Gulu: Farmers shun beehives worth Shs 12m

At least 200 beehives worth Shs 12m have been shunned by the farmers they were intended for, with some reportedly turning them into fire wood for cooking and construction materials for chicken houses.

The beehives were distributed to farmers in Olwo, Lamoroto, Bokeber and Bura villages in early March, 2020 under the Project for the Restoration of Livelihoods in the Northern Region (PRELNOR), a government project.

The farmers however failed to pick up the hives claiming that they are too big and would cost them Shs 20,000 in transport.

Josephine Akwero, a local farmer in Bokeber village said locals shunned the beehives because they are too big and heavy to transport.

“I myself picked only one small beehive. The remaining ones were very heavy,” she said.

The bee hives were placed at her home where other farmers were expected to pick them up.

Akwero blamed Gulu district for wasting taxpayers’ money by making big hives which the community cannot use.

Phillip Ongwech Agela, the L.C II Chairperson Pagik parish said some of the beehives are now rotting after being pounded by the heavy rains recently experienced in the region.

Ongwech said the district should have educated the community on how to use the new type of beehives.

“The community is used to the small bee hives and the district did not bother to sensitize farmers on how to use this new type. Some farmers decided to use them as fire wood while others decided to split the beehives and use the wood to build chicken houses,” he said.

Simon Peter Oola, the Vice Gulu District Chairperson agrees with Ongwech saying the community will be sensitized on how to use the new beehives.

“Traditionally, beehives are placed on tree trunks but these new hives are too big and heavy to be placed on a tree,” he said.

Oola said that the farmers were expected to cut tree trunks and put them on the ground so that they can place the beehives on them.

“The intention of making the big bee hives was to increase the volumes of honey that farmers would harvest but unfortunately, they did not know how to use them,” he explained.

Oola said that the new beehives are estimated to produce at least 20 litres of honey unlike the traditional ones which produce between 5-7 litres.

He said that unlike many agricultural products whose prices fluctuate, the price of honey is relatively stable. A litre of honey currently costs Shs 20,000.

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Cooperators urged to embrace responsibility

Cooperators have been urged to take back control of their cooperatives by taking up membership roles and responsibilities in order to enhance the resilience and success of their organizations.

During the recent launch of Sino Uganda Trader’s Cooperative Society at Grand Imperial Hotel in Kampala, Denis Tukahikaho, the Technical Advisor for development of Cooperatives to The Uhuru Institute for Social Development underscored that member participation would define the success or failure of any cooperative.

Tukahikaho said that when individuals belong to two or more Cooperatives, their ability to patronize and grow either cooperative is undermined.

“One of the challenges we (the Cooperative movement) face is where you find one person belongs to five or six Cooperatives. Each Cooperative has its demands. You have to attend meetings, save, buy shares and so on.. In the end, you are split all over,” Tukahikaho said.

He called on Cooperators to focus on the long-term.

“For a Cooperative to be successful, you have to look at the next generation. Your needs might not be met tomorrow or the other day, but it can be met after two years or three. So, if you drop out today because your needs have not been met, you are doing a disservice to yourself,” Tukahikaho argued.

The cooperative developer also noted that many people form or join Cooperatives with the agenda of getting money from government, something he says has affected prospective Cooperatives because of lack of sustainability and membership input.

Sino Uganda Cooperative Society was launched with 52 members, having been registered and granted a probationary certificate by the Commissioner for Cooperatives in February this year. The bulk of the Cooperative’s membership comprises of city traders under the Kampala Arcaders and Traders Association (KATA).

Last year KATA, who together with Kampala She-traders Association (KASTA) were organizers for the launch of Sino Uganda, launched Kampala Arcaders and Traders Cooperative Savings and Credit Society (KATCSCS) at JBK hotel in Kampala. However, the Cooperative failed to set off with operations.

Ssekulima Amir Ssebowa, the Chairperson of Sino Uganda Cooperative Society said part of the problem in the past arose from the fact that members did not understand what they were engaging in (cooperatives).

“With the leadership training we have received, we are now ready to steer Sino Uganda Cooperative Society to success,” Ssekulima said.

Ssekulima said Sino Uganda aims to help local traders liaise with trade partners in China and other countries and facilitate ease in trade.

For Wilberforce Waliggo, the KCCA Commercial Officer for the Central Division, members ought to be clear what they expect to benefit from joining a cooperative.

“Someone will join a Cooperative for personal objectives, which if not met, the member will move on to another SACCO. The challenge is lack of sensitization. Before a member is admitted, he should be educated on how that SACCO operates, Waliggo said.

Waliggo argues that belonging to many cooperatives and frequent member exoduses have led to the collapse of many cooperatives.

“A number of Cooperatives have failed because of this challenge, members leaving and jumping onto other SACCOs! In the end, the society they are leaving may not survive because they will have pulled out whatever they injected in. Many cooperatives have died at infancy because of this challenge, which also affects the cooperative movement as it creates mistrust in the public.” Waliggo said.

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Bishop Stuart University, Cooperatives to collaborate on internship placement

Bishop Stuart University has put in place collaborations with more than 50 cooperatives where their students can go for hands-on internship practice and skills training.

The revelation was made last week by Ass. Prof. Gershom Atukunda, the university’s Dean for the Faculty of Business Economics.

“We signed MoUs with over 50 cooperatives around Ankole so that our students do their internship on their farms and it’s farmers who will evaluate them,” Atukunda explained.

The move is part of the institution’s shift from the four-wall classroom model to the field-classroom model that aims to train hands-on graduates for the African market.

