Mobile soil testing trucks to the rescue of Ugandan farmers

Ugandan farmers are set to benefit from free agricultural training and soil testing, thanks to the acquisition of a mobile soil testing and training laboratory truck which will tour the country’s rural areas with a team of researchers from National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO).  

The initiative which is a private public partnership is geared towards availing affordable solutions to small scale farmers most of whom cannot access the services of the available research personnel either due to logistical challenges or ignorance. The project is supported by K+S Kali GmBH, Sasakawa Africa Association (ASA) and the University of Göttingen in Germany which is supporting it with its’ expertise in soil analysis.

The mobile soil testing laboratory is a converted truck equipped with state of the art equipment ideal for the whole process of soil and analysis research and was supplied by K+S Kali GmBH a German based company which is one of the leading global firm in fertilizer specialization and customization.

Joachim Duster, the deputy head of mission at the German Embassy, Uganda, noted in an earlier interview that the project will help Ugandan farmers improve their livelihoods through increased productivity, proper post-harvest handling and improved market access.
The project is set to kick off in Northern Uganda later this month with researchers collecting soil samples from various farmers, analyzing and providing recommendation as to what type and quantity of fertilizer should be used.

They will also offer free trainings to the farmers on best farming methods to get increased yields and maintain soil fertility. The researchers who will be conducting the field trainings and analysis will include scientists from ASA and NARO under the Sasakawa Global 2000, a programme set up by the ASA and the US-based Carter Institute.

Fertilizer use in Africa is by far the lowest in the world with farmers, on average, applying about 9 kilograms of fertilizer a hectare compared to Latin America using 86 kilograms a hectare and Southeast Asia’s 142 kilograms a hectare, according to a 2006 World Bank-commissioned report, ‘Alternative Approaches for Promoting Fertilizer Use in Africa.’

According to Rebbie Harawa a senior officer in charge of plant health research and extension at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa  the mobile laborstory is a huge milestone in the impacting of livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Uganda.“The fact that the lab is mobile will help farmers access the services in their locations as opposed to sending soils to laboratories that in most cases are located far from them,” he added.

In an earlier interview, Beatrice Byarugaba the Commissioner Crop Production and Marketing at the Ministry of Agriculture explained that due to decreasing soil fertility the yields have been decreasing. “We are producing at 30 percent of our potential, a far cry from the bounty harvest Uganda was famed for, majorly due to climate change effects, deforestation and soil erosion. If we use fertilizers, improved seed and better agronomical practices, food insecurity will be history,” she added.

She explained that the country’s annual soil nutrient depletion stands at an average of 87 kg per hectare per year, which is very significant. “We are looking at reducing this to at least 50 kg in the next five years.” According to her, replenishing soil fertility can only be achieved through varied efforts most important by first realizing the nutritional deficiency which the mobile lab project will help to address.