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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Promoting Farmers Entrepreneurship through Sustainable Market Information Services.


Agriculture is aback born of Uganda’s economy, but it has been noted that agricultural products are available with farmers both in gardens and stores but no sustainable markets for their enterprise. Rwenzori Information Centers Network (RIC-NET) as an Non Governmental Organization is spearheading in sharing market information with  farmers on how they can  access potential market s  for their produce by connecting them to  potential buyers in the market  and  availing the current market prices. This has been done using ICT web based platforms like bulk sms via farmer’s phones about market prices on free basis, plant diseases and sharing video documentaries captured from successful farmers .  Plant clinics have helped farmers to identify certain crop diseases and take them to plant doctors for diagnosis.
 From farmer’s market symposium that was held from 23rd - 25th May 2012 in Kisinga Sub County - Kasese district, Mrs. Sarah Bogera was one of the successful farmers in Kisinga who advised fellow farmers to practice family planning to be able to reach market easily both locally and internationally. For example a pregnant and breastfeeding mother carrying a batch of mattoke or a sack of cassava on their bark while holding a hand of another young child.  She also noted that children at some stages are destructive to crops like mangos, jackfruits, fishponds when they not yet mature which also leads to low productivity.
If farmers continue accessing market information and form large farmer groups, they will achieve their goal in their out put.

KISINGA COMMUNITY DEMAND MORE INFORMATION FROM THE RIC-NET STALL


As the staff of RIC-NET attended to the farmers during the market information symposium held on 23rd-25th May 2012 in kisinga sub-county, kasese District over  110 community members visited the Rwenzori Information Centres Network (RIC-NET) stall  to acquire various information including the citizens manifesto booklet which local leaders demanded highly saying they had heard about but had no copy,

other visitors were pupils of kisinga and kagando primary schools, farmers  who were interested in management of local chicken, fish farming, Civil society organizations who accessed   the RIC-NET/ RWECO Newsletters, most important RIC-NET noted the community information needs like  articles on apple growing, plant clinics, non communicable diseases  RIC-NET calendars, preparing land for tree nursery which were not provided at that time  as the  copies were finished   but  promised to  source, repackage and  send the required  information to the   interested members through the information centers



                                 

 as Bwera Information centre and Busongora Rural information centre.
While inspecting the stalls, the vice chairperson Kasese District Mr. Tadeo Muhindo Matwese, appreciated the work of RIC-NET in setting up and maintaining the E-society centre in the District that has strengthened information sharing between the Local government and the citizens as well as giving the community an opportunity to use modern ICT tools. 







    

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Plant clinics now an Asset to the farmers.





Plants clinic activities rocked high during the farmer’s market information symposium. This was realized during the market information symposium held from 24th-25th at Kisinga play ground Kisinga sub county Kasese district. This was the second symposium of its kind in Uganda, it’s meant to bring buyers and farmers together. The symposium was co-organized by RIC-NET and KRC with support and funding form FIT Uganda and Agric-Pro-focus Uganda. The theme of the symposium was “promoting farmers entrepreneurship through the provision of sustainable market information services to enhance competitive trade”. Agric-Pro-Focus work with individuals, groups, companies and organizations like HIVOS, SNV and Oxfam working in the agriculture sector.
 The Doctors were Mr. Asaba Wilberforce, Ms. Biira Astaluzi, and Ms.Walina Juliet who operate daily in the markets of Ksinga, Mpondwe and Kinyabisiki respectively in Bukonzo County in Kasese district.Plant doctor were able to attend to 372 farmers for two days.
Below is the summary of what happened at Plant clinic stole.


Number of farmers involved.

Crop samples
Disease and symptoms identified
Female
Males
Total
Beans
Leaf wilting, Injury o leaves, Growing points etc due to feeding damage
121
46
167
Maize
Leaves: vein yellowing, inter-vein yellowing, leaf yellowing, yellow blotching of leaves, yellow mosaic of leaves, leaf curling, leaf crumpling, leaf vein thickening, leaf elations, leaf cupping,
122
71
191
Banana
Banana bacterial will, with yellowing of leaves and stunted growth.
89
172
161
Cocoa
Seeds on flower covered to dark spore mass
23
44
67
Ground nuts
Stunted growth and yellowing of leaves. Nematodes and fungus on the leaves
111
79
190
Mangoes
oranges
Falling down by ripening, others splitting leave large opening.
34
41
75
pawpaw
Bacterial and fungus
02
09
11
cassava
Cassava mosaic begomo viruses.Symptoms;Stunting,Mosaic,Choloris Leaf distortion, ‘Candle stick
135
69
204
pineapple
Stunted growth
17
45
52
Cabbages
Bacterial, warms, fungus and nematodes.
21
09
30
Other vegetables.
silvery, curved larval mines on leaf underside, Leaf shedding, feeding tunnels visible on the stems, Leaf yellowing, Stunted growth & eventual  mortality
34
11
45

