmed by all your great comments! The wh*** evoke season will be over in a few days I say might as well put those few extra minutes or even hour(s) in to polish up the proposal.
Comment by Ursula Kochanowsky on May 14, 2010 at 6:49pm
Interesting.
You might be interested in learning more about this group: http://viacampesina.org/en/
"The principal objective of La Via Campesina is to develop solidarity and unity among small farmer organizations in order to promote gender parity and social justice in fair economic relations; the preservation of land, water, seeds and other natural resources; food sovereignty; sustainable agricultural production based on small and medium-sized producers."

I know you've probably already read this because it was part of the mission for Food Security: http://www.oneacrefund.org/ But you might consider contacting them in order to learn how they do it and figure out what to keep, modify and throw away. They probably have an excellent idea of what sorts of therapy and ways of talking that will help spread change. I don't know if they're close enough to you but you might also use them to spread it into your local area. Build upon things that work.

Also, I read a book recently http://www.amazon.com/Tipping-Point-Little-Things-Difference/dp/031... called Tipping Point. Its an excellent book which I recommend. I'll share with you a short synopsis about affecting the adoption of change. Theres three main types of people that spread different ideas, Connectors, Mavins and Salesmen. Connectors know more people then others and so they can spread an idea far, Mavins know facts and figures and can make a compelling case and so every person they talk to who wants to know they will change, Salesmen are skilled in responding to all the reasons anyone will give about why they will not do something and so convince the person they do want to change after all.
Change needs three things, messengers(connectors, mavins and salesmen) a sticky message and the right context. A sticky message is an idea that people can't get out of their heads and because they cant stop thinking about it, they act on it. Context is your specific local environment. The people you know around you are going to listen to you more then they would listen to me. The economic situation is going to affect the rate at which people adopt change. Heres a slide show about the book: http://www.slideshare.net/marketingfacts/tippingpoint
Oh! and heres a quote from the book about Iowa Seed adoption "One of the most famous diffusion studies is Bruce Ryan and Neal Gross' analysis of the spread of hybrid seed corn in Greene County, Iowa, in the 1930's The new corn seed was superior in every respect to the seed that had been used by farmers for decades before. But it wasn't adopted all at once. Of the 259 farmers studied by Ryan and Gross, only a handful had started planting the seed by 1932 and 1933. In 1934, 16 took the plunge. In 1935, 21 followed, then 36 and the year after that a whopping 61 and then 46, 36, 14, and 3, until by 1941, all but two of the 259 farmers studied were using the new seeds. In the language of diffusion research, the handful of farmers who started trying hybrid seed at the very beginning of the 1930's were the innovators, the adventurous ones. The slightly larger group who were infected by them were the Early Adopters. They were the opinion leaders in the community, the respected, thoughtful people who watched and analyzed what those wild Innovators were doing and then followed suit. Then came the big bulge of farmers in 1936,1937 and 1938, the Early Majority and the Late Majority, the deliberate and the skeptical mass, who would never try anything until the most respected of farmers had tried it first. They caught the seed virus and passed it on, finally, to the Laggards, the most traditional of all, who see no urgent reason to change."- The Tipping Point- How little things can make a big difference by Malcolm Gladwell Pg 196 to 197

So I guess the point is find those connectors, mavins and salesmen, Those will be your respected opinion leaders, make sure your demonstration is so compelling(easy/ financially reasonable/ how they'll be supported by your farm) that they can't stop thinking about ways they can do it and make sure you know your local area so well that you can respond to the smallest shifts of change.

Plug yourself into as many different organizations as you possibly can. Your biggest challenge will be shifting mindset.

Otherwise, its a great evokation.
If you want any more information on farming methods like permaculture and no till, let me know. I'll point you in the direction of further resources to learn.
Comment by Nick Heyming on May 15, 2010 at 7:29am
Hey Ssozi, thank you so much for your comments earlier. Have you seen this grant opportunity?

According to their map Uganda falls on the Albertine rift, and you live in a very biodiverse area. Implementing strategies that allow farmers to not only have high yields, but conserve outlying lands for wildlife use would be an interested aspect to add to your proposal.

Loss of conservation land to farming is a huge issue worldwide. I think Masaka might fall right between Viktoriasee and Albertsee where the Albertine rift lies, but the rural areas surrounding your district seem to fall right on the edge of it.

The principles of permaculture about harnessing nature's abundance for both people and the many other residents of our ecosystems. There is a permaculture project in Rakai with a demonstration farm and everything. You may be able to learn from their project to implement best practices at yours. Have you heard of them?

@Ursula - That is a great book! It really changes the way you see influential people. An interesting thing about that section on hybrid seeds, you said "The new corn seed was superior in every respect to the seed that had been used by farmers for decades before."

