Archive for the ‘General Information’ Category

Making Plastic Bags out of Bitter Cassava



There are various non-food uses for cassava.…………………..
It is applied in manufacturing of paper, textiles, medicines and adhesives, among others.
Scientists at National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Namulonge are making biodegradable plastics from cassava via a method known as bioprocessing. 
Ephraim Nuwamanya, a scientist involved in the experiment, says they use the tubers and peels of the bitter cassava variety. 
It is being carried out under Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity project (EAAP) in conjunction with University College Cork in Ireland.

Reduce cyanide
The reason for the focus on bitter cassava is that it is neither consumed by human beings nor animals. It has a sizeable amount of cyanide thus unsafe for consumption.
This particular type is grown in most parts of West Nile and western Uganda in areas bordering Rwanda.
“Cassava consumers have tried to boil and ferment bitter cassava but it is still not good for human and animal health, this is the reason why we think it is good to utilise in biodegradable plastic products,” Nuwamanya said.

“We are using a technology which is not sophisticated but we need a technique, which will enable us rapture all the cells in the bitter cassava and destroy the cyanide.”

Alternative methods
Dr Steven Tumwesigye from National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL), who wrote a paper on processing of bitter cassava for packaging material, points out that bitter cassava cultivars have been utilised as an emergency food and less as alcohol, flour and starch.
The traditional methods applied in transforming roots into dried products had been a factor in low-value products and negative environmental impact.

This means an alternative for improved human safety and minimised environment impact is needed.
This is the basis for exploring the use of bitter cassava to produce biodegradable polythene paper in a bid to steer our agriculture from low-productivity enterprises to high-productivity commercial production.

Bitter cassava which has lasted in the field between 12 to 18 months is most appropriate.
“Both unpeeled and peeled roots are processed in two stages; mechanical tissue rupture and biopolymer release and recovery in order to obtain biopolymer powder to complete the entire process,” Dr Tumwesigye says. “Findings show that using both peeled and unpeeled roots has a positive impact in reducing the cyanide in bitter varieties.”

Environmental concerns
Application of sodium chloride also has a significant influence on the ratio in both the lined film product and in the interaction with peelings.
The experiment therefore means bioprocessing has a high chance of protecting the environment because of its indirect way of minimising waste.

Cassava as the main component in making packaging material is a unique one in eastern Africa. It is particularly important for cassava communities, which are exposed to environment-based dangers caused by bitter cassava.

The process
Ephraim Nuwamanya, who is part of the research to make biodegradable plastics from bitter cassava, explains the process: We get cassava root mainly from bitter cassava variety, crush it in order to obtain powder containing starch, protein, fibre and vitamins. We mix this powder in water in the presence of sodium chloride, heat it and we get a paste out of it which is passed through a machine called thinner to make a film-like lining.It is then put in an oven to dry to make polythene, which is put in a silk gel and later dried.The product is what can be used to shape into a bag, mug, handbag and phone cover, among others.


Pumpkin:The Miracle Plant

 Mary Nakirya

Pumpkins are one of the climbing plants similar to guards. They are eaten fresh  or dried.. Apart from the real fruit,the seeds and leaves are also eaten with very high nutritional values.

Farmers in Masaka claim that once seeds are eaten by a man, he will become sexually stronger.

They are rich in carotenoids which are well known for keeping human immune system strong and healthier.Because of the beta carotene content in the fruit,chances of strokes are also reduced. They also slow down the process of aging and eye problems which may result into blindness.

The high fibre content in them is good for bowel health yet the potassium reduces hypertension.

The zinc in them is good for bones and boosts the immune system.

The leaves contain iron,  phospherous and sulphur.

The cooling and cleansing property in the fruit reduces hunger over due to too much alcohol. Get leaves,boil and drink the soup. The effect is immediate.

To prepare pumpkin,cut and cook the well washed fruit.The seeds can be dried and fried or cooked while fresh and eaten. Some people get young fruits of pumpkin, cut into pieces and put them in the sun for drying. The pieces can then be cooked as soup or mixed in ground nuts .


