Promoting agricultural development in Africa

“I am grateful for the grant I received from the Australia Awards Small Grants Scheme. It gave me the opportunity to conduct research at the farmer level and explore the options best suitable for the Ugandan context in addressing post-harvest losses of maize,” says Harriet Muyinza.

It is through drive and relentless work that Harriet has been pushing forward research on the post-harvest management of maize in Uganda. This effort aims to find suitable options to address high post-harvest losses, which ranges from 15% to 75%, depending on the length of storage in two communities benefitting from Harriet’s research. Country-wide, post-harvest losses are estimated at 19.5% a year in Uganda (African Post-harvest Losses Information System, 2012).

Harriet received a Fellowship funded by the Australian Government to study Post-harvest Management of Maize, Rice and Legumes at the University of Sydney in 2012. Complementing her studies, in 2013, she received a grant to the amount of AUD3,500 from the Australia Awards Small Grants Scheme to conduct research on the integrated pest management of maize in two parishes of Masindi District, Western Uganda.

This project promoted an integrated pest management package for maize at the farmer level. Farmers were trained on the proper drying and storage techniques, including solarisation and the use of metal silos and hermetic bags for storage. Furthermore, a metal silo with 500 kg storage capacity was manufactured and set up as a demonstration in a farmer’s household.

Farmers benefitting from the project confirmed a reduction in losses and the ability to store the grains for a longer period in order to benefit from higher market prices. They reported being able to keep their grains for about six to seven months and sell them for UGX800 per kg as opposed to UGX450, an income gain of UGX350 per kg of maize.

“We now have bargaining power and can wait to sell at the right time; prices go down when we are harvesting the maize,” says a farmer benefitting from the project.

The ability to harness funding synergies is a strength of Harriet’s efforts in tackling a pressing agricultural issue in Uganda. The research funded by the Small Grants Scheme complemented another effort that ran concurrently, although it started earlier. Together, these two projects were responsible for the introduction of the first such technologies in Uganda. Since project completion, Harriet has been able to secure funding from the Ugandan Government to conduct further research, while also working with her Australian lecturer from the University of Sydney in exploring other funding options.

Another outcome of this project is its success in galvanising farmers around new technologies and post-harvest management techniques, in particular considering that change in practice is not easy to accomplish. Farmers benefitting from the project were enthusiastic about the new knowledge gained and access to cutting-edge technologies, speaking about them with confidence.

 “I may not have received the metal silo for my compound, but the knowledge I gained in the training was very useful, and because of that knowledge, I am here to thank you for the effort you have made,” says another farmer benefitting from the project. 

Through the Small Grants Scheme, the Australian Government provides funding for initiatives led by Alumni with a clear development benefit. The Grant Scheme has funded 23 projects across Africa since 2012 to a total value of about AUD150,000 by June 2014.

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