Friday,October 18,2019 11:00 AM

Best Farmers visit the Netherlands

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Added 17th June 2019 10:07 AM

Last year, Betty Mbaziira from Isingiro district became the first woman to win the annual competition since it started five years ago.

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Last year, Betty Mbaziira from Isingiro district became the first woman to win the annual competition since it started five years ago.

(Front row) Kiputala Moses, Shamim Napako, David Wamai, Aloysius Lubega, Julius Batamye, Mbaziira, Abel Kiddu, and Bommel. At the back is Deo Mugisha, and Vicent Ojoko. This was during the flagging off ceremony for the best farmers to the Netherlands at dfcu Bank head office in Nakasero, Kampala on Friday. Photo by Ivan Kabuye

More than 10 farmers who emerged winners in last year’s New Vision Best Farmers’ competition travelled to the Netherlands for a study tour on Sunday.

While flagging them off at the dfcu Bank head offices in Kampala on Friday evening, several officials encouraged them to learn as much as they can to improve Uganda’s agriculture.

“Come back different. Be disciplined, stick together and define what you want to gain from the trip,” Robert Kabushenga, Vision Group’s chief executive officer, said.

Last year, Betty Mbaziira from Isingiro district became the first woman to win the annual competition since it started five years ago.

Aloysius Lubega from Wakiso district and Julius Bataamye (Kamuli) were the first and second runner-ups respectively.

Other farmers who were among the top 10 from the different regions of Uganda were: Patrick Ssekimpi (Luwero), Deo Mugisa (Bunyangabu), Shamim Napakol Osekeny (Bukedea), Moses Kiptala (Kween), Vincent Ojok (Lira), Faridah Lutale (Arua) and Joyce Acan (Gulu).

The three additional winners recognised in the category of value addition were David Wamai (Manafwa district), John Ruhombe Kamugisha (Kiruhura) and Abel Kiddu (Kampala).

Agriculture employs up to 80% of the population and contributes half of Uganda’s export earnings and a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. Modernising the sector is, therefore, critical to reducing poverty and creating jobs, especially for women and youth.

Pius Wakabi, the agriculture ministry permanent secretary, who was the chief guest at the event, called on the private sector to lead in changing the face of agriculture in the country.

Acknowledging that the Government had not done much to train both primary school and university students in agriculture as a business, Wakabi said there is still an opportunity to learn and reap from the sector.

“We have committed more resources to agriculture and the infrastructure is already in place to help safely transport farmers’ produce to various markets,” he said.

Mathias Katamba, the dfcu Bank chief executive officer, said the Best Farmers’ competition theme this year — Farming as a business —, resonates with the current challenge facing agriculture in Uganda.

He said in response to the Government’s call for the private sector involvement and support, the bank has intervened to support the agricultural sector, including setting up the agribusiness development sector in partnership with Rabobank Foundation.

He said the bank also continues to provide innovative financial services, including banking, insurance, credit, and financial information through mobile, agency and branch channels.

“We are amazed by the impact that the Best Farmer competition has had on the sector over the past five years. Outstanding farmers are identified and supported with further learning visits to the Netherlands and on return, they train other farmers on their farms,” he said.

“This has proven to be an effective and practical knowledge dissemination method that is complementing other existing approaches,” Best farmers flagged off to the Netherlands,” he added.

Augustine Mwendya, who spoke on behalf of the judges, commended the farmers upon winning the competition. “Being a judge is not an easy task. We had to review over 5,000 farmers to get to the 13 winners and this took us six months,” he said.

Since the competition began, he said, winners have been able to transform their farms into training grounds, which is in line with the Government’s efforts towards promoting commercial farming.

Joris Van Bommel, the deputy head of mission at the Netherlands embassy, commended the best farmers for their outstanding contribution in the agricultural sector.

“We believe that farming is a business that will help increase household incomes, exports and ultimately transform lives,” he said.

Bommel said what struck him the most after visiting the best farmers’ initiatives, was how they linked themselves to the communities. He also commended the judges for their competence in choosing the best farmers.

Lukia Otema, the KLM country director, said the travel opportunity would help the farmers add value to their products. She said previously, 90% of the cargo transported to the Netherlands was purely farm produce. This has dropped to 80% due to quality issues and the strict measures put in place by the European Union.

The best farmers’ competition is sponsored by Koudijs, KLM Airlines, dfcu Bank, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the New Vision

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