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Why the Trellis Fund matters
(Picture on left) Farmer shows off tomatoes at the Eco-Agric organic tomato demonstration site. The site was originally supported by the first round of Trellis Fund projects, back when the Horticulture Innovation Lab was still called “HortCRSP.” Horticulture Innovation Lab photo by Peter Shapland.

Editor’s Note: Liz Hohenberger, one of the UC Davis grad students who manages our Trellis Fund, shares a Thank You note sent by an organization that had previously received funding from the Trellis Fund.

The grants that the Horticulture Innovation Lab awards through its Trellis Fund aren’t huge; we fund 6-month projects for $2,000, matching small organizations with U.S. graduate students who can provide expert support. Since the Horticulture Innovation Lab also funds million-dollar projects, this may not seem like much, but we know that Trellis Fund projects can have a lasting impact on the graduate students (think of them as tomorrow’s agricultural leaders) and the local organizations that work together.

We recently received an email from one of the first organizations to receive Trellis funding, a reminder of how big of a difference this small grant can make. The email from Uganda started with:

EAC, FAO sign Shs1.5b grant to tackle youth unemploymentThe Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the East Africa Community (EAC) have signed a grant agreement intended to promote urban and rural agriculture and agribusiness in order to improve youth employment in the region.

The total budget of $440,000 (Shs1.5 billion) is a one-year grant agreement which allows FAO and EAC to find a path for young people to secure decent work opportunities, as well as explore innovative e-business models in the agricultural sector.

The agreement, which took place on the margins of the just concluded African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, was signed by Mr Libérat Mfumukeko, the secretary general for EAC and Dr Patrick Kormawa, the sub-regional coordinator for Eastern Africa and FAO representative to the AU and UN Economic Commission for Africa.
The summit was held under the theme “Harnessing Africa’s Demographic Dividend by Investing in Youth”.

In his remarks Mr Mfumukeko emphasised the positive impact of the agreement by saying “the cooperation with FAO was long overdue, and the current support will go a long way in addressing pertinent issues in East Africa where agriculture is the way of life.”

Despite relatively high economic growth in the partner states of the EAC, youth unemployment remains a great concern for the region, as it slows down economies and causes social problems.
The two institutions have the tools to respond to unemployment in the EAC region. FAO has developed the expertise on youth, agriculture, livelihoods and migration.

Farmers take up insurance scheme in face of droughtIn face of the drought experienced in the country since last year, leaders of farmers groups under National Union of Coffee Agro-businesses and Farm Enterprises (Nucafe) have been sensitised on insurance against the risks to their crop because of such disasters as drought.

During a seminar in Kampala last week, John Makosya, an official from Agro Consortium, a coalition of 10 insurance companies, explained different types of insurance.

These are provided under Uganda Agriculture Insurance Scheme (UAIS) which cover against fire, drought, floods, hailstorms, windstorm, malicious damage, riots and strikes, as well as damage caused by certain pests and diseases.

Makosya disclosed that since introduction of the scheme last year, many farmers have already insured their farms. The scheme is open to various categories of farmers, including livestock keepers, fruit, vegetable and fish farmers plus tea growers, among others.

Collecting information

Joseph Nkandu, the Nucafe executive director, said: “The drought is likely to reduce Robusta coffee production by more than 40 per cent and we may not get the expected national annual output.

This translates onto lower income for farmers and reduced foreign exchange earnings for the country.” The farmers are to benefit from what is known as Coffee Drought Indexed Insurance (CDII), according to information from Agro Consortium.