Bad rain forces Teso to make smart choices

Residents of the Teso sub-region are optimistic about the government’s new Parish Development Model (PDM), which they see as a gateway program in promoting farmers’ empowerment in achieving poverty eradication strategies.

The PDM is one of the anti-poverty projects that the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government has hatched as one of the key mechanisms for moving citizens from poverty to middle-income status.

With the unpredictable weather resulting from the negative effects of climate change, the farmers in the districts of Teso have identified drought-tolerant farm projects that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

The government decided last month to send ministers and legislators to grassroots levels to make communities aware of the benefits that will come from the PDM.

A walk through the farm constellations, which several communities in Teso’s districts have selected, rightly demonstrate how farmers have shunned rain-fed ventures. They have focused on projects such as poultry, livestock and beekeeping.

Kaberamaido District commercial officer David Eyamu told Saturday Monitor that of the 492 groups that fully registered to take advantage of the PDM, nearly 400 groups opted for breeding and apiaries.

“I can’t figure out what determined the choice for the selection or whether it is the lack of rainfall,” says the officer.

Mr. Eyamu adds that most of the business concepts written by the farmers are focused on livestock. A few others are drawn to crop science, with soy and corn being quite popular.

The Kaberamaido District Commercial Officer further notes that 27 of the 29 registered Saccos chosen to manage the PDM funds have already received Shs 7,672,670 each to start the projects. This is because the district is waiting for the Shs100m for each parish as promised in the financial year 2022/2023.

The Saccos that have not yet received funding are the Kaberamaido Parish in the Kaberamaido Sub-county and the Akwalakwala Parish in the Kobulubulu Sub-county.

Ms Stella Roses Ikeo, the Group Chairman of Riber and Teko Beef Farmers Group, says their choice of venture came after giving serious thought to the current losses farmers have endured over the past three farming years due to scant rainfall. .

“Others wanted us to go for simsim, but we’ve zeroed out beef farming,” she revealed, adding: “Animals are easier to care for than crops that wither when there’s a dry spell and then deadly. causes losses to farmers.”

John Bandrham, the chairman of the Tim Kiteko Obur farming group in Obur Village, Kabal-Kweru Parish, Kobulubulu Sub-county, says animal husbandry is the best way to reap the benefits of PDM.

He says livestock is only affected during extreme weather conditions than for arable farming.

dr. Wilfred Chakua, the district’s production officer, says current climate changes require a change of strategy to enable farmers to embrace smart climate change agriculture.

According to the technician, it is a wise choice to have livestock for the PDM project.

“We could have more, but we have to go for irrigation to survive the negative forces of climate change. It is my prayer that the government raises that aspect of irrigation,” said Chakua.

He adds that to date, all the essential personnel needed to make the PDM a success story have been trained and played a key role in company selection.

The chairman of the Kaberamaido district, Mr. Vector Rex Ekesu, says the beneficiaries should act in the knowledge that the money is a revolving fund.

Jimmy Ebil Segawa, the resident District Commissioner, says these projects should be used to eradicate poverty.

In Soroti City, Mrs. Stella Chebet, a member of a dairy farm in senior neighborhoods, says the PDM aims to improve the living conditions of subsistence households.

“When this money comes, it will lift us out of poverty, raise our children, feed our families and pay the medical bills,” she affirms.

Mr. Alex Oluka, a senior quarter ward resident in Soroti City West Division, says they have created an enterprise group to implement horticulture because it is lucrative.

“You don’t have to look for a market for seedlings, tomatoes and flowers,” adds Oluka.

Ms Christine Apolot, a commercial associate for Soroti, says that the government has paid the advance amount of Shs7.2m into the PDM Sacco accounts but has not been authorized for use until the training is completed.

“We have finished mobilizing, raising awareness and formulating enterprise groups, reaching more than 700 groups,” she explains.

In order to understand the uniformity in the selection of enterprises in Teso, Tisai Island, Kumi District, among the 16 enterprise projects registered so far, Mr. Charles Okello, one of the LC1 presidents of the area, said that ten enterprises engaged in raising goats, four would concentrate on raising sheep while a selected one raising beef.

He confirms that Tisai is a hub for livestock farming.

“We are the milk suppliers for Kumi Town, we are the beef suppliers for the same city. So with the PDM in play, we want to strengthen our commitment to making Tisai Island a haven for livestock,” said Ms Apolot.

Currently, an adult sheep in Teso costs Shs200,000; a goat Shs 150,000 to Shs250,000; while mature steers go between Shs1m and Shs2m.

Mr. Okello adds that although Tisai Island is surrounded by bodies of water, rainfall is not evenly distributed, making livestock the most suitable venture.

On July 20, Rajab Ogogol, the district production officer, said the district had registered 1,200 groups, most of which were farms dedicated to livestock.

Apart from cassava, green gram and corn for food security, the other projects look at sheep, goats, pigs and poultry.

“We have realized that sheep and goat farming is very profitable and so are chickens, so farmers are eager to take advantage of it,” explains Mr. Ogogol.

Each group ranges from 10 to 30 members.

He says almost all of the training has been done for key stakeholders with Shs7.2m already paid to parish Saccos for the groups as they wait for the government to pay out some of the Shs100m for this fiscal year.

The picture is similar in Ngora District, beneficiaries have chosen poultry, pig farming, beekeeping, dairy, fish farming and a few have selected cassava and maize for food security.

Mackay Otai, the parish development model liaison, says 353 beneficiaries have been registered, adding that an expert has been assigned to each enterprise to guide beneficiaries on best business practices.

As for beekeeping, Mr. Otai says the district has an entomologist who will guide farmers’ groups through best beekeeping practices, including those who have opted for fish farming.

The district has technical personnel with expertise to make PDM a success story.

According to Stephen Ekalam, a seasoned bee farmer in Ngora District, with expertise in extracting bee venom from bees, keeping bees is the less tedious business with less cost, other than purchasing beehives.

But also for beehives you can start by choosing the cheaper local hives.

A farmer can harvest 15 to 20 kilos of honey per hive in three months, but also make spreadable jelly and candle wax. These are all commercial opportunities that beekeeping offers.

Mr. Ekalam says that every kilogram of honey goes for Shs 20,000, and adding that he can earn more than Shs5.2 million from his 130 hives in addition to the bee venom he sells for Shs 150,000 per liter.

He adds that those who have agreed to opt for beekeeping are not lost once they embrace the practices necessary to succeed.

Mr Mike Odongo, the chairman of the Ngora District, emphasizes that a change of mindset is needed for the project to succeed.

He says that if other past initiatives have failed, the new initiative should not be equated with the past.

“Most importantly, we must work to lift ourselves out of poverty using the olive leaf that the government has given us. That’s the common denominator for all of us.

“As a leader here, I have a passion for poultry. The good thing is that it is one of many projects that farmers have chosen to undertake. This project, I can compare it to mobile money on your phone,” he says, adding that the biggest challenge people have is poverty.

Mr Odongo also instructs the government to ensure that the money earmarked for this project is given in a healthy manner so that it can have a meaningful impact.

“We also demand zero tolerance for corruption, accountability and transparency in all PDM activities,” said the Ngora District President.

He applauds the healthy working relationships between the staff and the political wing, adding that there is no room for the project to fail.

Mr Odongo said the selection of farms appeared to have been fully informed, taking advantage of the unpredictability of the rains, which have left farmers with deadly losses on their farms over the past two years.

Curated by Simon Peter Emwamu, Emmanuel Olila, George Muron

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