Poor rains force Teso to make smart choices

Poor rains force Teso to make smart choices

Teso Sub-region residents are upbeat about the government’s new Parish Development Model (PDM), which they view as a gateway programme in promoting farmers’ empowerment in achieving poverty eradication strategies.

The PDM, is one of the antipoverty projects that the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government has hatched as one of the key mechanisms to propel the citizens from poverty to a middle-income status.

With the unpredictable weather due to negative effects of climate change, the farmers in the districts of Teso have identified drought tolerant enterprise projects that can withstand harsh weather.

The government last month resolved to send out ministers and lawmakers to the grassroots to sensitise the communities about the benefits that will accrue from the PDM.

A walk through the enterprise line-ups, which several communities across the districts of Teso have selected, rightly indicate how farmers have shunned rain-fed enterprises. They have pivoted to projects like poultry, livestock rearing and beekeeping.

Mr David Eyamu, the Kaberamaido District commercial officer, told Saturday Monitor that out of the 492 groups that have fully registered to benefit from the PDM, close to 400 groups have opted for rearing and apiaries.

“I can’t figure out what informed the choice of selection or if it’s the failing rainfall,” the officer says.

Mr Eyamu adds that most of the enterprise concepts authored by the farmers are skewed to livestock. A few others gravitate to crop science, with soya and maize growing quite popular.

The Kaberamaido District commercial officer further notes that 27 of the 29 registered Saccos chosen to manage the PDM funds have already received Shs7,672,670 each to start the projects. This is as the district awaits the Shs100m for each parish as promised in the Financial Year 2022/2023.

The Saccos that are yet to receive money are Kaberamaido parish, in Kaberamaido Sub-county and Akwalakwala Parish in Kobulubulu Sub-county.

Ms Stella Roses Ikeo, the group chairperson for Riber en Teko Beef Farmers Group, says their choice of an enterprise was reached after a serious thought on the current losses that farmers have had to endure in the last three farming years because of the scarce rainfall.

 “Others wanted us to go for simsim, but we zeroed on livestock keeping for beef,” she revealed, adding: “Animals are easier to look after than crops which wither whenever there is a dry spell and subsequently causing fatal losses to farmers.”

Mr John Bandrham, the chairperson of Tim Kiteko Obur farmers Group, in Obur Village, Kabal-Kweru Parish, Kobulubulu Sub-county, says livestock rearing is the best way to harness benefits from PDM.

He says it is only during extreme weather conditions that livestock get affected than it is for crop farming.

Dr  Wilfred Chakua, the district production officer, says the current changes in climate call for a change of strategy to enable farmers embrace smart climate change farming.

The technical officer says having livestock for the PDM project is a wise choice.

“We can have others but we need to go for irrigation in order to survive the negative forces of climate change. It is my prayer government gets that component of irrigation addressed,”  Mr Chakua says.

He adds that to date, all the essential staff needed to make the PDM a success story have been trained, and have been instrumental in enterprise selection.

The Kaberamaido District chairperson, Mr Vector Rex Ekesu, says the beneficiaries should trade knowing that the money is a revolving fund.

Mr Jimmy Ebil Segawa, the Resident District Commissioner, says these projects should be used to weed out poverty.

In Soroti City, Ms Stella Chebet, a member of a dairy farming enterprise in senior quarters, says the PDM targets to uplift the living conditions of subsistence households.

“When this money comes, it will elevate us from poverty, educate our children, feed our families, as well as meet medical bills,” she confirms.

Mr Alex Oluka, a resident of senior quarters ward in Soroti City West Division, says they formed an enterprise group to implement horticulture because it is lucrative.

“You don’t have to look for a market for seedlings, tomatoes and flowers,” Mr Oluka adds.

Ms Christine Apolot, a commercial officer for Soroti, says government has disbursed the advance funds of Shs7.2m into the PDM Sacco accounts, but has not yet been authorised for use until the training is done.

