A sunny afternoon of Sunday November 18, 2018 saw forty one students (male and female) from Bukalasa Agricultural College and one female from Busoga University receive certificates upon completion of two months long training in Crop Science, Animal Science and Agribusiness at Orchids House Farm Limited, Nakasongola Uganda https://orchidshousefarm.ug/. This was the first cohort of student interns to benefit from the initiative right at the farm. This farm is located 3.7 Kilometers along Kampala-Gulu Highway. Other than engaging in diverse mixed farming, the team at Orchids House Farm Limited also hosts student interns, they engage in skilling the youth within and from a far of the community and also have sessions designed and targeting community women groups among others.  All these efforts are aimed at accelerating development while alleviating poverty in Uganda and Africa at large. Under the Crop Science department the student interns received training in; Fruit growing and management physically interacting with different varieties, watermelon and mango growing, vegetable growing/green-house farming (spinach, tomatoes, onions, green pepper and cucumber among others), maize and beans planting, water harvesting, bio gas preparation, pests control and prevention, wedding, urban farming techniques etc. The students who benefitted under the Animal Science arm were engaged in goat (South African Boar goats and White Savannah goats) raring and management, raring cattle for beef, preparation of animal seeds employing different skills, pasture and silage harvesting, storage and management etc.  

To start off the day on Sunday, invited guests including the Local Council Chairman of Kikangula Village in Nakasongola-Mr. Charles Ssenyimba, the Farm Director-Prof. William Bazeyo, Farm Managing Director-Timothy Asingura, and other Farm workers, trainers and facilitators were taken around the farm to appreciate the meticulously well-established water harvesting system, zero grazed beautiful skinned healthy looking bulls, vegetable gardens, boar goats shelter under construction, harvested and stored hey grass for the animals, stored clean maize seeds as feeds on the farm among others. The Farm Manager, John Gichuhi led us through a rich learning farm tour.  Shortly after the engaging tour, we were hosted to a delicious mouth-watering hot and steamy lunch enjoying dishes all of which were harvested from the farm gardens. It was after lunch when we all convened for the certificate award ceremony, thanking and recognizing the student interns who had devoted their time and efforts towards acquiring additional new skills in farming.

Welcoming all of us to the ceremony, Timothy Asingura introduced all invited guests to the students and invited one of the trainers Shadiah Kantono also in-charge of the goats on the farm to lead a prayer to bless and open the awards ceremony. The Farm Manager, John Ginchuhi then officially welcomed us to Orchids House Farm and specifically to the Certificates Awards Ceremony. He thanked the students for having been a part of the Farm noting that he and team were grateful that all the students could trust them and their processes. ‘At Orchids House Farm, people are exposed to soft skills in various aspects and disciplines in regards to farming. I implore you to share and put into use this knowledge when you go back to your communities’ he strongly noted.  ‘A Special thank you to Prof. Bazeyo for creating a conducive environment to aid knowledge generation and sharing too’ he added amidst ululations and strong hand claps to thank Prof. Bazeyo. He urged all participants to always emulate Prof. Bazeyo’s deeds, aiming at being ‘a Contribution’ wherever he goes and even works. John also sincerely thanked the course trainers and facilitators for being generous with their knowledge and sharing it un reservedly. John also thanked Mr. Ssenyimba, the local Council Chairman for working together with all government authorities to ensure that there is prevailing peace in Nakasongola at large to allow such groups of those yearning to add to their knowledge base to efficiently and effectively learn. As he concluded his remarks, he called upon all the students to prepare and submit their proposals stipulating what they are proposing to improve the farm at large.

One of the facilitators, Shadiah Kantono also engaged the students stressing the need for them to remain hardworking and disciplined, know how to communicate, speak and relate with people. ‘This has been like a marathon, at the start, we have so many participants but towards or even at the finishing line, many drop off and we remain few. This should not discourage us but rather motivate us even more as champions’ she said. Another facilitator, Deborah Nankasa in her remarks advised the students to always trust in God and generally be good people out there and good luck will follow them too.

The student intern who spoke on behalf of all the students had this to share ‘Thank you Prof. Bazeyo for being around and giving us the opportunity to richly benefit and learn (hands-on) from this unique and all-encompassing farm. After harnessing these skills here, we pledge to always do our best for the benefit of the communities but also our own selves. We are leaving Nakasongola changed and different people. Thank you all for loving us’.

Prof. Bazeyo later shared a few words of wisdom with the students and invited guests thanking every one for joining in the certificate awards ceremony. He said, ‘I get my satisfaction in skilling the youth and seeing you all in this hall adding several skills to what you already have’. He thanked all institutions which partner with Orchids House Farm to execute such initiatives including; Private Sector Foundation Uganda.   He said, ‘For me even if I am not facilitated for offering you all this opportunity for one reason or another, I am satisfied with  the fact that I have been a Contribution to you dear students, your families, friends and communities at large. The skills you have acquired here, will take you greater places’ he added.  He concluded by promising that there is a possibility for the student beneficiaries to be further supported by Orchid’s House Farm team to start-up and even run their own Agricultural and Livestock schemes.  

To me, visiting this farm and engaging with the student beneficiaries was yet another motivator that as long as a person has the zeal and passion to excel in something or in a certain area, he or she can actually do it. Prof. Bazeyo opted to buy land in Nakasongola, commonly referred to as the dry corridor, indeed it is dry, even the air itself is dry. Brilliantly and innovatively, what Prof. Bazeyo addressed first was the challenge of water scarcity. The farm is all well-endowed with water collection points/huge tanks to ensure that the effects of the dry corridor do not spill to inhibit his efforts to farm, help the communities within and far, contribute to Uganda’s development but also improve the environment. Orchids House Farm is a Switzerland in Nakasongola. Currently, these are the sort of initiatives Uganda and Africa needs to address several of the challenges we are facing. No wonder that Prof. Bazeyo was recently recognized for his outstanding achievements in education and training sector in Africa under the Titans Programme: Building Nations, http://www.ranlab.org/ran-chief-of-party-prof-william-bazeyo-recognized-by-titans-building-nations-program and http://www.ranlab.org/prof-bazeyo-wins-the-continental-titans-building-nations-program-award. We also take this opportunity to once again celebrate and congratulate you upon being elected Makerere University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor In-Charge of Finance and Administration. Prof. Bazeyo is also the Chief of Party at ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), an innovation incubation hub currently nurturing over 350 potentially transformative innovative solutions with support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UN Women, Humanitarian Leadership Academy (HLA) in Nairobi Kenya, Uganda Development Bank and Uganda’s Ministry of Information Communication Technology and National Guidance among others. We are lucky to have you and closely work with you Prof. Bazeyo, with you, we all aim at even greater heights!

The Students and the guests at Orchids House Farm later joined in a congratulatory and photo session marking the end of yet another educative and engaging session on the grounds of Orchids House Farm Limited.

By: Harriet Adong

RAN Communications Manager (www.ranlab.org)