November 19, 1999

An organic farm in Reading is practical teaching small groups of Ugandan students about sustainable agriculture, with the aim of weaning them off chemicals and re-introducing traditional methods.

The farm has had a huge impact on Uganda in the past decade. It has helped show farmers how to feed their extended families cheaply, while cutting use of chemicals on soil already damaged by years of war.

Chris Garforth, of the agricultural and rural development department at the University of Reading, said that farms once unprofitable because of pests and disease are now successful. "These farmers have made their land work because of using organic methods and a judicious choice of crop varieties," he said.

It was a combination of war and advertising campaigns by multinational agrochemical giants that undermined the small-scale farmers' ability to grow local crops. With traditional links broken, agricultural output plummeted in the former "bread-

basket of Africa" and rural workers started to drift to the cities.

Run by the Kulika Trust, Warren Farm instructs students from Uganda in every aspect of farming that they are likely to encounter back home, from marketing and tool maintenance to bee-keeping and pasteurising. On return, the students become mentors for their neighbours.

"Their farms are working models of how productive low input systems can be," said Professor Garforth. He ascribed the success to the scale of the farms and the use of organic methods.

"Each enterprise is typical of other households in the area. That means other Ugandan farmers can see exactly how to carry out every step - and its feasibility," he said.

At the end of a year students receive a postgraduate certificate in organic farming. One former student is now able to produce more than enough to feed his family and sells the rest. The resulting profit is ploughed back into more livestock.

In future, the trust is going to concentrate funds on training in Uganda and the future of Warren Farm - one of the few parts of rural England to see native African plants growing in abundance and tended by farmers in traditional African garments - is uncertain.

Graphic; 'Uganda's drive towards sustainable farming' not available on database.

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