Goal: to demonstrate commercially interesting organic farming techniques to local farmers and facilitate training on subjects related to environmental conservation, organic farming and other sustainable agricultural issues.
On about 7 hectares, the community pilot farm of NECF grows a large variety of crops. About half the farm is planted with banana trees, which are intercropped with cassava, coffee, pumpkins and other bushes and some trees, such as mango and jackfruit. On the other half beans are grown, intercropped with some maize and several jong trees. Crop residues are burned and used as fertilizer for the soil. In the near future, the pilot farm can show local farmers options to use their land in a way that will benefit the environment and provide them with a sustainable income. As the farm is located near the National Park Rwenzori Mountains (famous for the gorilla’s), environmental protection in combination with a livelihood for farmers is a serious issue.
Two times a year, harvesting of seasonal crops can be done. During the first wet season in March/April, seeds and seedlings are planted and grow through the dry season up to July/August. Then harvesting is done and the soil is being prepared. In August/September, the second wet season starts, so the second round of crops can be grown, mainly the ones that are taking a longer time to mature. Harvest of these crops is in December/January, following soil preparation in February. In general, the soil in Uganda is very fertile. Furthermore, the climate assures that crops grow and mature quickly. However, the risk of losing seasonal crops due to heavy rainfall or other climatological influences is large. Therefore, an increasing number of farmers start growing cotton, coffee and cocoa, especially as the prices of these products is high. However, for coffee and cocoa the harvest can only be done after several years, so at this moment only the first investments are made and income from these cash-crops will come later.
The community pilot farm supplies work for several seasonal laborers, men and women. Profits are used to construct a shelter for livestock. As crop residues and weeds can be fed to animals, more efficient use will be made of locally available resources. Chickens, rabbits, goats and cows will be housed. Besides, at least one other person can be employed for living at this community pilot farm and taking care of the animals in the near future.
My work was to advice NECF how the farm could be improved and show different options for future activities that fit in well with the goals and current crops grown to realise a sustainable intercropping system with higher economical profits. This included a visit to one of the good examples nearby: the way of growing coffee at the Kahangi Estate.