COFIA DEMONSTRATION FARM IS USING AGRICULTURE TO TRANSFORM LIVES

COFIA DEMONSTRATION FARM IS USING AGRICULTURE TO TRANSFORM LIVES

Many people in Tororo and around Africa have burnt their fingers trying to venture into farming. A demonstration farm in Petta sub county in Tororo has withstood the storm and is transforming lives through agriculture.. Sitting a few hundred meters from Petta Sub-County in Tororo district, is COFIA Demonstration farm.


The farm is one of the many ambitious projects owned and run by COFIA Uganda, a registered social enterprise. Talking to the head of programs COFIA Uganda Mr Ochieng Joseph, he intimates to The Farmers Guide, the highs and lows that have been experienced at the farm since its establishment.


“This farm sits on 20 acres of land which was donated by our family in order to actualise some of the goals of Cofia Uganda,” he narrates.


“COFIA Demonstration Farm is a vehicle that Cofia Uganda is using to empower small holder farmers,” he adds.

Aerial view of the Cofia farm


The Genesis
COFIA UGANDA, the brain child of COFIA Demonstration farm was inspired by a story of a mother, a native of Tororo living in Kampala, Mrs Margret Othieno, an extra ordinary incredible mother who was able to raise not only her children but also other children who have since gone on to become successful. Margret resented seeing children suffer.


“Our mother always found a way of extending help to children in such dire situations. “
Ochieng continues.


In 2011, Mrs Margret Othieno was in a quest to help street connected children to travel back to Tororo from Kampala to help reduce their rising number on the streets of Tororo, some of whom were making it to the streets of Kampala and other major towns. In order to help solve this problem, she alongside some well wishers embarked on a journey to find the root cause of the problem.

Landscape view of the greenhouses at Cofia farm


They visited some parents and guardians of these street connected children. Through a feasibility study, a few things were noted:
• Most of the families were struggling, for example most families couldn’t afford food,
clothes and other basic needs for their children.
• The uniforms she had provided to the early beneficiaries were being used as casual
clothes after school.
• Most families were under a support system of women whose habitual drunkard
husbands had abandoned family responsibility.
• For families led by widowed mothers, single mothers and those that had been
orphaned, the story was even worse.
• Most of these families had small gardens and farming was the only source of income.
• Just like many other households in Uganda, they practiced rudimentary methods of
farming and the yields were not enough to sustain their respective households.


In order to holistically help these families and render them self sustainable and sufficient, Cofia Uganda was birthed and Cofia Demonstration Farm – the vehicle to inspire and transform these vulnerable groups of people. In 2019, Cofia organised the women heading these families, about 60 of them spread across sub counties of Magola, Rubongi and Petta.


The organisation supported by Rotary Club, started providing agricultural inputs such as
Seeds, Fertilizers, pesticides to help boost production. The idea was to turn them into small
holder farmers who would then inspire the community backed by the main learning center –
COFIA Demonstration Farm.


Training and Skilling
Through trainings supported by private experts and organizations such as Mr Ebellu Moses, field expert on maize, Madam Joweria Namakula Field expert on Root crops, Dr kalule David okello, head of Groundnuts breeding at National Semi Arid Resources Research institute (NaSARRl), Dr. Jimmy lamo, a Breeder of Rice and Head of the Cereals Department at National Crop Resources Research institute (NaCRRl), Dr. Oloka Bonny, a Breeder of Sweet
Potatoes based in the USA, Dr Richard Edema, the Director at Makerere university Regional Center for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI), Delphi International, Balton Uganda, National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) through its agencies like National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), National Semi Arid Resources institute
(NaSARRI). These have empowered the farm and small holder farmers with the necessary farming knowledge and skills to help them carry out agriculture not only as a means of survival but as a business.

A demonstration at Cofia farm


Creating Employment
Cofia employs 15 casual workers who help in running activities at the farm. A housing unit is being set up for employees workers.


Crops grown
The demonstration farm grows crops like Tomatoes, Spinach, 12 varieties of ground nuts, 4 different varieties of Cassava, 4 different varieties of Sweet Potatoes, Maize, Cabbage, Egg plants, sweet paper, sugarcane and Mangoes.
The farm practices modern farming methods like crop rotation, irrigation and has recently set up two green houses at the farm where tomatoes have been planted. There is a modern nursery at the farm where crops are raised before transplanting to the green houses or the rest of the garden.


Key Infrastructure at the farm
To curb the issue of long droughts at the farm, the farm has installed modern systems of irrigation like the drip irrigation and rain gun irrigation powered by generator and solar power technology respectively. Two greenhouses to ensure crops are grown in a controlled environment throughout the year. An administration block that houses the offices and board room, a community agro shop for the community to make purchases of recommended seeds and chemicals. The modern store to store inputs and outputs at the farmThere is a housing unit under construction that will house the workers of the farm.


Social Responsibility
The farm opens its doors to the community especially those who wish to learn modern farming methods. The educated youths as well have been encouraged to incorporate the knowledge acquired in school into farming since modern farming is broad and involves sections such as, Record Keeping, Information and Communication Technology and
Marketing among others.

Seedlings on a nursery bed at Cofia farm


Challenges
It has not always been rosy at the farm. while starting out the demonstration farm faced challenges for example, At the start of the journey, the proprietors were ignorant of modern farming methods. An out break of fall army worms gave them a wake up call to start consulting with experts. The soils were sandy ( and had been overused) coupled by the steep gradient/topography at the farm made farming cumbersome. An expert from NARO advised on the use of mulching, soil testing, use of organic manures to restore soil fertility, use of irrigation to combat the effects inflicted by the sun and dry season.


A glimmer of hope
In 2020 for example, Through a support system, Cofia helped the small holder farmers look for market for their bumper maize harvest. About 60 of these small holder farmers ripped big from the sell of maize the group had harvested.
Each individual farmer earned what was directly proportional to what they had submitted in for sell.

Seedlings at Cofia Farm

Success stories of the small holder farmers
Anosiata Ochieng, a widow and one of the 60 women – small holder farmers supported by Cofia-uganda who could barely afford two meals per day or take her children to school now has a mabaati house. Nyayuki Ann Rose, another small holder farmer from the group of 60 now has three cows and two pigs. Each small holder farmer has a unique story to tell.


On future plans

Cofia plans to help the farmers get more market for their products Value Addition is another area that Cofia seeks to venture into.


The COFIA Inaugral Exposition
From 13th to 15th July, Cofia will hold its first agricultural exposition with the aim of empowering community farmers with skills, knowledge and building their capacity to make their agriculture more productive, more profitable and more sustainable.
The target of the exposition is to benefit community farmers of Tororo as a district. There will be field interactions and trainings from experts such as those mentioned above not forgetting Makerere University Regional Center for Crop improvement. Areas to be covered are;
• Horticulture and Green House management
• Cereals
• Root Crops
• Pest And disease Management
• Organic Farming
• Value Addition
Support for this exposition is led by Rotary Club of Tacoma North and Rotary District 5020.

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