Harriet Nakasi National Coordinator ACSA addressing the audience
Kampala: On 31st October 2023, the 7th National Annual Organic Innovation and Research Dissemination Symposium 2023 was held at Hotel J-Frigh in Makerere Kikoni by ACSA under the theme: Fostering Innovations for Sustainable Soil Health and Integrated Livestock Management in an Organic Farming System.
This theme underscores the critical importance of sustainable agriculture in our world today. Agriculture, with its deep-rooted connection to the soil, plays a pivotal role in the well-being of our planet and the livelihoods of millions. The organic farming system is at the forefront of this endeavor, championing sustainability and eco-conscious practices.
This saw a distinguished gathering of experts, researchers, and practitioners in the field of the organic agriculture sector committed to promoting and supporting initiatives that lead to a more sustainable, resilient, and prosperous agriculture sector.
Among the farmer innovators who shared their innovations after the launch and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) Certification; achievements, challenges, and farmer response.
Ssendawula Andrew Ssewanyana, a farmer of Reticia Product Research from Kayunga district under Mityana Modern Farmers Organization (MDMFO) was among the local innovators at the event who discussed the impact of his BlackOff innovation, a natural fertilizer that has become a solution for pests infestation.
Ssendawula Andrew Ssewanyana, the brain behind BlackOff Natural Fertilizer
According to Ssewanyana the journey of this innovation started in 2014, and BlackOff natural fertilizer has 4:14:11 nutrient content working on all crops. Last year on August 18, 2022, he got a permit of operation from MAAIF.
It is made of aerobically fermented plant resources and principally used for foliar plant nutrition as it provides a quick nutrient supply, especially micronutrients. Its use is most common in horticultural production as a complementary measure to organic basal fertilization in case of nutrient deficiencies.
Since this fertilizer is commonly made of farm residues, its formulation varies according to the available resources and the treated crops. According to him the aim of innovating this fertilizer was to help farmers save and reduce the costs of expenditure during planting season because it is effective and affordable.
Ssewanyana however thanked MDMFO for bridging the gap between them and ACSA. This has created so many opportunities for them to so many people namely the Ministry of Agriculture which has allowed them to operate through licensing these innovators to sell their products in shops around the country.
This BlackOff natural fertilizer helps in germination and improves soil health, even with poor soils known to produce low yields, this fertilizer is a remedy and farmers will yield more crops than they have ever harvested before.
“I ask every farmer to at least use it because any kind of farmer growing different crops can use it since it is like water in a garden. When a farmer uses it, it relieves stress from him or her, once crops are doing well, they are happy,” Ssewanyana assured the audience
According to Ssewanyana, many farmers who are growing crops like cowpeas, sweet potatoes, beans, groundnuts, soya, Irish, passion fruits, bananas, coffee and maize among others are now embracing this natural fertilizer. This has seen them grow these crops regardless of the season.
“With BlackOff usage, the crops become resistant to drought, and lots of rain for example for bean crops once it rains a lot, they end up rotting, but once you use our fertilizer, the farmer’s crop flourishes,” he added
“I have a testimony of a farmer who just used this fertilizer and had a good harvest of beans after so many failed seasons of poor yields, he was advised to look for fertilizers, and fortunate enough he used BlackOff. This farmer only counts a loss of 20-25 pods of beans that didn’t yield well while the pods that yielded were 50, and 60, 80. I can say my farmer is happy,” the innovator narrated
A farmer in Kisiita village in Kakumiro District showing bean pods after he used BlackOff natural fertiliser
However, as innovators, they face challenges of lack of trust from fellow farmers about their innovation but Ssewanyana has always asked them to give their product a try. “I give them samples for first-time trial and find out how the fertilizer works and get to compare.’’
“If a fellow Ugandan can come up with such an innovation that is organic let us support him or her because it is of great help to our lives, and crops and we are safe from pests and diseases.”
He however asked the different authorities to support them once they come up with such innovations through guidance, especially in this era of technology where farmers are meant to use different platforms to market their products.
He encouraged his fellow innovators to be patient enough and know why they decided to come up with an innovation but know the purpose of the product and called for togetherness among themselves as innovators since it would help them market their products.
ACSA also supports the integration of livestock into organic farming systems which offers a holistic approach to agriculture. Proper livestock management not only contributes to increased farm productivity but also ensures the welfare of animals. This is evident that the farmers have continued to explore innovative ways of harmonizing crop and livestock farming.
Another innovator was Anthony Magarra, a farmer from the Kagadi district working with Caritas Hoima on “Tephrocide Acaricide for the Management of Fleas and Ticks in Livestock Organic”. This is an organic innovation used in controlling external parasites such as ticks, mites, and fleas in livestock. He has also been supported by ACSA through research among many others with wonderful innovations that are solutions to farmer’s problems.
Anthony Magarra during his presentation at the symposium
Harriet Nakasi National Coordinator ACSA said that when the National Agriculture Policy was passed it was like a policy framework for fully implementing organic agriculture but there are constraints like the source of Agro inputs to support sustainable organic agriculture in terms of commercializing it.
According to Nakasi, ACSA came in to address that gap of making use of innovations, helping farmers to develop innovations, commercializing them, and having them certified so that they can provide Agro inputs that are readily available, accessible, cost-effective, and compliant with organic agriculture.
“We’ve been doing it for over seven years, and each year we launch an innovation by the farmers and for the farmers. This year-round, we had one for Acaricide for livestock parasites, and out of these one has been certified by the Ministry and is already on the Market, and others are in the pipeline,” the National Coordinator said
“We work hand in hand with the Ministry of Agriculture Department, Crop inspection and Certification. They are giving us the technical support so that we can undertake this together with the University of Nkozi and among partners like Word Bank.”
She is optimistic that in the future, farmers will have access to organic inputs and will be able to commercialize organic agriculture so that we move from organic agriculture which is backyard to agriculture which is business and money-oriented.
Mr. Paul Mwabu Commissioner of Crop Inspection and Certification MAAIF said that the theme reminds us of the fundamental role soil health plays in agriculture. Healthy soils are the foundation of any sustainable farming system. “I encourage researchers and farmers to continue their work in soil conservation and restoration, promoting practices that enhance soil fertility, minimize erosion, and reduce the need for synthetic inputs,” he stated
Mwabu said that it is their duty as government officials to create an enabling environment for the growth of organic farming. This includes establishing clear policies and regulations that support organic practices, ensuring fair market access for organic products, and providing necessary incentives to farmers who embrace sustainable methods.
He also pointed at the Climate Change Adaptation saying we cannot ignore the effects of climate change on our agriculture. Organic farming practices are well-suited to adapt to these changes, but more research is needed to understand and mitigate the impact of climate change on organic agriculture.
According to the Commissioner, Capacity Building and Awareness is key in promoting organic agriculture as there must be an investment in the training and capacity-building of farmers and extension workers to ensure that they are well-equipped to implement organic practices successfully. Public awareness campaigns should also be prioritized to educate consumers on the benefits of organic products.
Mwabu also said that together we can foster a future where sustainable soil health and integrated livestock management are the cornerstones of a thriving organic farming system.
In conclusion, the theme of the symposium called for a shared commitment to innovation, research, and sustainable practices in organic agriculture. It is through collaboration, knowledge sharing, and the determination of all stakeholders that can drive the organic farming movement forward, benefiting the environment, communities, and economy.