“We have finished mobilisation, sensitisation and formulation of enterprise groups where we arrived at more than 700 groups,” she explains.

To understand the uniformity in the enterprise selection in Teso, in Tisai Island, Kumi District, of the 16 enterprise projects so far registered, Mr Charles Okello, one of the area LC1 chairpersons, says 10 enterprises are on goat rearing, four would concentrate on sheep rearing while one selected beef rearing.

He confirms that Tisai is a hub for livestock farming.

“We are the milk suppliers for Kumi Town, we are the beef suppliers for the same town. So with the PDM at play, we want to strengthen our commitment in making Tisai Island a haven for livestock,” Ms Apolot says.

Currently, a mature sheep in Teso goes for Shs200,000; a goat Shs 150,000 to Shs250,000; while mature bullocks go for between Shs1m and Shs2m.

Mr Okello adds that although Tisai Island is surrounded by water bodies, its rainfall is not evenly distributed, making livestock the most suited venture.

As of July 20, Mr Rajab Ogogol, the district production officer, says the district had registered 1,200 groups, majority being enterprises bent on livestock.

Apart from cassava, green gram and maize for food security purposes, the other stretch of projects are looking at sheep, goat, piggery and poultry.

“We have realised that the sheep and goat rearing are very profitable and so is chicken, so farmers are eager to tap into them,” Mr Ogogol explains.

Each group ranges from 10 to 30 members.

He says the training is almost all done for key stakeholders, with Shs7.2m already disbursed to parish Saccos for the groups as they wait for the government to disburse part of the Shs100m for this financial year.

The picture is pretty the same in Ngora District, the beneficiaries have opted for poultry, piggery, beekeeping, dairy, fish farming and a few have selected cassava, and maize for food security.

Mr Mackay Otai, the parish development model focal person, says 353 beneficiaries have been registered, adding that every venture undertaken has been allocated an expert to guide the beneficiaries on the best enterprise practices.

For the case of beekeeping, Mr Otai says the district has an entomologist, who will take farmer groups through the best beekeeping practices, and so are those who have selected fish farming.

The district has technical staff with expertise to make PDM a success story.

Ms Stephen Ekalam, a seasoned bee farmer in Ngora District, with expertise in extracting bee venom from bees, says bee keeping is the less tedious enterprise with less costs involved apart from procuring beehives.

But also for beehives, one can opt for the less expensive local hives for a start.

For each beehive, a farmer can harvest 15 to 20 kilogrammes of honey in three months, but also one can make smearing jelly and candle wax. All these are commercial opportunities bee keeping gives.

Mr Ekalam says each kilogramme of honey goes for Shs20, 000, adding that of his 130 beehives, he can earn more than Shs5.2m besides the bee venom which he sells at Shs150,000 each litre.

He adds that those who have agreed to opt for beekeeping, are not at a loss once they embrace the practices needed to succeed.

Mr Mike Odongo, the Ngora District chairperson, stresses that mindset change should be worked on for the project to succeed.

He says if other past initiatives failed, the new initiative should not be equated to the past.

 “What is key is that we should work to uplift ourselves from poverty using the olive leaf that the government has extended to us. That is the common denominator for each of us.

“As a leader here, I am passionate about poultry. The good thing is it is one among the many projects farmers have opted to undertake. This project, I can equate it to mobile money on one’s phone,”  says, adding that the greatest challenge people have at hand is poverty.

Mr Odongo also tasks government to ensure that the money meant for this project is given in wholesome for it to make a meaningful impact.

“We also demand zero tolerance to corruption, accountability and transparency in all the undertakings of PDM,” the Ngora District chairperson says.

He applauds the healthy work relations among the staff and the political wing, adding that there is no room for the project to fail.

Mr Odongo says the enterprise selection, from the look of it, was fully informed using the unpredictability of the rains, which have in the past two years left farmers counting fatal losses in their farms.

Compiled by Simon Peter Emwamu, Emmanuel Olila, George Muron

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