SOROTI– Teso Citrus Training and Education Centre was officially opened in Arapai Sub-county in Soroti City to help citrus fruit farmers including cooperatives to improve the quality of their fruits, and add value as well as market their products.
The Shs 450 million training centre was opened mid last week in the presence of political leaders and civil servants. It was constructed with the support of South Korean government under its Rural Development Agency.
“Farmer cooperatives formed through the citrus model village project will also use this facility for their group activities such as training workshops and meetings,” officials said.
The centre has units such as a lecture hall, offices, restrooms, a water reservoir, a parking lot and a citrus demonstration orchard that the National Agricultural Research Organisation [NARO] officers and others will use to train farmers on best farming practices.
The facility was constructed through the Korea Project on International Agriculture [KOPIA], which supports agricultural research in Uganda.
NARO director general Ambrose Agona said that before the project began in Uganda, citrus farmers had challenges like; how to increase productivity, low yields, water management, soil fertility and citrus fruit diseases. He said because of the challenges, farmers had failed to reach the national citrus production average of 12,000 tonnes per acre.
“All these challenges were identified by and KOPIA and NARO decided to work on them,” he said, adding that farmers were organised into groups, trained and given tools among others. “Today things have changed,” he said.
According to KOPIA Uganda director, Dr Park Taeseon, was constructed under the citrus model village project.
“The construction of the centre was considered after citrus farmers expressed concern about the lack of knowledge on the best cost-effective citrus production technologies,” Taeseon said, adding that farmers under their groups also complained of a lack of meeting halls.
The South Korean official said citrus farmers will be able to establish and manage new orchards, adding that through collaboration with Soroti City leadership and NARO, they will be able to build areas of excellence in citrus production technologies, fruit quality, value addition as well as marketing.
However, he said the value addition option will be guided by NARO food biosciences laboratory at Kawanda Agricultural Research Institute to incorporate juice and jam making.
The facility, according to Taeseon, will also offer training opportunities for agriculture students in nearby institutions like Teso College, Soroti University, Busitema University, Arapai Campus, adding that it will create employment opportunities.
Ambassador Park Sung-Soo inaugurated the centre, saying it is a place for equipping Teso farmers with modern fruit farming skills.
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