His innovation is just what the farmers need

While at university, Deogratius Opolot attended a training on how one can cause positive change in the community. He told Christine Katende how this motivated him to develop an innovation for farmers.

My name is Deogratious Opolot. I have a Bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Makerere University and currently studying for a Master’s in agricultural economics.

I and five others own a company called Orga-Farm Ltd, where I am a director in charge of production, research and quality assurance.

Orga-Farm, registered in 2010, deals mainly in the production of Indigenous Micro-organisms (IMO) and carries out agricultural consultancy. During my third undergraduate year at Makerere, the university’s agricultural research institute (MUARIK) organised a training for students, in which we participated.

How it works
It was about how an individual can change the community and the country through an approach known as “We Do It Ourselves” focusing on agriculture. It is from the training that we attained knowledge on different innovations and skills about organic agriculture, which helped us get interested in indigenous micro-organisms (IMO).

These are useful microorganisms that naturally occur in the environment. They are harvested using different ingredients like starch, molasses and sugar that are combined in different proportions.

These micro-organisms can be used in livestock and poultry to enhance the immunity. In the same way, a farmer can reduce on the cost of feeding especially in piggery. Here, the sawdust mixed with the animal’s faecal matter is recycled by the micro-organisms.

IMO is sprinkled within the piggery house and in the process the protein contained in the faecal matter and carbohydrates in the sawdust is broken down into utilisable nutrients.

It is the reformed sawdust that animals feed on as food thus reducing on the cost of feeds. At that same time, the micro-organisms (in liquid form) are mixed in the water and served to the animals to help in eliminating the worms.

While breaking down the animal faecal matter, a compound known as ammonia is destroyed, hence eliminating the irritating smell in piggery units which attracts the flies. In the same way, the smell will be avoided thus making it possible to rear pigs in a small space without inconveniencing people in the neighbourhood.

It also helps in controlling both internal and external parasites like fleas and ticks through the heat generated during the breaking down of the faecal matter and the sawdust.

With cattle, the IMO is sprinkled in the fodder before it is served to the animals. This helps to reduce on the dung produced and at the same time improve on the milk yields. In fish ponds, it helps to element the toxic gases that might be dangerous to the fish. In pit latrines, IMO acts as bio-degrader that breaks down faeces and removes the smell.

Challenges and achievements
But, as any other business, we have experienced challenges like lack of awareness about IMO among the farmers. Them, being the end users of the product, this makes it hard to penetrate the market.

Inadequate funds to help us do the necessary work in the company has also been a hindrance. Among the achievements is a demonstration farm that Orga-Farm has set up in Nangabo in Mukono and piggery projects in Mityana.

We have also managed to offer training to some farmers and as well as selling the product to them. Orga-Farm also offers consultancy to agricultural research centres.

As a company, we plan to do more research about IMO so as to develop it to another level. This will enable us increase on the production as well as meet the market demands.

Future plans
Currently, the company produces at least 200kgs of IMO in a month and sells up to 60 bottles each at Shs40,000. From July to November, which is peak season, we earn around Shs7m and make a profit of Shs5m.

I see Orga-Farm merging as one of the biggest producers of indigenous micro-organisms and organic fertilisers within Africa. In the coming five years, we expect to produce up to 2,000kg of IMO a month.

This IMO innovation made me emerge as the overall winner in a recent innovation challenge competition. Supported by Uganda Telecom, it was organised by Consortium for Enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (Curad).

This is a public-private partnership initiative promoted by Makerere University along with the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises Limited (Nucafe) and National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro).

I won the top prize of Shs15m, out of the Shs25m that was awarded to 27 participants who emerged as winners in the innovation challenge. Among the tasks in the youth category was giving wide explanation about the product in seven minutes, which I did hence winning the award.

About the challenge

The Curad Innovation Challenge is aimed at encouraging more Ugandan youths to get involved in agricultural production and adding value to agriculture products.

Apollo Segawa, managing director, Curad, revealed that the challenge and awards aimed at providing winning businesses with incubation support and start-up or expansion capital to enable entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector to thrive and benefit Ugandans and the economy.

A total of 196 participants were registered for the first Innovation Challenge. Out of these, 45 were nominated for the awards by a panel of judges. The panel constituted of industry captains across the agribusiness sector, and a team from Deloitte and Touché, an audit firm.

The awards gala was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Agriculture, Makerere University, and National Agricultural Research Organisation. There were also representatives from FARA and other UniBRAIN incubators, DANIDA and other donor agencies, partner banks and other financial institutions.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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