Catalysing rural transformation through a community based approach

Dissemination of agricultural information and/or technologies in Uganda and indeed elsewhere relies on multipronged approaches. This is being fast-tracked by effective engagement of institutions that have great potential to deliver results. On our part, packaging and dissemination of agricultural information and knowledge (AIK) through schools has been proposed as a cost-effective approach for reaching grass-root rural households. Our forte for this is based on the fact that both primary and secondary schools, are pivotal in delivering on the key public goods of socio-economic transformation for two main reasons; 1) they serve as a focal point of many rural and urban communities, and 2) they educate future generations and thus ensure sustainable transference of knowledge and skills. In this paper we document on-going efforts made towards reaching rural households through engaging students of Adipala High School (AHS). The school in collaboration with the Research and Education Agency (REA) has provided a platform for National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) to disseminate elite cassava varieties in Kaberamaido, a location hardest hit by cassava viruses. The partnership between AHS, RAE and NaCRRI is in its budding stage, and has in its 24 months of existence, laid a foundation for increased AIK uptake by 1) establishing and implementing mechanisms for sensitizing students about the role of agriculture for national development; 2) piloting a process of sensitizing farmers on opportunities for cassava value addition, the challenges the crop faces along the production to consumption continuum, and the vast opportunities it presents; and 3) establishing a mother garden from which diseasefree cassava seed can be accessed; this multiplication site is being managed by the farmers and students. All these interventions are mindful that women and girls are pivotal in development and thus need to be empowered. Feedback from this engagement has in a short period of time yielded a vibrant learning platform. There is evidence that the approach is very attractive to both farmers and students as an effective tool for experiential learning. Initially, and probably arising from previous on-farm experimentation undertakings, the target stakeholders expressed scepticism. This has since reduced significantly especially amongst farmers owing to the experiential learning approach which has enabled them to assess the performance of the elite varieties compared to varieties they commonly cultivate. This is a learning process and thus, the partners in this effort (REA, AHS and NaCRRI) are keen on learning and appropriately adjusting, with a view of offering an effective and contextualized approach for AIK uptake that adequately engages key actors in rural households, including in particular the youth.
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East Africa
Part 1
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