Agro-forestry refers to practice of carrying on agriculture and forestry in the same place, while agriculture refers to all practices which are carried out to produce crops, livestock, and forestry refers to growing of trees. Agro-forestry may therefore involve

·         The growing of trees and crops in the same place

·         The raising of livestock and trees in the same place

These forms of aggro-forestry in which crops and trees are planted in the same place is known as ago-silviculture and the form where tree are grown in pasture is known as Silvia-pasture where the pasture is harvested and taken to live stock in a separate area.

Most farmer in Uganda depend on rain for growing than crops and pastures and poor exposed soils do not hold much water when it rains on such soils, most of the water runoff, and if the farmer planted the seeds, the little water left in the ground will help the seeds to germinate, and after a few sunny days, most of the water evaporates and the soils become very dry and the crops start to wilt and dry up.

By practicing agro forestry (agrosilvienlture) may improve the water holding capacity of the soil, failure to improve can, led to crops loss which will occur year after year. If the soil is able to hold water for a long time, the effect of drought may be less deratanting than other wise.

Trees provide shade for live stock but some trees are used as folder for live stock.

Environment conditions such as drought, floods, wind, hailstorms and others don’t affect individual farmers, but affect all farmers; it affects all farmers such environment problems should be tackled communally, and the only way of tackling these problems is by practicing agro forestry.

Land scape can be changed by use of agro forestry, and a community may be able to change its landscape and influence some environmental factors by concerted effort in trees planting. In this way farmers will be able to choose not only where they need trees and in what quantities but also, which varieties suit each place most.

Individual farmers can only make decisious affecting their own farms, but a community is able to discuss and implement ideas in the whole area. While a single farmer may have very little influence of landscape outside his farm, a community working together can transform it in only a generation.


Mulopi J

GM crops for African farmers,a way to go?

Due to the fast growing populations in Africa, stagnating agricultural productivity, and increasing climate change, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Africa to tackle poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.
Adoption of Genetically Modified Crops is one of the ways that could significantly reduce the scarcity of food and as a result reduce prices in developing countries.
In GM crop bleeding scientists find natural bacteria that can produce toxin or a protein that kills insects and then find whether the gins that produce that vitamin share the same DNA with the plant. Since all the living creatures share same DNA, it is easy to put genes from specie to another or from an animal into a plant to make it more resistant and eventually the plant produces important proteins itself. Then the modified seeds that come from a new crop are called GM or BT seeds that yield the better and modified crops.
Since the GM technology is simply adding virus resistant genes to crops that are also proved to be herbicide tolerant and have an improved crop production, it is the only option to fight food scarcity in Africa, though Ugandan farmers seem not to understand it well and those who have had a chance are still skeptical.
Therefore, some farmers suspect that GM foods have hidden health and environmental risks.
The most advantage in the Genetically Modified Crop Farming is that it reduces costs of pesticides and labor since they produce a protein that kills insects and then the herbicides used can not affect crops
South Africa led the way in terms of Agricultural biotechnology, Kenya also passed a similar legislation “Kenya Biosafety law” in february 2009, Mali and Togo enacted the national biosafety legislations in 2008 but Uganda seem to be hesitant.
Just like some other African governments, Uganda government fear loosing their biggest trade partner, Europe where GM foods is banned. However there is hope now for Uganda government to change the position on GM foods.
On contrary, Gullaume Gruere an agricultural bio-scientist at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington thinks that GM cotton can not be banned by any country since people world-wide do not eat it. Therefore, in cotton consumers need not know as it does not make difference to them.
Doctors say that Uganda is in process of putting in place a regulatory system for modern biotechnology. They add that the country needs this system in place before they can commercialize GM. “We need first to handle them at the research level [and] at experimental level, you need to understand how the farmers should handle it, what are the implications to the small scale farmers and to relatively bigger farmers, what is the relatively implications and how do you make sure that there is equity.
Uganda’s agricultural productivity can be primarily enhanced by adopting GM crops like soybean, Maize and cotton that are also Uganda’s commonly grown crops.

