Jeff Knowles, a retired USDA employee recently completed a three week assignment in rural Uganda with the Farmer To Farmer program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. While in Uganda, Knowles worked closely with a local farmers cooperative to provide technical assistance to its 1,800 farmer membership.Knowles with local host, Joseph Mugushi, traveled to seven different villages and gave presentations on soil conservation, composting and best management practices.
Farmers in the Kamwenge District of South West Uganda are suffering from severe soil degradation and crop yields have dropped for many farmers. Many farmers in the Kamwenge District burn the majority of the organic matter produced on their farms. This includes corn and bean residues, weeds, banana leaves, etc. Knowles estimated 90% of organic matter currently being burned could be composted by the farmers to make a high quality soil additive.
Knowles and Mugushi taught basic composting techniques, including two days of instruction on building a compost bin with local materials.
During his time in Uganda, Knowles believed his technical advice was extremely valuable to the average farmer and that he made an immediate impact and difference in the lives of those he interacted with. Knowles will be giving presentations to farmer organizations in Kona to inform the farmers of the needs of farmers in third world countries. The tropical crops grown in Hawaii and the skills of Hawaiian farmers are a perfect match for the tropical third world regions where technical expertise is desperately needed. Knowles said, “CRS is an outstanding organization and volunteers are treated like they are part of the family”.
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