“The farmers will be the professors to enable us produce quality skilled graduates in the fields of agriculture and cooperatives,” he said, adding that students must satisfy the farmers’ needs as they also help the students to reach where they want to be.

Embracing online learning

Meanwhile, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt institutions, the university has adopted e-learning technology to enable students continue their studies online.

According to Prof Mauda Kamatenesi, the Vice Chancellor, Bishop Stuart University, the institution recently received official approval from the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to conduct an online teaching system.

“It is now a new era of information which is going to be characterized by digital information. With my science background I don’t see COVID-19 ending soon and the world cannot stop because of COVID-19,” Kamatenesi said.

The e-system, dubbed ODEL (Open distance e-learning) platform, will facilitate learning for continuing students in 89 programs.

Some of the courses to be taught online include; B.A. of Cooperatives’ Management and Development, PhD in Agriculture and Community Innovation, Master of Agriculture and Rural Innovation, Bachelor of Agriculture and Community Management, MSc. in Climate Change And Food Security among others.

The online program will start on November 2, 2020 and each student is required to own a smart phone, laptop or tablet in order to access the classes.

The Vice Chancellor urged lecturers and students to take up online studies.

“We shall be conducting trainings and running meetings online, so if you do not embrace it, you will be left behind,” she cautioned.

“I have already directed all my staff to upload all their material online and develop modules in the system. Any university that is not ready to endorse the fourth industrial revolution is likely not to survive,” the VC said, citing banks which leveraged a robust digital/ e-banking system to continue running during the pandemic.

Kamatenesi says students will first undergo training on how to use the technology, then receive handouts to ensure a smooth transition into e-learning.

“The ultimate goal is to migrate to blended learning” the Vice Chancellor said

Addressing cost concerns related to adopting the new technology, Prof. Kamatenesi suggested that the cost of acquiring new gadgets would be offset by savings on school uniform and other items like books and pens.

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Farmers in Northern Uganda to embark on growing Rosemary

Hundreds of farmers in Acoli and Lango sub regions have received training on Rosemary growing from Special Anointing Oil, SAO-Uganda, an NGO that promotes growth of the popular herb around the country.

Rosemary is a perennial evergreen herb with blue flowers and minty, piney aroma. Native to the Mediterranean, it is now naturalised in East Africa.

In August this year, SAO-Uganda started training farmers interested in growing Rosemary in Lango sub-region.

Peter Otim, a farmer in Atuku town Council in Kwania district, is among the farmers who received training in growing the medicinal plant.

Otim told theCooperator that about at least 26 farmers in his area underwent the training, and more are showing interest in joining.

“I took interest in the plant because I learned about its numerous medicinal benefits. Secondly, the plant is drought-, pest- and disease-resistant,” he said.

Otim, who confessed that he first heard about Rosemary during the training, plans to dedicate two acres of land to growing the herb because he is convinced that he will get good returns from the venture.

“Besides, the company that trained us will buy the harvest, so I won’t have to worry about marketing it,” he added.

Pascal Osire, the Northern Uganda Regional Coordinator SAO-Uganda observes that the company trained farmers in all districts in Lango and Acoli sub-regions, except Amolatar, Dokolo and Amuru districts. The company expects to recruit 36 farmers per district after the training.

“Planting of the crop will start next season. Right now, we are training farmers and preparing their mindset. Next month we will be able to know how many people per village are willing to do the Rosemary growing,” Osire said.

“We want to recruit community investors who will be in charge of our projects in each district, then ambassadors at the parish level, for effective communication, reporting and quick response when a farmer needs assistance,” he added.

The agreement

Osire said the company is drafting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by the farmers on acquisition of seedlings and marketing.

Under the proposed MoU, the company would supply farmers with seedlings on credit, which would then be paid for by the farmers in two instalments.

Osire said a farmer requires 6,000 seedlings of Rosemary to cover an acre of garden, which will be sold to them at Shs 1000 each. Other dealers in Rosemary seedlings, he says, sell each seedling at Shs 5,000.

“This implies that if a farmer wants to plant an acre, they will need Shs 6m. But we are giving the seedlings on credit because most of our farmers can’t raise Shs 6m at once,” he said.

“This will motivate the farmers take care of the crop well, knowing that they have a debt to pay,” Osire said.

Harvesting and marketing

Osire said the first harvest of Rosemary is done after 6-7 months, with a minimum yield of 1500 kilograms per acre, which is then sold at Shs 5000 per kilogram.

“That means a farmer will get Shs 7.5 million in the first harvest, and the same amount after subsequent harvests that will be done after every four months, for five years,” Osire said.

“However, when one does value addition, by for instance drying the Rosemary, they get between Shs 11-12m per harvest,” he said.

Osire noted farmers’ concerns over marketability of the product, but assured them that under the proposed MoU to be signed with the farmers, SAO-Uganda would commit to buying all the their Rosemary harvests.

Why Rosemary?

According to Osire, the company chose the Rosemary project after researching on and learning of its numerous health benefits.

“We found that it [Rosemary] heals many diseases. So, we want farmers to grow it and we make herbal medicine out of them. We can make 40 products out of Rosemary,” he said.

In addition to being used to treat headaches, poor circulation, depression, muscle cramps, to detoxify and boost the immune system, Rosemary is also used in the kitchen for food seasoning.

Osire said the company recently installed a machine for processing Rosemary oil in Kyengera.

“When we start using that machine, we will need about 10 tonnes of Rosemary every day,” he said.

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