The biggest fear of Ugandan farmers is that GM seeds would be expensive to purchase as every after some few years modified crops gets weakened.
According to border control reports, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have no restrictions on GM foods.

Peterson Ssendi a reporter in Kampala – Uganda

Pumpkin;The miracle plant

Mulopi Joseph and Mary Nakirya

Pumpkins are one of the climbing plants similar to guards. They are eaten fresh  or dried.. Apart from the real fruit,the seeds and leaves are also eaten with very high nutritional values.

Farmers in Masaka claim that once seeds are eaten by a man, he will become sexually stronger.

They are rich in carotenoids which are well known for keeping human immune system strong and healthier.Because of the beta carotene content in the fruit,chances of strokes are also reduced. They also slow down the process of aging and eye problems which may result into blindness.

The high fibre content in them is good for bowel health yet the potassium reduces hypertension.

The zinc in them is good for bones and boosts the immune system.

The leaves contain iron,phospherous and sulphur.

The cooling and cleansing property in the fruit reduces hunger over due to too much alcohol.Get leaves,boil and drink the soup. The effect is immediate.

To prepare pumpkin,cut and cook the well washed fruit.The seeds can be dried and fried or cooked while fresh and eaten. Some people get young fruits of pumpkin, cut into pieces and put them in the sun for drying. The pieces can then be cooked as soup or mixed in ground nuts .

Poverty Alleviation Leveraging Agriculture in Uganda

By Kirega Alex

There are many definitions of poverty including the recent development defining poverty as a multi dimensional aspect that affects all sects of life including education, access to health care and people’s involvement in decision making.

The general definition however is according to a poverty threshold – the poverty line, which is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living in a given country. The common international poverty line has in the past been roughly $1 a day although in 2008, the World Bank came out with a revised figure of $1.25 at 2005 purchasing-power parity. A poor person under this definition is one living under this thresh hold.

Poverty can be relative or absolute with in ability to afford basic human needs, such as clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. In other words absolute poverty is when some one is deprived to the extent that his survival is at stake where as some one is relatively poor in comparison with another person who is in a better condition of life enjoying better standards of living.

Using the full sample of 2005/06, 31.1 percent of Ugandans were estimated to be poor, corresponding to nearly 8.4 million persons according to Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2009 statistical abstract.
About 85% of Uganda’s population lives in rural areas with 80% of the poor living in rural areas depending mainly on subsistence agriculture to survive and earn. Agriculture contributed 31.9% to Uganda’s GDP in 2006/2007 making it just second to the service sector which contributed 47.1% according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa including Uganda still use agriculture as a lead sector for poverty alleviation and as an engine of growth and economic development today because it can work in concert with other sectors to produce faster growth, reduce poverty, and sustain the environment. Effective use requires adjusting agendas to each country type and within countries as well. However, despite convincing successes, agriculture has not been used to its full potential according to the world development report 2008 on agriculture for development.

Agricultural products should not be sold directly from the garden to market because in the first instance they will fetch very low prices as compared to their counterparts – the processed and manufactured goods. The level of intake as far as labour absorption and employment creation is concerned will be too low – a major reason as to why the un employment levels in Uganda like other Sub Saharan African Countries have remained relatively high keeping average wages just at subsistence level as compared to the developed world.

A multi dimensional approach should be taken rather than a sectoral approach taking into account all sectors of the economy including the industrial sector, transport sector, education sector and the health sector among others if agriculture is to fully realize its potential in poverty alleviation and economic development.

In the first instance farmers should be provided with relevant information as far a seed selection is concerned, availability of better varieties of seeds, other planting materials and animal breeds. They also need information on care for growing plants and animals in order to realize quantity and quality in out put.

After harvesting, agricultural produce should be stored properly which, calls for development of proper and modern storage facilities so as losses incurred by farmers at this stage of production.

From the stores, the products should be processed, packed, branded this calls for development of a sound industry base with factories and processing plants. This adds value to the agricultural products enabling them to fetch higher prices not only at the domestic market but also at the world market.

