Course in ecological farming methods for African students in Uganda
In Sub-Sahara Africa, agriculture remains the main source of income for 80% of the rural population. In order to feed their families, farmers only have access to very simple methods for cultivating their fields and domestic gardens. Outdated or unsustainable methods of soil management combined with periods of drought, the high cost of pesticides and fertilisers and difficulties in accessing loans are the main reasons for low yields from conventional agriculture and the resultant food shortages. Ecological farming offers small-scale farmers and their families an opportunity to produce sufficient healthy food sustainably in the longer term and without the purchase of expensive artificial fertilisers and pesticides. However, to tackle these challenges at the regional and national level and encourage the uptake of ecological farming, Africa needs enough local, well-educated and skilled professionals.
In this project 50 students from universities in several East African countries complete an intensive course that provides them with a detailed understanding of the opportunities for small-scale ecological farming. Within the network of universities and alumni, the discourse on organic farmingwill be further promoted through campaigns and exchange meetings.
The spread of ecological farming can be encouraged by offering new training opportunities in African universities. However, there are currently few such opportunities in East Africa. Biovision has been supporting the “International Training Course in Organic Agriculture“(ITCOA) since 2009 and so each year helps 50 East African agricultural students to attend a course in ecological agriculture. The course maintains direct links with farmers and so allows students to become conversant with the theory and practice of ecological farming and also allows them to undertake associated research projects.
Each year, a total of 50 students from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia benefit from the project. Agricultural advisers and local university specialists can also attend the agricultural seminar and benefit directly from the direct exchange of knowledge and experience as well as the newly acquired findings. Students are selected on the basis of strict criteria – at least 50% of the participants must be women.
Objectives of current project phase
- Annual training course for 50 students from Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya that allows them increase their skills and expertise in ecological agriculture.
- Sensitisation and competence building for transdisciplinary learning and applied research in agroecology among 10 researchers at East African universities.
- Expansion and strengthening of the partner and alumni network and dissemination of agro-ecological research results.
The course is designed to raise awareness within the university sector about ecological agriculture and also to increase the dialogue with the private sector and government agencies through graduates. The Go‑Organic network is currently investigating the possibility of developing commercial activities that would allow it to be self-financing in the longer term. The inclusion of course material from ITCOA into standard course timetables (as has already happened at the Uganda Martyrs University in Nkozi) will ensure the long-term future of the agriculture seminar within universities.