Note: These figures depend on the information the farmers were giving to the Plant Doctors during the entire exercise. The figures apply to particular crop(s) on the prescription form(s) from the Plants Doctors during the two day market information symposium.
According to the chairperson LC III Kisinga sub county Mr. Chance Kahindo, mentioned that “this is a big relief that NGO’s have come in to supplement the work the government had intended to do but due to other factors it has not been done”. Farmers have most often been frustrated by pests and disease which have led to low output per acre. Farmers too expressed their heartfelt gratitude to these plant doctors have are volunteering to offer service to the farmers. “it was not heard off that plants can also be taken to the clinic”. They thanked RIC-NET for giving these people knowledge and skills to help. The chairperson LCV Kasese on the same stole mentioned that farmers should utilize these people well, support them.
However these plants Doctors who have for the past 2 years been helping farmers voluntarily are not facilitated to keep moving from village to village educating farmers on better and improved methods of farming. Some time they have received resistance from some local government personally thinking they are disrupting their activities. Some farmers mentioned that it would be ideal for the government to take on plant clinic activities and those that have already done the work and have the skills should be give the chance and opportunity to work with the farmers at the grass root level. Could this be a thought by the Kasese District local government to take on Plant Clinic activities?

Information sharing key towards commercialization of Agriculture

Information sharing key towards commercialization of Agriculture. This was realized during the market information symposium held from 24th-25th at Kisinga play ground Kisinga sub county Kasese district. This was the second symposium of its kind in Uganda, it’s meant to bring buyers and farmers together. The symposium was co-organized by RIC-NET and KRC with support and funding form FIT Uganda and Agric-Pro-focus Uganda. The theme of the symposium was “promoting farmers entrepreneurship through the provision of sustainable market information services to enhance competitive trade”. Agric-Pro-Focus work with individuals, groups, companies and organizations like HIVOS, SNV and Oxfam working in the agriculture sector.
Around 600 farmers attended the symposium from within Kisinga which comprised farmers and groups The function too was attended by different farmers groups in Kasese [Rwenguhya farmers association dealing with fish farming, Kisinga community Sacco dealing with poultry and livestock,Maliba farmers association dealing with corona coffee,Bukonzo joint farmers dealing with processing coffee, which support farmers in sustainable agriculture, Snow Rural community association dealing in farming, Rwenzori integrated wildlife management which deals in fish farming, Babughirana cooperatives dealing in cassava farming], and individual farmers from within who had come to either buy or sell their products. Other farmers[groups and individuals were from; Kamwenge bee keepers association, Bunyangabo bee keepers from Kabarole, Masindi farmers association, NORAK from Bundibugyo District. Organizations which deal with information sharing were also represented like Bwera information center, Community Agriculture business capacity service [CABES] from Kabarole. There were also buyers represented by ESCO Uganda, Bakwanya Trading Company, William grain millers Quick service Supper market Fort portal and other companies from within and outside Uganda
The purpose of the symposium was to bring farmers and buyers together and share market information. Market information may include price information [trend of prices, current market price and the seasonal variations], information on buyers and offers in the market, weather; transport especially the fuel prices and means of transport. Other market information shared include on finance [agro- business loan and funding], production especially with data like quantity quality and standard. Transport information on list of buyers, distance and availability. The importance of market information is; helps to know how to plant, when, what and to who, do cost analysis, transform the lives of farmers. Market information helps farmers in decision marking Farmer’s voices were that there is inadequate ongoing market information, weather and climate have affected production, farm management methods are not used, and price and price fluctuations tend to frustrate farmers and leads to a negative attitude towards agriculture. However some members reiterated that the problem of farmers can still be handled by farmers themselves. Sometimes farmers still and wait for information. Mr. James Makundu a farmer in Kisinga mentioned that farmers can easily access information if “they form groups, society or cooperatives. We cannot wait for other people to come and unite us” Mr. Bonny Muthahinga a model farmer in Kiburara agreed with some farmers that there is need to intensify information sharing. “True farmers we don’t look for information, buyers should also help us with information of what should be produced and ongoing market prices.”
Farmers agreed that “information is a key for any successful farming”, farmers should develop the Vision towards Agriculture, do market research offers and prices, commercialize agriculture and make value of the service performed by members of the house hold in the farm. Ms Sarah Bogere a community worker mentioned that one problem is having large families. There is need for family planning [have few children]. Farmers should learn to budget for the families. Farmers also agreed to support and search for information to improve agriculture. Let us make agriculture more of business. Most people engage in crop product as life style that had be inherited from the great grandparents, this is a chance and let us use it wisely to commercialize what we produce by engaging in large scale production.
I therefore call on all the stake holders [the government agriculture department at local level and national level, the community based organization, faith based organization] to intensify the provision of information to the farmer. Since Rwenzori region is the basket of food in Uganda, farming can be the other alternative to move away from poverty.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