Efficient marketing infrastructure such as wholesale, retail, assembly markets and storage facilities is essential for cost-effective marketing, to minimize post-harvest losses and to reduce health risks. Markets play an important role in rural development, income generation, food security, developing rural-market linkages and gender issues. Planners need to be aware of how to design markets that meet a community’s social and economic needs and how to choose a suitable site for a new market.

In many cases sites are chosen that are inappropriate and result in under-use or even no use of the infrastructure constructed. It is also not sufficient just to build a market: attention needs to be paid to how that market will be managed, operated and maintained according to John Tracey-White in the market extension guide of the Food and Agricultural Research Organization entitled planning and designing rural markets. Virtual or on line markets are also relevant as the literacy levels of the country improve.

The transport sector should also be developed with a good road transport net work connecting rural areas to enable smooth transportation of the products to the market.

In addition to farmers having an easy access to production inputs, the financial system, the market and agricultural knowledge, education can also improve agricultural productivity. The education sector should also be integrated into the process to produce skilled personnel to work in the industries, work on the roads, carry out research on better varieties and breeds, agricultural inputs, product development and market the products amongst others. It also equips learners with fundamental knowledge about advancements in the field of agriculture an opportunity for modernization of Uganda’s agricultural sector making it more profitable.

The health sector should also be efficient so that the productivity of the workers not only in the gardens but also in the industries and factories is not compromised.

In this way the absorption capacity of the agricultural sector increases at every stage of production creating more employment opportunities in the country – a crucial factor in poverty alleviation and economic development since employment generates incomes, which enable individuals and their dependants to purchase goods and services necessary to meet their basic needs. Similarly availability of productive employment opportunities greatly reduces poverty. Besides the agricultural products will then fetch a higher price just as labour since it will no longer be unskilled but skilled given an efficient education system that not only provide theory but also practical lessons.

This is the seal of economic development and poverty alleviation not only in Uganda but also in other Sub-Saharan African countries through leveraging agriculture.

Coffee Farming as a Business for farmers.

A picture of ripe coffe ready for harvesting

Coffee is one of the major cash crops in Uganda though of late many farmers were discouraged from growing it. This was mainly because of fluctuating prices. Farmers should still regard coffee farming as a business just as our grand parents did. True the prices fluctuate a lot but one major cause of this is production of poor quality products which do not yield much in the market. Quality must be kept through good management especially during harvesting and post harvest handling. In areas of Eastern Uganda, coffee is being cut down in favor of sugar cane growing. Because it is a perennial crop, once planted the farmer is able to yield for many years as long as the crop is well looked after.

In order to have good quality coffee, the following must be given attention.

• Use of clean planting materials free from diseases .
Under take proper husbandry practices and management on a timely basis e.g. pruning, de-suckering, stumping, manure, weeding.
• Put in place systems of tracking field operations and the costs.
• Good harvest and post harvest handling especially during harvesting.
• Make sure when harvesting only ripe red cherries are picked. After picking the coffee beans, dry on raised platforms made of mats or wire mesh, for those that can afford, cemented drying yards are recommended.

Once the coffee is dried properly, it must not be allowed to become wet again as this causes mould, spoiling the liquor quality.

Proper dried coffee (kiboko) should attain moisture of 13% before being sold off and rattles when shaken. In conclusion, land is a scarce resource and farmers must weigh the benefits against opportunity cost of using available land for coffee production.

Mulopi J. Celac Mayuge District farmers’ network

White Flies; A Dangerous pest which has Hit Cassava in Uganda

By Mulopi Joseph,CE LAC Mayuge Farmers network. Edited by Maria

white flies on cassava

White flies cause direct damage to plants by sucking plant sap and removing plant nutrients, thereby weakening the plants. Damage may be more severe when plants are under water stress. In addition, they often produce large quantity of honeydew that leads to the growth of sooty mold on the lower leaves, blocking or reducing the photosynthetic capacity of the plants. The honey dew also contaminates the marketable part of the plant, reducing its market value or making it out put unsaleable. Infested plants may wilt; turn yellow in color, and black, become stunted or die in young plants when white fly infestations are severe or of long duration.