I disagree with Gladwell's statement right there. Hybrid corn is better on some levels, higher sugar content, more consistent/uniform yields, sometimes resistance to certain diseases, larger quantity of corn per acre... but it isn't stable. You can't plant it year to year. The farmers weren't just being curmudgeons, resisting it because it was new. They were being cautious because they'd have to buy that corn EVERY YEAR instead of saving seed each year and re-sowing it.

However, the short term yields were so much greater that soon everyone had to follow the herd. What they didn't realize was they became completely dependent on the agriculture industrial complex by buying those seeds, because over time they had to use more and more pesticides and fertilizers to ward off the insects and restore the fertility from their dying soil. Many of those farmers probably went bankrupt in the long run and had to sell their familial land to huge corporate farms. A big part of that can be traced back to switching to hybrid seed instead of traditional heirloom (stable seed you can save) varieties.

It was great for Monsanto, Cargill, and Conagra, because their customers had to take out huge loans to buy seed, equipment, and chemicals at the beginning of each season, but if the farmers had a crop failure in this new system, instead of tightening their belts and turning to their community they lost the farm to the banks.

So its not as cut and dry as Mr. Gladwell puts it.
Comment by Ursula Kochanowsky on May 15, 2010 at 4:17pm
Nick,
I'm not condoning the use of current agri-industrial techniques and their ensuing blight and induced hardship of farmers. I added that because it was useful to demonstrate the idea of tipping points in a manner thats applicable to the sorts of things Ssozi wants to do. He doesn't necessarily want to use Permaculture, He wants to use the MOST applicable techniques and while I agree that hybrid seed in monocultures is not desired, the fact remains that it still has a place in meeting the coming food crisis. I'm interested in food for the long and short term. That means a transition from the techniques we do know and understand very well into techniques we are still developing.
Besides you can make the argument that Permaculture relies heavily on plants that could be considered extreamly destructive invasive exotics. In Florida we apparently have a lack of Nitrogen fixing plants, our systems have adapted without them and now the invasive are those same n-fixers. Every technique has its benefits and flaws. Its matching technique to place as much as seed and pattern and community support.
Comment by Reid Falconer on May 17, 2010 at 6:23pm
Dear Ssozi

Thank you for you awe-inspiring evokation. On reading it I did think of some questions that have been left answered. I feel that you could further add to its strength by including the following:

1) Have you identified the piece of land that you would use?

2) Will the land be donated or leased

3) To which training organizations will you link to in order to do exchange visits?

4) Who will work on and manage your farms?

5) How will they be reimbursed for their time and labour?

6) How will you recruit your volunteers that go out to the rural areas?

7) Do you have an organization that will donate seeds to you?

(8) Do you have links to larger organizations that would help you long term? I see you mentioned some but I could not find much info on them. Have you contacted them? If you have links that would be great.

9) How would you obtain initial farming/office equipment ect. to run the farm?

10) Will the farming be organic?

11) Do you have a business plan and an idea of how the $1000 would actually be used to help begin this amazing project?

12) Could you possibly provide more information on the “tukorehamwe womens group”?, this sounds great and a link to their site would be brilliant.

(13) Have you contacted organizations who will send people to train your people in improving farming methods, improving soil, combating erosion, seed quality and collaborative farming?

I have provided some links to websites that you might like to have a look at. I hope that this helps you make your evokation even more amazing as it is a much needed project.

Good Luck :)

Thanks
Agent Reid

Links:

http://www.unffe.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&...

http://www.bellanet.org/content/farming-mobile-phones-rural-uganda

http://www.kulika.org/sustainable_agriculture.html

http://www.farmafrica.org.uk/smartweb/where-we-work/uganda

http://www.farmafrica.org.uk/smartweb/uganda/the-katine-community-p...

http://www.farmafrica.org.uk/smartweb/regional-projects/maendeleo-a...

http://www.farmafrica.org.uk/smartweb/kenya/community-livelihood-em...

Comment by Ssozi Javie on May 18, 2010 at 10:32pm
Thanks to Agents: Chris Delamer, Jane McGonigal, Sarah Shaw Tatoun, Nick Heyming, Patricio Buenrostro-Gilhuys, kiyash, Ternura Rojas, ob1, Buffy B, Michele Baron, Jeremy Laird Hogg, Ursula Kochanowsky, Reid Falconer, for your comments to my “Evokation – First Draft”, your comments have really helped me a lot to reach this far.
If you think this Evokation can apply in your country, feel free to improve on it and use it as required.

Following your comments, I have uploaded - EVOKATION - SECOND Draft - Here http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/evokation-second-draft

I have tried to incorperate all the comments in one way or another.
Please let me know what you think about the REVISED COPY!

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