Sustainable Agriculture, Ewa-Belt Project – Interview to Noel Makete

Noel Makete, Centre Director Sericulture Research Centre, KALRO, spoke at the XXI Infopoverty World Conference about the topic “Digital way to prosperity for rural communities” from which this interview is extracted.

How is the Ewa-Belt Project developing?

The approach we are using is participatory technology development and dissemination within the farmer field unit. And this is basically learning by doing. You farmers are participating in their field trials, because this way they can be able to interact with a researcher, they can be able to learn and understand why we are doing things the way we are doing, and they can be able to adopt the technology very fast. When farmers are in the field, they are also able to scout for diseases, be able to learn how to manage these pests and diseases and by literally doing and practicing what we teach them, they can be able to understand these principles and be able to do them on their phone without much help.

And it's not just about proper agronomic principles and good varieties, but we also have to protect the crop, while in the field, and also after harvesting. That is why we have a technology that is basically about controlling mycotoxins in these crops and that we apply to the crops.

The approach we are using is participatory technology development and dissemination within the farmer field research unit. And this is basically learning by doing. Here, we are evaluating different varieties for farmer preferred, underutilized and neglected crops, and also their associated agronomic principles, including pest and disease management, soil fertility management as well as pre and post-harvest management. These technologies ensure that it's not just about proper agronomic principles, but also about the protection of the crop while in the field and after harvesting. In particular, we are introducing to farmers the use of Aflasafe KE-01 as a pre-harvest biocontrol of aflatoxin in the selected crops. The post-harvest technologies will ensure produce remains in good condition, is safe for consumption and can store for a longer period of time. This way produce quality and safety is guaranteed. Such technologies include solar drying technologies temporary storage in raised and well ventilated stores, use of mobile grain shellers that ensures less damage to produce. Physical damage on grains create entry points for pathogens. Once dried the produce is stored in hermetic storage bags at the correct moisture content or in metal silos of variable sizes according to the amount of produce harvested. These are simple to use technologies that if widely adopted will ensure safe storage of food hence contributing to food security.

For the past one year working with the different stakeholders in the project has led to strengthened linkages and formation of networks among participating institutions and farmer groups. In particular, there has been knowledge sharing beyond project groups. Participating groups have also been able to access improved seed and some farmers have volunteered land to start community seed multiplication so that more farmers can access improved seed of the neglected and underutilized crops. Farmers have also been linked to potential markets thus guaranteeing sale of their produce once they harvest. The FFRU platform will ensure continuous dialogue where we ensure that the farmer’s voice is heard.

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