Fields demonstrating the power of Push Pull technology

A partnership putting nature first

Guy Singh-Watson, Founder of Riverford Organic Farmers and Patron of Send a Cow, Send a Cow Country Director for Uganda Pamela, and our Farm Systems Coordinator Sheila discuss organic farming and Push-Pull technology; a nature-based solution to prevent pests destroying staple maize crops 

Riverford has supported Send a Cow for over a decade, and most recently followed a project in Rakai, Uganda supporting orphans and their carers to implement sustainable organic agriculture.  

The new project supported by Riverford will be the first time Push-Pull is implemented in this area of Uganda. Send a Cow will work with 400 farming families across Kyotera to roll out the pest management method. Staff will also work with whole families to identify the gender imbalances within households so they can work together to achieve resilient harvests.

You can watch the webinar here, or read highlights below. 

How does Send a Cow’s training lead to sustainable development?

Send a Cow gives a hand up not a hand out. Farmers are tasked to share their knowledge with their neighbours, Peer Farmer trainers stay in the community long after the project has finished and they offer guidance and support to their neighbours.” 

- Sheila, Farm Systems Coordinator

Are pests a growing problem in Africa? Is this related to climate change?

“Climate Change is a world-wide problem, in Uganda we’re seeing a lot of floods, rains coming at the wrong time and a lot of sunshine. Send a Cow’s role is to see how we can build resilience at household level and among the community, so they are able to tackle the shocks that come, such as floods and drought. We ask farmers if they have alternatives, do they have multiple sources of income that they’re able to fall back on if aspects of their farm fail? Our role is to help identify other sources of income in case the climate change has detrimental impacts – for example, this Push-Pull project will help to raise the quality and quantity of maize grown.”

- Pamela, Country Director Uganda

Riverford's Guy Singh Watson
One of the things I love about Send a Cow is that they are patient… you can’t expect to change the world in a two or three year project. The patience that Send a Cow has, and their constancy of mission, are one of the things I admire most.”
- Guy Singh-Watson

Why is Push-Pull so effective against Pests?

“Maize is the common crop in Uganda, you’ll find it in every household, no matter how small. We want to see how best we can work with those farmers to protect that crop and gain as much as possible out of it. Stemborer Moths and Striga Weed are big problems for Ugandan farmers. At Send a Cow, we work with those vulnerable families to protect whatever little they have so they can gain as much as possible out of it. Farmers will always grow maize, it can grow twice in a year – this Push-Pull method will help farmers to fight these pests and improve their harvests.”

- Pamela, Country Director Uganda

Most people will know about repellent plants such as planting onions with your carrots to keep away root flies. The Push-Pull system is one that has both a repellent plant but also an attractant plant – a trap crop so that gives pests somewhere else to go. At Send a Cow we want to encourage the use of these types of biological controls. Methods such as Push-Pull can be used before botanical controls (natural, plant based chemicals) as Farmers can organise their farm in a way that they can control pests. It’s a systems idea that we can tip the whole farm system in favour of the farmer.”

- Sheila, Farm Systems Coordinator

Why is organic such an important solution in rural Africa?

“We are encouraging farmers to grow diverse, organic food crops on their farms - our projects encourage farmers to look at family nutrition and work from there. Unlike in the UK, farming in Uganda is still about feeding your family from your farm, and then feeding your community. Diverse crops and multipurpose farmers leads to sustainable harvests.”

- Sheila, Farm Systems Coordinator

“I absolutely believe that organic farming can feed the world… it requires a much more skilful form of agriculture which I saw in a lot of Ugandan farmers. We need a lot of re-education.”

- Guy, Riverford Organic Farmers

"Sometimes NGOs ignore the gender aspect and think inputs will provide a solution, but that’s not always the case. Gender is mainstreamed across all of Send a Cow’s projects."
- Pamela Ebanyat

Image courtesy of ICIPE

Is gender really as critical to climate-smart development as we’re told?

“Sometimes NGOs ignore the gender aspect and think inputs will provide a solution, but that’s not always the case. Gender is mainstreamed across all of Send a Cow’s projects, so that the whole household understands their requirements. With this Push-Pull project we will be working with the whole household so they understand what their responsibilities are to promote this method of farming.”

- Pamela, Country Director Uganda

“I heard Send a Cow talk about their achievements on gender equality, and thought, ‘ahh, they’re just saying that to get the funding – no one changes that quickly’. But it was astonishing to see the pace of change within gender roles over the course of a year– it was a radical revaluation of roles. I totally take my hat off to Send a Cow and the staff who are working to achieving gender equality.”

- Guy, Riverford Organic Farmers

Riverford’s co-owners voted this year to support the new Push-Pull project in Uganda. An integrated pest management system, it works through intercropping maize and Desmodium (which covers and protects soils from degradation, fixing atmospheric nitrogen and increases nutrients). Surrounding these with types of cow pasture, farmers can protect their crops from pests and weeds, and improve soil health. This video explains the method in more depth.