May 26, 2024

Learning through farmer schools: How Ugandan communities have found self-reliance

Action Against Hunger has worked with partner organizations to teach agriculture skills and help incoming refugees learn how to improve food security

Action Against Hunger has worked with partner organizations to teach agriculture skills and help incoming refugees learn how to improve food security

Marry Chikwanda in Uganda

The pressure on Uganda’s natural surroundings is immense. Due to limited resources, a large number of farmers are resorting to draining wetlands in order to carry out agriculture. In addition, deforestation, overgrazing, soil depletion, and water contamination are causing negative effects on the cultivation and harvesting processes. In the past few years, the decay has worsened due to the impact of climate shocks. Although agriculture remains the main sector of employment for over 70% of Uganda’s population, the decrease in crop production has resulted in the loss of livelihoods for many.

For the past four years, Action Against Hunger has collaborated with allied groups to provide education on agricultural techniques and support newly arrived refugees in enhancing their access to food. We initiated a program that established Farmer Field Schools, a collaborative association of farmers who convene to exchange resources, impart expertise, and attain individual objectives. Action Against Hunger manages and supports every Farmer Field School by providing essential equipment and resources to aid the success of the farmers. After some years of farming, every farmer progresses to a new level where they are motivated to establish more ambitious aspirations and motivate those surrounding them.

As a participant of the Farmer Field School located in Terego District, Jimmy Dratele was provided with essential farming tools from Action Against Hunger such as hoes, seeds, and pesticides to jump-start his agricultural endeavors. Jimmy’s entrepreneurship journey was also a path towards fostering his self-sufficiency.

“It gave me knowledge,” he says. “I was taught financial discipline. I managed to buy a motorcycle and a small grinding mill, and now there is growth in my work.”

When Jimmy is overwhelmed with tasks, he enlists the assistance of his neighbors, enabling them to enhance their abilities and generate additional earnings. The Farmer Field Schools initiate a chain reaction where one pupil educates another, and subsequently, others, resulting in the expansion of the acquired skills throughout the whole society.

Action Against Hunger‘s program has had a direct impact on approximately 6,000 farmers across over 150 Farmer Field Schools since 2019. According to Agricultural Officer Herbert Jurua, the introduction of new agricultural technologies by schools in the Terego District has greatly benefited local communities. At no cost, they provided implements, seeds, propagation materials, and superior strains of livestock.

Schools provide assistance beyond the advancement of agriculture. Farmers are also educated on the intertwined relationship between farming and livestock management, enabling them to effectively handle and tend to their animals. The endeavor has furnished groups with 480 oxen and 134 ox plows, which assist them in various duties like plowing their fields, conveying commodities to the marketplace, etc. By using an ox plow, a community can cultivate twice the size of an acre of land in just one to two weeks, which is significantly faster than the two months it takes to cultivate an acre by hand using hoes.

Rajab Safi, who is the head of a Farmer Field School located in Terego District, employs oxen not only for plowing a larger area of land but also for carrying goods and grinding a considerable amount of cassava.

Apart from receiving oxen, numerous members of the Farmer Field School were gifted with a total of 1,829 goats. The District Veterinary Officers provided training to Community Animal Health Workers on how to properly care for their livestock and safeguard animal health using vaccines and other techniques for preventing diseases.

The community is optimistic that their enterprises will endure far beyond the completion of the undertaking. In Yumbe District, Zainab Owok utilized two acres of land for farming activity, which took place two years ago. He enlarged his land to three acres last year and has intentions to cultivate ten acres in the upcoming year.

Last year, a total of 140 acres were cultivated by members of the Farmer Field School in the Adjumani district. Despite the lack of rainfall this year, the farmers are confident that they will yield a harvest of 400 acres in this specific district. The community not only experiences an increase in their production volume, but also gains a sense of assurance in being able to provide for themselves, maintain sustainability, and achieve self-reliance without external assistance.

Once Loyce Afulu began learning farming techniques from fellow community members and worked on her own farm with the assistance of her neighbors, she experienced a mental awakening as to the possibilities of agriculture. She attributes this newfound insight to her participation in the Yumbe District’s Farmer Field School. Various methods were implemented to make the most of the land, including the installation of irrigation systems powered by solar energy, the cultivation of the soil, and the utilization of ox-drawn ploughs. Two bags of cassava cuttings were given to her, and she chose to plant them in her personal garden. In no time, the clippings burgeoned into a stunning creation that she hadn’t fathomed beforehand.

She expressed that the project has provided us with assistance and it has bolstered my fortitude. Having a goal has ignited my inspiration. My objective is to serve as a model for the individuals residing in Ariwa, particularly those from my village. The instruction I underwent significantly impacted and changed my life in a positive way.