St Jude Family Projects extended its campus recently to a more spacious training centre called St Jude College of Agro-ecology, or SCOA, where it offers various training courses in sustainable agriculture.
Here we have accommodation for 64 people in self contain rooms, each with bathroom and hot water, and free wifi. We have larger classrooms, and a hall which can accommodate up to 600 people. Meals are included with residential courses, and there are also outside games available and evening entertainment.
At SCOA you can find practical demonstrations of techniques that can offer solutions to farming issues, and climate change mitigation strategies, including:
- Water harvesting- we demonstrate how to collect water run off from buildings and the ground, and how to store it.
- Irrigation- we show simple ways to irrigate crops more efficiently.
- Agro-forestry- we have different methods of growing multipurpose trees, including as part of a ‘food forest’ to use space effectively, and intercropped with commercial crops for added value.
- Nursery planting- we teach how to successfully propagate plats and trees in of nursery.
- Permaculture- our new permaculture garden integrates all methods of sustainable farming, to show smallholders how to make the most out of their land.
Training courses of between 3 and 14 days are organized for NGO trainers and farmers groups for a nominal fee. The exact content of each course varies to the needs of the group, but will always focus around sustainability and adding value for farmers. We say that 25% of a course will be theoretical and 75% hands on demonstration. To organise a training course for your group, please contact -. Groups are also welcome to attend for a day tour of the demonstration farms.
In the past three years we have had a consistent attendance of farmers groups and individuals interested in learning more about sustainable farming.
- In 2015 – 2070 participants
- 2016 – 2086 participants
- 2017 – 3020 participants
In the 20 years of operation, St, Jude training center has had a strong impact on rural farming, especially in Masaka and Rakai districts. Over 80,000 local rural farmers, primarily single mothers and widows plus youth, are organized in self-help groups as a result of St. Jude training center intervention. These farmers have been trained in the techniques of organic farming and their living standards have greatly improved. The farmers’ cohesive groups have sustained their activities even after the end of the follow up program.
In general, the training centre has created a sense of self-employment and many people are now taking farming seriously as a business, which has improved their lifestyle and also their household food security.
Community extension training
St. Jude also conducts training within the community, in the district of greater Masaka.
We work with three main categories of farmers;
- Women- working with mainly vulnerable women such as widows, single mothers and the disabled, we offer them skills which can help with food security and improve their livelihoods. We use a top down approach to train the whole family, to ensure the skills are maintained through the next generation to preserve the environment.
- Youth- we teach the youth of the community alternatives to quick but destructive incomes such as charcoal and brick burning. These new skills positions them as ambassadors, and able to effectively pass on their knowledge to peers.
- Children- through our schools programme, we introduce children to organic farming and permaculture at an early age in the hope that they will be eager to show their parents and families their new skills, as well as provide good nutrition at schools.
Monitoring and follow up
All of our community outreach groups are entitled to follow up visits and monitoring by St. Jude, to support and encourage the upkeep of new skills. We particularly encourage the more vulnerable participants, such as women and youth, to form their own support groups to assist each other. Follow up visits are also available to groups trained at SCOA on request.
Training of trainers
Many organizations and farmers’ groups come to St. Jude for special ‘training of trainers’ courses, which are more intensive and professional, lasing between one and two weeks.