White flies are also serious indirect pests as vectors of virus diseases and they transmit virus diseases on cassava, cotton, tobacco, tomato, beans, chilies, and sweet potatoes. This white fly is the vector of a range of leaf curl disease-inducing the Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus, the Cassava Mosaic Virus, the Cow pea Mild Mottle Virus, and the Watermelon Chlorotic Stunt Virus among others.

Several species of white flies are found on cassava plants; Feeding on the sap of the plant causes direct damage, which may cause considerable reduction in root yield if prolonged attack occurs.

The adults and nymphs of this white fly occur in large numbers on the lower surfaces of leaves covered with large amount of white waxy material. Females lay eggs on the lower leaf surface in spiral patterns (like fingerprints) of white material secreted by the female. This white fly sucks sap from cassava leaves. It excretes large amounts of honeydew, which supports the growth of black sooty mold on the plant, causing premature fall of older leaves.

Note; the black leaves.


Article by Mary Nakirya, Program Manager, BROSDI

It is unfortunate that many people especially in the developing countries keep cutting trees with no effort to replace them. Because trees exist, we do not take time to think of their value to the environment we all share. Planting fruit trees is important because in addition to many benefits of trees like, providing building materials, fuel, and paper making, fruit trees can at the same time serve as fruits for sale to earn income and for food to supplement meals at home.

Many trees are used to provide various types of medicine which is very important especially to the people in un developed world who can hardly afford to buy more expensive drugs both for animals and people. The leaves and stems are also used to eliminate pests which can be a threat to crops and animals. For example pawpaw seeds are used to treat worms in poultry.

Trees absorb harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and in turn give off oxygen there by improving the air we breathe. Researchers say that, one big tree can produce oxygen for four people for a lifetime.

Trees filter and purify pollutants like gases emitted from industries, cars, smoke, dust and ash there by cleaning up the air. Leaves, keep moisture near to the ground helping to trap chemicals there by keeping them out of lakes and rivers. This helps to improve water we use and drink.

Forests play a big part adding water vapor to the atmosphere, increasing cloudy conditions which eventually lead to rainfall and cooling of the environment. When trees are cut, the result is increase in temperature and general global warming which means gradual rise of the earth’s surface temperature, thought to be caused by the greenhouse effect. It is probably responsible for climatic changes worldwide.

They prevent soil erosion by reducing the force of rainfall at the soil surface and by reducing the water force and absorbing it, preventing direct run off. Slow down rain runoff by either holding or absorbing water and reduce flooding with its effects. Because they retain water, trees help reduce runs offs into our drainages and streams.

Trees attract birds and other wildlife, making a beautiful landscape which attracts tourists. They provide shelter for people, animals, and other plants.

Be Alert on Swine/Pig Flu

By Maria Nakirya


Swine flu also known as swine Influenza is a disease of the respiratory
System of pigs caused by a type of influenza that often causes epidemics of Influenza among pigs. This disease though originated from pigs can now be spread among human beings.

It is believed to spread in the following ways:
• From person to person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
• Touching one’s nose or mouth

Eating meat of pigs (pork) may not cause it because it is destroyed at a high temperature.

There is an outbreak of this flu in some parts of the world. The virus spreads so fast and hence every one should be on the alert and take precautions.

• Loss of appetite
• Fever
• Body weakness and pains
• Sore throat
• cough
• Severe pneumonia
• In some cases diarrhea and vomiting
• Death.

It is important to report symptoms of the flue as soon as noticed. This will reduce its impact as affected people will then be able to get urgent attention.

In case some one is identified with symptoms

• Avoid close contact with such people
• Cover your mouth and nose when caring for the sick person with a clean piece of cloth and through it in the dust bin after use
• Confine the person a separate room
• Wash your hands with soap/detergent and water after contact with such people