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Making Hay, Changing Lives

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A project spearheaded by scientists in the college in collaboration with Uganda’s Makerere University is helping African youths establish businesses and generate income. And these young people, in turn, are providing services that can help farmers improve dairy nutrition and increase milk production.

Last year, Sjoerd Duiker, associate professor of soil management and applied soil physics, and Ephraim Govere, research support associate and manager of the college’s Soil Research Cluster Laboratory, partnered with a team of Kenyan youth and Ugandan scientists to provide a two-week workshop on the use of scythes and the construction of an innovative manual hay baler originally designed by Tillers International, a nongovernmental organization in Michigan.

"This equipment is a first step in improving the feeding of dairy cows, which often are undernourished in East Africa," he said. "Quality hay can feed cattle in the dry season when pasture is in short supply, but it also can be transported easily from feed-surplus to feed-deficit areas when packed in dense bales made with the help of the manual hay baler."

According to Duiker, introducing these affordable but effective technologies can help reduce widespread hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Duiker first introduced this technology in 2011 in Nyeri, Kenya. He noted that it has enabled formerly destitute youth to create a custom hay-baling service for farmers in the Mount Kenya area. "By improving feeds and feed technologies, the training contributes to the vision of the government of Uganda to increase milk production from 1.5 billion to 6 billion liters annually," Duiker said. "And, using appropriate technology, growth in the dairy sector can lift millions out of poverty."

Ugandan government officials praised the partnering universities for reaching out to introduce knowledge and technology that has a high potential to impact the livelihoods of the country’s citizens in a practical, hands-on manner.

"[Our] government policy is to transform subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture," said Minister of Animal Industry Bright Rwamirama. "This [project] will help create employment for our young people, produce more food for our people and other people of the world, and bring much needed foreign exchange and economic transformation of our country."

The training was part of the Youth Employment and Income Enhancement Project, which is housed at Makerere University. The project is supported by the Global Knowledge Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., and the National Agricultural Advisory Services of the government of Uganda.

Chuck Gill