Insights from the Research Inception Workshop in Uganda's West Nile Region

Written by:
Annesofie Misiani

Recently, the ICED team participated in an inception workshop of a groundbreaking research project titled “Developing Innovative Horticulture Technologies for Small-Scale Women Farmers,” aimed at revolutionizing horticulture practices for small-scale women farmers.  The project is led by Muni University, supported by funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture initiative, hosted at the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis), with partners including Omia Agribusiness Development and Arua District. The project aims to boost household income, improve nutrition, and foster community resilience by conducting extensive assessments of agronomic methods, post-harvest strategies, and marketing approaches.

Hosted in Arua, the workshop brought together diverse stakeholders to engage on a collective path towards improving livelihoods, strengthening resilience, and promoting gender equity in agriculture. The workshop was attended by approximately 70 participants, including implementers, university administrators, farmers, agro-input dealers, researchers, and government extension officers. It provided a platform for robust discussions, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities, and it also served as an important opportunity to inform, discuss, collaborate, and strategize around the project's objectives.

The workshop was planned with several objectives, beginning with informing stakeholders about the project’s mission and vision as well as identifying hindrances to the adoption of modern technological practices among small-scale women farmers in Uganda. It also had a dual purpose of facilitating knowledge exchange to enhance understanding of innovative horticulture technologies and creating network opportunities for participants. These networking opportunities would connect participants with experts and organizations in the horticulture sector.

The research project’s overarching goal is to empower small-scale women farmers. This would be achieved in several ways: determining pre-harvest, post-harvest, and market access interventions to increase household income, nutrition, and resilience; collaborating with partners such as Muni University, Omia Agribusiness Development, and Arua District to develop innovative horticulture technologies; evaluating agronomic practices, post-harvest strategies, and marketing approaches to mitigate losses and enhance profitability for vegetable farmers.

Adding a layer of excitement to the workshop was the unveiling of the CoolBot technology—a game-changer in cold chain interventions for horticulture farmers. With its innovative approach to temperature control, the CoolBot technology promises to reduce waste and improve incomes for sustainable livelihoods.

On the second day, the first-ever Agri Business Expo in the West Nile Region, organized by Omia Agribusiness Development, showcased the diversity of the region’s agricultural ecosystem. With 240 exhibitors and about 1,000 attendees, the expo provided a platform for value chain actors, supporting stakeholders, and farmers to connect, collaborate, and explore innovative solutions. Muni University's participation as an exhibitor demonstrated the institution's dedication to advancing agricultural transformation and knowledge dissemination.

The inception workshop marked the beginning of a transformative journey towards sustainable agriculture and gender-inclusive development in Uganda's West Nile region. With the CoolBot technology ready to transform cold chain interventions, and the Agri Business Expo encouraging collaboration and knowledge exchange, the event created the foundation for the research project's success.