University of Maryland Extension

Improving Food Safety and Security in Rural Uganda

Lwemiyaga farmer meeting with UMD team
Image Credit: 
Dave Myers

Lwemiyaga area, Uganda -- AGNR is committed to fighting hunger and food insecurity in underdeveloped areas around the world, striving to improve health and quality of life for those in need. To this end, UMD Extension faculty Dave Myers and Chuck Schuster traveled to the Lwemiyaga area in south-central Uganda in May and June 2017 to teach farmers and agricultural teachers about new agriculture and irrigation technology. Abby Myers traveled as part of the team to teach water testing and food safety. By improving food safety and agricultural practices, AGNR is helping to create a more stable, clean, and safe food and water supply for this community in rural Uganda.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), an AGNR partner, built a high school in this area and is helping educate the children of the community. The Lwemiyaga Secondary School's most pressing problem is water -- the school is in a dry area and relies on rainwater for irrigation.  IOCC asked AGNR to help develop an efficient irrigation system for the school’s garden plots, and to teach community farmers good agricultural practices and water management.  

The farmers hand-till the soil in their gardens and generally do not have adequate access to electricity or machinery. The school has a well for water, but it must be pumped by hand and carried to the fields. Many of the farmers said that prolonged drought and years of erratic climate has taken a major toll on their crops and made it harder to feed their families.

The UMD team started by surveying the farmers to determine their greatest needs and highest priorities. Based on this survey, UMD faculty taught farmers the importance of fertilizing their crops with readily available cow and goat manure, and how to use soil test kits to determine which crops to plant and what nutrients are necessary at all stages of growth. Cell sap meters were used to show farmers how to determine when to add fertilizer and how much is needed, which saves time and resources while preventing over-fertilization. Faculty also installed a 500 liter water tank and drip irrigation system for the school gardens, which serves as a teaching plot for community farmers while also providing much of the food for the school itself.

In addition to these soil and water management techniques, UMD addressed pesticide use and water quality issues. Farmers brought pest and disease samples from their farms, and faculty taught the farmers how to manage pests naturally with methods like precision planting and watering at the roots and not on the leaves. As part of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) training, sweep nets and monitoring traps were used to assess pest populations. This information is extremely helpful to reduce the need for standard pesticides, since farmers said they have problems finding and affording quality products. UMD staff also taught the farmers to use water testing kits to test for bacteria and contamination that might cause foodborne or waterborne illnesses. By encouraging hand and produce washing, farmers will be able to reduce these issues in the future.

The Lwemiyaga farmers and agricultural educators at the high school are interested in setting up regular meetings where they can exchange information and best practices. Many of the farmers are interested in becoming commercial producers, but lack of consistent electricity, roads, and access to information limits their progress. IOCC and AGNR are committed to improving education and access to basic needs. While the drought problem is not solved, this rural farming community now has at least one more water tank with plans for more, drip irrigation, tools to combat pests, and improved agricultural practices.

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