RIC-NET JOINS DENIVA IN THE SET UP OF DATA CENTER IN RAKAI

Following the popularization of the citizens’ manifesto and right to information access, RIC-NET joined DENIVA on the 19th and 20th of April in the setup of a data center and training in Kyotera-Rakai. Participants were trained in the basics of using ICT for information sharing and access. Speaking to the participants the Executive director RIC-NET explained a number of online platforms that are being used to access and share information.
He also led participants through the citizens’ voice platform that is going to be used during the citizens’ manifesto in action. Participants later went through a practical session on how to use these online platforms. Later in the afternoon of 20th April was another session of the citizens’ manifesto in action where a number of politicians and security organs in the district were invited. Speaking to them Ms.Susan Nandudu of DENIVA thanked members for having responded positively towards the call. She took the participants through the citizens’ manifesto where politicians raised their concerns and supplements about the citizens’ manifesto. They appreciated the role of DENIVA having considered Rakai to benefit from this program. In his closing remarks the Executive Director DENIVA appreciated the turn up of the participants and urged them to use the chance of being considered in the project to reach out to their community. He later handed over the data center equipment officially to the leadership of Rakai which equipment was then taken to the place where it would be utilized in Kyotera town.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

EFFECTIVE TEACHINIG-LEARNING PROCESSES THROUGH ICT ENABLED INNOVATIVE METHODS


Computers for Schools (cfsu) and RWECO through RIC-NET have successfully completed a four days training of English teachers in improving effective teaching-learning processes through ICT enabled innovative methods.
The training that started on 7th - 10th May 2012 attracted secondary school teachers from Kabarole and Kasese Districts  involving schools of St.Leo’s college, Kyebambe Girls Rutete S.S and St.Charles Voc SS, St.Thereza Girls’ and Kilembe SS respectively. Bwera teachers’ college from Kasese also was presented for the work of preparing teachers who provide a foundation for learners in secondary schools. The training was facilitated by Stella Nekesa and Lydia Kamba staff computers for schools and John Silco ED RIC-NET , RIC-NET finance officer was incharge of general administration. Yosia Baluku,ICT officer RIC-NET and Charles Kaliba Outreach officer  were incharge of research and documentation. 
The training  focused on how to integrate the traditional methods of teaching English Language [chalk and talk] with use of ICT. [Focus on developing the skills of Teachers with ICT innovative methods of teaching that is expected to yield more results, at least 2 teachers of English from each selected School attended. The projects are being implemented in 6  Secondary Schools and 2 Teacher Training Colleges in Kasese and kabarole Districts. ICT based tools allows to create, store, display information in its form.
Group discussions on the situation in schools as far as teaching English is concerned was conducted in the course of the training. Issues discussed centered around  problems faced in the teaching learning of English, methods of teaching English and how to handle the different abilities in class. A discussion on the 4 skills and how they’re applied in the teaching process [reading, speaking, listening and writing] was also discussed. To be good teachers ment that some one should  possess the following: Exploratory, Assessment, competence, interactive and passion for teaching.
The alternative approaches of teaching English language.
Learning station method, Lexical approach, English circle method. Think-Pair share method. Grammar translations, Practice presentation and product, Phonetics, Direct approach, Notional-functional Approach. Task based learning, [from the traditional methods that have been used] ICT integration by using ICT tools which included [digital storytelling, teaching using pictures and cinema education] was practiced during the training.
Mr. John Silco took the participants through some concepts of CINEDUC [using movies and videos in education]. he stressed that the video  for teaching should be about 15-20 minutes. Different methodologies where explored like  stopping the video in between to allow discussion [stop video discussion]. The teacher may assign students to follow certain characters in the video and allow them to note what their character did or said. The video can be used to test the 4 skills [listening, speaking, writing and reading].
Challenges that were raised as likely to affect the innovation were; Teachers may ignore the innovation after the training since it will be involving double preparation of the lesson.


 Teachers may fear challenges of students who may have a lot of skills in ICT than them. Ability to continue practicing may be hampered by scarcity of tools in schools. Attitude of teachers towards change. 
The project implimenters RWECO and CFSUinformed teachers that equipments to support in the teaching and learning process such as  Generators, Laptops, projectors, projector screens, speakers have been procured and would be deliver to schools as the second term begins.RIC-NET and CFSU promised a close technical back up in case it is needed and also a continuous follow up and trainings at schools.
The training ended on 10th May 2012 and teachers appreciated this initiative. They designed work plans for individual schools on what is going to be done as soon as the schools open and promised to be cooperative whenever called upon.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

