The agricultural sector
has been the backbone of Uganda’s economy for decades, employing over 80
percent of the rural population and about 64.3 percent of the working
population. Agriculture is a source of food, raw materials for industries and
foreign exchange given the many agricultural exports. Based on the statistics
above, agriculture needs to be identified as one of the priority sectors for
Given the importance of
agriculture as a strategic sector that provides subsistence and income to a
large portion of the population, but also contributes to the national economy,
the need to boost it has become increasingly urgent.
In this rapidly changing
world, farmers need a wide range of services, ranging from innovation to
extension of credit facilities in order to carry out meaningful agriculture as
required by Government. Having the aforementioned, under one roof, and in a
rural setting, will greatly accelerate adoption of innovations and thus boost
the agricultural sector.
Rural Resource Centres
(RRCs) can be promoted and/or initiated by many actors, such as women,
students, youths, and persons with disabilities among others, under different
forms. Such centres should mainly focus on training young people-both males and
females, so as to encourage them take up agriculture as a career option.
By and large, RRCs are
training and demonstration hubs that are managed by grassroots organizations
and often operate outside the formal extension model. They create opportunities
for farmers to share their experience and to also receive technical guidance,
including services that are tailored to their livelihood needs, among others.
In setting up Rural
Resource Centres (RRCs), emphasis should be put on access to knowledge,
interactive learning, and networking among farmers and between farmers and
other actors. Farmers should be encouraged to learn how to their own testing,
adopt appropriate technology, and also be encouraged to extend the same to
A ‘typical’ Rural
Resource Centre comprises of a tree nursery, demonstration plots, a training
hall, a small library, and office space. Accommodation, catering facilities,
and agricultural processing units may also be part of the Rural Resource Centre
(RRC) depending on available resources, opportunities, and needs.
If well facilitated, RRCs,
have the potential of providing a multitude of services and/or products, and these
include, but not limited to-seeds, seedlings, and other inputs; training of
farmers in areas such as nursery practices, tree propagation, soil fertility management,
group dynamics, financial management, book keeping, and marketing.
Other benefits include-information
on new technologies and innovation, links with market actors, particularly the
private sector and also access to market information and micro-finance
opportunities. Furthermore, they can also create a forum for exchange of
information among farmers, and between farmers and other stakeholders.
Compared to public-run
agriculture extension systems, RRCs are associated with the following benefits-greater
accessibility to information and other market linkages, increased relevance of
innovation thanks to technology evaluation and adaptation process as can be
applied in the RRC model. Furthermore, they promote better quality of services,
relatively large number of women and youths reached, and better networking with
other rural actors.
Besides, RRCs activities
are not necessarily limited to agriculture but may also take into account other
socio-economic development aspects such as-infrastructural development
projects, watershed management, citizenship, local governance, and community
empowerment among others. One of the major benefits associated with the RRC
model, however is that they are rooted in a local context and can gain farmers’
confidence, so that new techniques are readily adopted.
The creation and implementation
of the Rural Resource Centre model can be summarized in six steps, and these
include-conducting a feasibility study, which involves diagnosing of the
information and training needs of farmers in the area. This is followed by
raising awareness amongst farmers and identifying ‘champions’ for RRCs that is,
organizations already involved in some farmer training and agricultural
Thirdly, the training of RRC
staff on technical aspects, but also on adult learning, communication, and
extension skills is also performed. This is followed by creating tree nursery
and gradually developing training and demonstration facilities. Next is
organizing demonstrations, training, field visits, etc. for interested farmer
groups, and updating and refining extension knowledge to remain relevant. And
finally, establishing links and partnerships with other institutions to
increase scope of intervention.
Other aspects to consider
in establishing RRCs include-capacities required to create and sustain RRCs,
costs involved in establishing RRCs, governance and management of RRCs, and
best-fit considerations of RRCs.
In a nutshell, based on
the benefits of RRCs cited above, it would be imperative for government and
other stakeholders to promote RRCs in order to bolster the agricultural sector
Emmanuel Mwesige – Agriculturalist, Accounting specialist, Researcher and Author.