Most smallholder farmers in northern and eastern Uganda have low food reserves and are vulnerable to food insecurity. Unpredictable weather, inefficient growing practices, poor pest and disease management, and the lingering effects of an 18-year-long civil war are just some of the challenges they face. To help them, ACDI/VOCA is teaching sustainable approaches to smallholder agriculture. The USAID-funded PL 480 Title II Program features a specialized series of training modules designed to empower farmers to increase crop production and productivity by optimizing the use of scarce resources. ACDI/VOCA provides training and technical assistance to field extension workers and lead farmers on modern farming technologies such as variety selection, proper pest and disease management, proper weeding, planting in rows with correct spacing and timely planting.
To deliver this training, ACDI/VOCA funds local organizations that work with farmer groups. Each farmer group has a lead farmer and a demonstration plot in which all the farmers in the group use sound agronomic practices and measure the improvements realized through the new techniques and practices taught in the trainings.
ACDI/VOCA also teaches farmers about post-harvest handling and collective marketing. The training has enabled farmers to dry their produce to acceptable moisture levels to avoid molding, minimize the damage of grain through proper shelling and improve their storage practices to preserve crop quality and quantity.
To increase food security among particularly vulnerable groups, ACDI/VOCA’s program targets disadvantaged and marginalized populations, such as people living with HIV/AIDS and internally displaced people.
Agnes*, a 38-year-old with HIV, is one of the people who have benefitted from the program. She lives with her family in in a small hut with mud walls and a grass-thatched roof. They have a small 3-acre plot of land, which is used for farming.
Agnes describes the training she received from Farming for Food and Development-Eastern Uganda or FADEP, ACDI/VOCA’s local grantee, as the biggest positive change in her life. It has enabled her to make efficient use of the family plot and to earn a living at farming. From the sale of her last maize and bean harvest, Agnes earned a remarkable income of $360. She invested the money in one acre of maize and one acre of beans the following season, and now expects to get close to $600 from the sale of the crops. She is also growing sweet potatoes from plants received from her farmer group’s multiplication garden. In addition, she maintains a kitchen garden with nutritious vegetables to supplement family meals.
Agnes expressed her sincere gratitude to USAID, ACDI/VOCA and FADEP for having supported her so much. During a FADEP staff visit to her farm, She said, “Inuli mama na baba,” Lugwere for “You are now my mother and father.” She said that, with the knowledge gained from the PL 480 Title II project, she was able to increase production and earn much more money. With her additional income she built a permanent house and moved away from the mud hut.
*Agnes's last name is not used to protect her identity.
To learn more about ACDI/VOCA's work in Uganda, click here.
|This story, written by Dennis Natumanya of ACDI/VOCA-Uganda, was a runner-up in ACDI/VOCA's 2008 Success Story Contest.|