Uganda, like many developing countries, is still grappling with extension service delivery. Various extension delivery approaches have failed to increase the uptake and adoption of good farming practices that improve production and productivity. With a rapidly expanding population, environmental degradation coupled with limited resources (land and money), rethinking the way knowledge and technology is delivered to farmers has become a necessity.
The SNV Inclusive Dairy Enterprise (TIDE) project aims to improve dairy farm incomes for 20,000 farmers by increasing productivity (milk yield per cow). One of the approaches identified by the project to improve productivity at farm level is the Practical Diary Training Farming approach. Through this approach, model dairy farms (at different levels and in different locations) are identified and supported to develop into model training centres. Three farms (AGDI Dairy Farm and MUTANOGA Farm in Kiruhura district and Rubyerwa Dairy Investments in Mbarara district) have been identified for the pilot phase of the practical dairy training. The training centres will offer one week residential training courses on five thematic areas: dairy breeding; fodder, feeds and nutrition; disease prevention and control; clean milk production, handling, storage and transportation; and zero grazing.
While conventional capacity building approaches have been characterised by handouts, with farmers predominantly accessing free services and getting allowances for participating in the trainings, the Practical Dairy Training Farming model will be private sector led and demand driven. Farmers identify their individual needs based on their specific production challenges and pay for the training to bridge the identified knowledge/skills gap. George Oroma, the SNV Dairy Advisor believes this fee for service will yield more results and adoption of skills than free extension services that have been offered to farmers in the past.
‘Anytime a farmer has to pay for a service using his/her hard earned money, the farmer is able to make informed decisions that optimise the return on his/her investment right from the selection of who is best suited to attend the training to the skills gaps that justify the training. Because of the investment that the farmers make to acquire this knowledge, their motivation to learn and implement the learnings in their farms is also high,’ George added.
The trainings will incorporate follow up of the trainees at their individual farms to facilitate uptake and perfection of skills learnt at the dairy training farms. Participating farmers will have the liberty to select the dairy training farm of their choice based on considerations such as the geographical location (which training farm is closest to them) or specific skill sets that the individual training farms are known for. 5,000 farmers have been earmarked for the practical dairy training. The farmers will be identified through their cooperatives, organised farmer groups and individual farmers from the community willing to pay for the training. The 5,000 farmers will in turn mentor three other farmers to promote skills transfer and learning within the communities.
For the training farms, providing the training is a business opportunity. In addition to running the regular one-week trainings for the targeted farmers, the training centres will be supported to provide production-enhancing services to the farmer trainees; such as pasture seed multiplication, artificial insemination services and trainings and pest control among others. The dairy training farms will be supported to develop training manuals that will be used during the trainings. Trainings will not only be offered to individual farmers but to institutions such as NGOs and institutions of higher education. The practical dairy training farming approach will be launched in the month of May.
The overall project goal is to establish 20 training farms and train 5,000 farmers during the four years of project implementation and indirectly impart knowledge and skills to an additional 15,000 who will be mentored by the practical dairy training farm mentees.