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Training farmers in rural Uganda on good agricultural practices

last modified Aug 03, 2018 09:06 AM
Warren Arinaitwe, a Cambridge-Africa scholar at the Department of Plant Sciences, tells us about his experience in training farmers in Uganda on common bean and passion fruit production in April 2018.

The training took place at Busukuma Climate-Smart Farm, 24km North East of Kampala, Uganda. Warren and his wife started the demonstration farm in 2014 to support ongoing agricultural training efforts by the public and private sectors in Uganda. The farm runs on a mixed farming model focusing on bananas, common beans, passionfruit and dairy. They offer agricultural advisory services to farmers and supply quality banana and bean planting materials suitable for various agro-ecologies. They also provide two free farmer training events at the beginning of every cropping season, i.e. March/April and August/September.  

Making of planting lines with correct spacing at 50 by 15 cm

Common bean production

During the training, the emphasis was put on better husbandry practices such as suitable soil characteristics essential for increased bean productivity. Warren trained farmers on the use of local indigenous knowledge such as observation of the current vegetation on the land and the presence of microorganisms such as earthworms in the soil. Warren also advised to take advantage of soil testing facilities within the national research institutions. Additionally, the farmers were trained on recommended varieties, garden preparation and correct plant population (spacing). Warren emphasised the planting of bean varieties with high iron and zinc content, which are fast-cooking and climate-smart. Moreover, farmers were taught pest and disease identification and strategies for minimising pest and disease pressure. The strategies included planting of certified seeds, timely planting and weed management.

Passion fruit production

The training on passion fruit production attracted many young farmers from different regions of Uganda. They were trained on varietal selection, nursery bed establishment, planting, the establishment of a creeping platform using local and synthetic materials such as nylon nets, pest and disease identification, use of pheromone traps to common pests, harvesting, marketing and record keeping. Warren also visited a farmer who attended the training in 2017 on passionfruit good agricultural practices (GAPs).

Warren (in black shirt) demonstrating on creeping bed laying using a synthetic nylon net

CambPlants did a short interview with Warren to hear more about his experience.


What did you enjoy most about the training?

Having worked with farmers for nearly 12 years as an agricultural extension worker, I enjoy the enthusiasm farmers come with to every session. Farmers are always willing to take on new knowledge leading to any amount of change in their enterprises.

As usual, they asked a variety of questions cutting across various agriculture value chains. They asked questions related to climate change, poor quality seeds, shifts in pest and disease pressure, soil fertility improvement, long-term storage challenges especially for perishable agricultural commodities, marketing and agricultural information access. Such a cocktail of enquiries always requires me as a facilitator to prepare widely and have prior information on relevant departments/organisations to refer farmers to for support on specific issues. 

Was anything challenging during the training?

Passionfruit creeping bed making during the demo session
Yes, like many other trainings, there were challenges of limited contact time with the trainees to respond to their needs satisfactorily. There were also challenges of emerging pests and diseases with severe damage. The farmers reported severe losses due to the bean stem maggot, viral and bacterial infections in common beans; thrips, sting bugs and passionfruit woodiness virus in both local and improved passionfruit genotypes. In such cases of emerging pest and disease epidemics, there is a need to provide farmers with pest and disease factsheets in both English and local languages. I did not have specific pest and disease factsheets during this training.  


You also met with a farmer who attended the training in 2017. What had he learnt from it?

The 2017 season training focused on GAPs for passionfruit and banana. Emphasis had been made on planting quality seedlings in the right soil at the right time! Farmers were trained on seedling selection and passionfruit orchard establishment using locally available materials like dried banana fibres instead of artificial fibre to make creeping beds. They were also trained on pest and disease scouting, weed control, use of organic manure, use of pheromone pest traps and rogue as the most immediate management strategy for passionfruit woodiness virus.

A year after the training, what had changed at his farm?

Visibly the incidence of woodiness virus was minimal in their garden. The farmer attributed low viral frequency to careful seed source selection and planting at the right time, all he learnt at the 2017 training session. I also noticed the farmer using locally sourced materials such as wooden poles and sticks; banana fibre to make the creeping bed. They were also using compost manure produced on the farm instead of expensive artificial fertilisers. Because of cheap organic fertiliser, their cost of production significantly reduced while their fruit yields increased both qualitatively and quantitatively. They were also intercropping passion fruits with common beans as a cover crop which significantly reduced weed pressure and water loss. Common beans are also known for nitrogen fixation.

Warren (in blue shirt) at a passion fruit farm 300 km from Busukuma Climate-Smart Farm South West of Uganda. The farmer attended the 2017 annual training on passionfruit production. In the picture, the farmer is visibly satisfied with the harvest.


Warren would like to thank the Cambridge-Trust through the Cambridge-Africa programme for his travel support to Uganda. He also thanks his PhD mentor, Prof. John Carr for recommending his travel plans.