Under the ISSD Africa topic ‘Creating demand for quality seed’, action research partners East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer reflect on how quality seed and effective and inclusive knowledge transfer are the ideal recipe for horticultural success
Pitching pumpkin and need for investment in knowledge transfer
Pumpkin is relatively easy to grow. It has excellent nutritional value and a long shelf life. Despite such appeal, markets for pumpkin in Africa need tapping. Over the past two and a half years, East-West seed Knowledge transfer – a corporate foundation formed by East-West Seed, has been making a strong pitch for pumpkin in Uganda, combining quality seeds and good agricultural practices.
At the recent ISSD Africa Conference in Kigali, Annet Kiiza (Business development Manager for Uganda) demonstrated her knack for business development while making a compelling case for investment in the innovation programme she used to lead, including the pumpkin project. While working for EWS-KT- – Annet oversaw efforts to increase smallholder farmers’ uptake of good horticultural practices in Uganda’s Northern Region (especially Gulu and Lira). Earlier, we published a case study on the approach, which has seen surprisingly strong uptake for an area not formerly known for its vegetable production.
During the conference, Annet braved the Dragon’s Den – a format for making a two-minute value proposition to a group of investors – alongside two other hopefuls aspiring to pique their interests. Her passion was a convincing part of the winning pitch, but so were her answers to their tough questions.
What makes the Ugandan experience so inspiring?
We asked Elijah Mwashayenyi, who is Head of KT in Africa and is Annet’s former boss.
“‘How do we create demand for quality seeds?’ This is the kind of question that we are answering every day through our long-term strategy. Our approach is a perfect recipe for creating sustainable demand for quality seed.”
This was the message to Dragons and fellow participants alike during the conference; a message that KT shares with all those who are willing to take the journey with them.
Elijah explained how the approach treats growing vegetables as a profitable business that improves the lives of smallholder farmers and others in the value chain. KT’s extension services showcase good horticultural practices to farmers struggling with low yields.
“We also create a competitive agro-input market. Linkages with markets present further opportunities for smallholder farmers to increase their income. Farmers making a profit are in a position to demand quality inputs, including seed.”
What our case study on KT in Northern Uganda has shown us is evidence of systems change. Thanks to the multifaceted approach of KT and its partner ISSD Uganda, this was possible. Technical Field Officers (TFOs) train key farmers and input dealers who in turn transfer knowledge to the broader community. They select key farmers and sites of demonstration plots, manage these demos and hold trainings, and facilitate networks and market linkages.
Key farmers are essential in running good demos to showcase KT’s improved horticultural practices and in responding to the interests of passers-by. Input dealers ensure availability of inputs and inform customers how to use them. The efforts of all those concerned are amplified by farmer field days, radio broadcasts, and ICT. KTOs, farmers, and input dealers are connected by WhatsApp for rapid Q&A. KT has also developed an app, GrowHow, with over 50 illustrated guides, training materials, blogs, and videos, in multiple languages.
Seeing is believing
The core paradigm of the KT approach is that farmers will be convinced by what they see. In Northern Uganda, this seems to be even more powerful because farmers believe that what they are seeing is impossible.
Due to the disastrous spread of blight and bacterial wilt, and lack of water in the dry season, tomato and other solanaceous crops, including potato, eggplant, and pepper, were wiped out of production. Seeing tomatoes being grown again and successfully, in the wet as well as the dry season, is unbelievable.
Other reasons why farmers are taking up horticulture are consistency in the provision of high-quality training, access to continuous support from TFOs, key farmers, and input dealers, and returns on investment. Farmers in Gulu and Lira earn 5-6 shillings (UGX, or approx. US$0.04-US$0.05)) for every 1 shilling invested. Sam Ogwang, a farmer, describes the impact this is having on his livelihood.
“Professionally I’m a painter, but I wasn’t progressing. I saw my friends growing vegetables, so I got in as well. Now I made 4.6 million UGX (US$1,249) in 4 months; I didn’t make that as a painter in a year. In the dry season, I can get 30,000 UGX (US$8) per crate [of tomatoes]; in the wet season, 8,000-12,000 UGX (US$2.17-US$3.26). My neighbour has also started growing tomatoes in the dry season; he has seen it from me. Now I’m building a house with the money I earned with the tomatoes; a ‘Padma’ house.” (Padma is an East-West Seed tomato variety.)
Up until the end of 2021, KT had trained over 40,000 farmers in Uganda, who generate, on average, net profits of 481 USD per crop on just 500 square metres. Elsewhere in Africa, the results are as encouraging: in Nigeria, over 46,000 farmers have been trained who earn 351 USD per crop on average; in Tanzania, over 18,000 trained farmers each earn 564 USD per crop. But the biggest footprint is in South and Southeast Asia, where more than 70% of crop demonstrations have taken place to date. In 2021 alone, EWS-KT trained over 117,000 farmers across the two continents.
EWS-KT remains committed to achieving its goal of training 1 million farmers by 2025. Currently, they’re a little over halfway, and they seek the partnerships needed to accelerate outreach and deepen their impact. If you are looking to create demand for quality seed and improve the livelihoods and nutritional security of smallholders in Uganda, reach out here.
As a partner under the ISSD Africa topic on ‘Creating demand for quality seed’ Annet Kiiza joined Dean Muungani of IITA and Gareth Borman of WUR-WCDI to reflect on key emerging lessons from their action research:
Photo credit: EWS-KT and WUR-WCDI – Case study on demand creation in Uganda