Helping to ensure greater food security through the eyes of a young farmer and plant doctor
02 May 2023, Africa: Dr Dennis Rangi, CABI’s Director General, Development based at its regional centre for Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, wrote a thought leadership article as part of International Youth Day.
He said that a ‘revolution’ in agribusiness involving Africa’s youth is required so they can capitalise on the sector’s contribution to around 25% of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 70% of its employment.
The article highlighted how, when one considers that almost 60% of Africa’s population in 2019 was under the age of 25, it’s clear that Africa’s youth holds the key to the continent’s very survival and the burden to sustain wider global development.
Meet smallholder farmer and budding Plantwise plant doctor Yasin Baliruno who is one of Uganda’s young people who make up 50% of the country’s workforce that contribute 37% to Uganda’s GDP.
Indeed Uganda has one of the world’s youngest populations in the world. According to the World Bank, more than 75% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30 and at least 13.3% of them are unemployed. Agriculture is a key source of income, employing over 70% of Ugandans.
Yasin, who is married and with four children (one son and three daughters), is graduate of Kampala University – where he attained a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture and community development – and now farms coffee, beans, bananas and maize.
Keen to leave his mark in his community
He, like thousands of young Ugandan farmers, is keen to leave his mark in his community – helping to not only increase his livelihood, ensure the food security of his family and others in his locality, but also, crucially send his children to school.
Not resting his laurels on his own farm, Yasin is also reaching out as one of more than 200 Plantwise plant doctors who are helping smallholder farmers grow more and lose less to a range of potentially devastating crop pests and diseases.
As part of his work, Yasin is helping smallholders diagnose their plant health issues and then offer advice on how they can mitigate them to maximise their yields.
Yasin said, “Right from my high school I picked an interest in agriculture because we had demonstration gardens where we could go and put into action what we had been taught in class. So from there, I developed strong feelings and a love for the sector.”
Contribution to two plant clinics
CABI helped train Yasin as a plant doctor in partnership with Zirobwe Agaliawamu Agri-business Training Association (ZAABTA). While tending to his coffee farm in Luwero District and his bananas, beans and maize in Nakaseke District, Yasin has been contributing to two plant clinics held in the sub-counties of Kasangombe and Kikamulo.
Yasin added, “The mobilisation was good and received quite a big number of farmers. The plant clinics were organised in partnership with other organizations such as sun culture and Agri farm. We also invited some plant doctors from other areas and I’m glad to inform that Rose and Harriet were part of the training as our seniors.
“The two trainings went on well as farmers embraced them with a variety of plant samples and they were fully diagnosed and recommendations were made.
“However, one sample needed further research and the necessary efforts to come up with conclusive recommendations were done and later we went back to the farmer who was advised accordingly.”
Yasin highlighted that the farmers enjoyed the training and requested more to equip them with the knowledge and skills required to gain greater results through their crop yields in the field.
“So many questions were asked and indeed it was a great experience as we were learning from them and they were learning from us,” Yasin added.
He stressed that the trainings also included the safe use of agrochemicals. A future plan of his is to start an agro-dealer shop where smallholder farmers can receive the best advice on which pesticides to use to help minimize their losses from pests and diseases.
Plans to expand his agribusiness
Yasin added, “From the day I started farm visits, I have so far visited 11 farmers and since I have saved Ush 370,000 which I have used to start a simple goat farming project at home.
“I have bought two goats, one female and the other male. since I had the structure in place. They are on zero grazing. I have hope that if I continue with this kind of work I will be in position to develop my goat farming project into a serious venture. I will also gain more experience within the field of pest diagnosis, recommendation and modern farming techniques.”
Yasin also said he is keen to help overcome a number of challenges. These include disseminating information to smallholder farmers on local radio and hiring a simple public address system for rallies where numerous people attend.
He feels that one day soon he may also be in a position to train and employ other young people to help contribute to Uganda’s agricultural industry.
“As a trained plant doctor, I will be providing low cost extension services by organising mobile plant clinics and farm visits within my community,” Yasin said. “By doing, I will have contributed towards CABI’s mission of improvement of agricultural productivity sustainability to meet the food security needs of our ever-increasing population.”
The CABI-led Plantwise programme ran from 2011 to 2020. Currently the new PlantwisePlus programme is running to help reduce crop losses and empower farmers to increase incomes, food security and food safety by producing more and higher quality food .Plantwise helped establish plant clinics to address farmers’ crop diseases and pests. The clinics continue to run with facilitation from the government.
The clinics usually focus only on plant health. But in Uganda, CABI, with its partners, has also expanded the clinics to include livestock. Smallholders can now ask questions about sick plants and animals. These joint clinics are helping farmers to address a broader range of health-related issues.
See the One Health Case Study ‘How Crop–livestock Clinics Are Advancing One Health: A Pilot Case from Uganda’ for more details.
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