By Irene Best Nyapendi
Edrick Bwambale, a Uganda Christian University (UCU) alumnus, has scooped the African Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Achievers Award for his work connected to training rural farmers best practices.
Awarded at the four-day, 5th African Youth SDGs Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, in August 2023, his accolade was in the category of “No poverty,” which derived its name from the SDG 1 – End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
The 2019 graduate with a Bachelor of Agriculture Science and Entrepreneurship was recognized for his efforts with rural female farmers who are survivors of domestic violence in Kasese district, western Uganda. He was commended for improving the farmers’ profitability by introducing better crop varieties, providing support and creating online marketplaces for their products.
Bwambale was grateful to the summit for recognizing his efforts and the networking opportunities it opened for him. He said he benefited from sharing with experts who showed him “a whole different perspective of things.” He was sponsored for the conference, got books to help him in his projects and also networked with peers and experts for further correspondence.
“It is important for us as youth to take part in this because we are leaders of today, not just tomorrow, and our contributions are crucial to making progress in the 17 areas of the SDGs,” he said.
He said the award has motivated him to refine his ideas, opened doors to capacity-building opportunities and given him access to experts.
“The award opened doors for valuable networking with experienced professionals,” Bwanbale said. “And if I use the opportunities and network I made, it would benefit me more.”
Bwambale does the work under his organization, Sustainable Agri Food Initiative (SAFI Uganda), which he founded in 2021. He trains crop farmers using the knowledge he got at UCU and through the practical field experience while working at Mubuku Irrigation Scheme (in Kasese) as a field extension officer for five years.
He expanded the SAFI initiative when leaving his field extension job in April 2022. The SAFI farmer groups with 517 members increase support from financial institutions.
“I know what kind of seed is planted in what kind of soil, at what time, and I have field experience that I share with farmers,” Bwanbale said.“Banks will not trust individual farmers with money because they don’t see security, but they can trust a group of farmers who are doing something,”
During his field work, he realized that farmers needed extra help in accessing agricultural knowledge and training.
“The whole essence of field extension made more sense because I saw how local farmers were being challenged by transport limitations,” he said. “They hardly got the required technical support.”
Bwambale’s mission is “to improve the technical knowledge, farm production and productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in East Africa.”
He achieves this through on-farm field extension services, advising farmers on crop management, pest control, and more. He works with a team of field assistants who are his current and former interns who help him during the field training.
In creating an online marketplace for farmers to access better markets, he seeks to eliminate middlemen who exploit farmers when prices drop after harvest. He also conducts field sessions to empower farmers, allowing them to replicate best practices.
“We meet two days a month in a classroom setting,” he said. “Additionally, once every week, we gather in a garden we call a training site. Here, we focus on practical learning. Farmers replicate what they have learned by practicing it in their gardens.”
Bwambale’s motivation to engage in sustainable development started by recognizing his potential to effect change in his community.
“I know I can do something,” he said. “I can’t just sit there and watch people suffer when I can contribute to the fight against food insecurity and poverty.”