AMPLIFYING YOUTH VOICES FOR COMMUNITY CHANGE

U-Report is one of the most innovative ways of engaging young people, it has helped in informing Government of the key issues affecting the youth and also provided solutions that can be undertaken to address them. This has made our work as Ministry a lot easier. As Ministry and as Government we are proud of the U-reporters’ work”, thus remarked Mondo Kyateka, the Commissioner for children and youth affairs.
Hon. Mondo mentioned this at a one day conference for U-reporters at Ndere Center in Ntinda, Kampala on 30.04.2012.
 Clad in purple T-shirts, and blue U-report Tags hanging gracefully along their necks, the smart, brilliant and excited U-reports gathered for the first U-report Conference ever.
The conference that was by organized by UNICEF brought together approximately 100 top U-reporters, Members of Parliament and other UNICEF partners like Scouts Association of Uganda, RIC-NET, GEM, BRAC, Church of Uganda and BOSCO among others.
The purpose of the Conference was to create a platform where the youth (Ureporters) can meet together with stakeholders from Government and the Diplomatic core to discuss issues that affect them.

Opening the Conference, Hon. Mondo noted that the Ministry of Gender has an asset based strategy that looks at young people as part of the solution to the development problems that they (young people) face. He said “this is because they (youth) know their problems better and can identify solutions to them..thus the routine question and answer exercise done by the  U-reporters has served to supplement this strategy”.
Mondo also challenged the youth to be pro-active and relevant people in society. Saying they should stand to do something that they will be remembered for. The enthusiastic Commissioner further told the youth that most people who have impacted on society have done so during their youthful days citing Jesus, Mohamed and Steve Jobs as examples. “If you have nothing to live for, find something to die for, be that U-reporter that will change society for the better”, Mondo roared.
Finally he thanked the U-reporters for their views and answers about the situation of the youth in the country saying their concerns provided guidance into the Youth policy that has been under review and due for launch on 12th Aug.2012 (National Youth Day). 
Other dignitaries at the Conference were Honorable Members of Parliament; Hon. Kyakweri Lydia Woman Member of Parliament Kweni District, Hon. Rwabuhoro Flavia Woman Member of Parliament Kyegegwa District, Hon. Florence Mutyabula Woman Member of Parliament, Namutumba District, Hon. Acheng Ruth Woman Member of Parliament, Kole District, Hon. Kiwana Godfrey Subi, Member of Parliament, Mityana North, and Hon. Dorothy Woman Member of Parliament, Kamwenge District.
In their interaction with the Honorable Members of Parliament the U-reporters sought to understand several things from the MPs, key among others were; what the biggest challenge in fighting corruption is for the leaders, what steps they have done to address corruption and what motivation they would give the youth to do so. Secondly the youth also inquired of the MPs what they were doing to address youth issues in their constituencies.
Responding to the corruption questions raised, the honorables acknowledged that the biggest challenge in the fight against corruption is with the definition of corruption, exclaiming that most times it is either broadened or narrowed hence making it difficult to deal with. They noted that there is need to have the definition put out clear first if the fight against corruption must be effective.
The MPs also asserted that continuous sensitization of the masses on the ills of corruption is necessary for it would help in changing people’s attitude towards corruption as a cool life style. In emphasis, Hon. Acheng Ruth called upon the Youth/U-reporters to join the 9th parliament to expose and end corruption, “let us say to corruption, you must end with our generation and never trickle to the next one”! Ruth appealed.
Adding to this, Hon. Kiwana Godfrey Subi noted that as youths, the only aspiration in life should be to succeed but first they need to prepare for it and live good lives for everything that success brings requires to find one prepared and in good health.
During the conference, U-reporters were engaged in a series of activities; interactions with each other since they were meeting for the first time, group works where they discussed various issues like how they have used U-report to change their societies, the challenges they face, what can be done to keep U-reporters motivated and the mandate of U-report district delegates among others.
The U-reporters were also treated to breathe taking Music interludes by Xabu Music group, who filled the air with sweet feelings, relaxation and excitement.
Summing up the Conference, James Powell the UNICEF U-report Project Manager, thanked everyone for their support towards the success of this event. He specifically thanked European Union for the support, the MPs and government at large for believing in the project and always paying attention to the issues raised by the U-reporters and majorly to the U-reporters for their interest in the project and their continued response to the U-report poll questions.
Powell said that despite the fact that U-report is a new strategy to engage the youth, it has in a very short time proved to be the most effective way of engaging the youth in the decision making processes of the Government and also of getting the youth to cause positive impact in society.
He appealed to Government to continue supporting the platform and responding to the issues raised by the U-reporters and to the U-reporters to continue reporting on the social/development challenges in their localities, responding to U-report poll questions and recruiting more U-reporters. James revealed that currently there are approximately 115000 U-reporters in the Country and they still look at recruiting even more.
He crowned the event with offering each U-reporter a Google solar Charger to keep their phones charged and in position to report anytime, anywhere.