Ugandan smallholder farmers depend on rainfed agriculture, and rural food insecurity is widespread. An estimated 10.9 million Ugandans are experiencing acute food insecurity, with 5% in crisis (OPM, 2017). In the Teso sub-region of eastern Uganda, more than 10% of the population consumes only one meal per day (IPC, 2017). Major drivers of low agricultural productivity and food insecurity include changing climate patterns, declining soil fertility, poor access to improved seeds, and ineffective extension systems. Agricultural research and development agencies are working to help address constraints, but their structures and strategies have not adequately supported smallholder farmers’ access to technologies that meet urgent needs and are suitable to diverse contexts. NARO Uganda has used participatory plant breeding with the aim of empowering farmers to influence research, but the system is constrained by low outreach and involvement of only a small subset of farmers in identifying research problems, generating options and joint evaluation and selection of options for adoption.
The purpose of this request is to empower hundreds of farmers in eastern Uganda to test the adaptability and acceptability of agricultural research products on their own farms, starting with a broad range of NARO-developed, drought-tolerant sorghum and finger millet varieties, which have good potential to help improve crop productivity in the eastern Uganda region. It will utilize a Farmer Research Network (FRN) approach because this allows large numbers of farmers to gain exposure to options that respond to their interests and contexts. The project will embrace a social innovation process that encourages farmers to become the researchers who provide data to other farmers on the performance and characteristics of various options based on observations from their own farms. Additionally, the project aspires to help farmers create a sustainable local seed system to ensure a ready supply of preferred varieties emerging from the research. Implementing partners VEDCO, FINASP, and NaSARRI have been involved in previous successful McKnight Foundation projects (e.g., on enhancing the performance of sorghum and finger millet and on the postharvest handling of cereals) and have access to additional innovations aligned with aims of the FRN.
Outputs and Outcomes:
Increased capacity of FRN partners built on FRN approaches, on-farm experimentation, seed production, data collection, and management.
Establishment of functional FRNs in Amuria, Palisa and Ngora districts of Uganda.
Improved and locally adapted sorghum and finger millet varieties identified and grown by farmers.
Establishment of well-developed community seed systems that supply the locally adapted cereal seed.
Establishment of knowledge-based platforms within the FRNs for learning, sharing, and disseminating information.
A system in which farmers have access to production technologies suited to their agricultural systems, leading to system improvement and translating to increased agricultural productivity, access, and enhanced food and income security in eastern Uganda.
Empowerment of farmers to set their own research agenda, conduct experiments in their own contexts that are innovative, and use knowledge gained to make their agriculture more productive.
A research system in which there is deep engagement of multiple players, which is well managed and responsive to and adequately addresses the needs of the farmers.