Model farmers profit from new skills in Kasese
“I was doing so many wrong things,” says pig farmer Obedi Nsabimana. “For example, I used to tie the pigs with ropes, not knowing that this was affecting their growth. I didn’t know the pigs should be dewormed as well as be sprayed against skin parasites for good health. Given the fact I was so unaware of proper management of these animals, I kept just a few and was not really serious about it, so I only had three pigs.”
Obedi, a 37-year-old father of six children from Kibuga village in western Uganda, was then selected to be part of a ‘model farmer’ initiative run by Save the Children, with funding from Japan’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. This part of western Uganda is prone to disasters such as flash floods, landslides and crop diseases, and farmers are particularly vulnerable. Part of a wider project to help make communities more resilient to future disasters, it aims to encourage sustainable ‘climate smart’ agriculture against the reality of harsh and constantly changing weather, pests and diseases. Up to 100 ‘model farmers’ were selected and trained in good practices such as pest control, seed selection, soil improvement and post-harvest techniques.
After the skills training, Obedi felt ready to take a big step. “My way of doing things has changed significantly. I gained confidence, knowledge and skills and was really motivated to develop my farm. So I bought six more pigs, making a total of nine. After six months I sold eight and cashed in 3 million shillings (about $809). From this I was able to buy one acre of land. The one pig that remained farrowed six piglets, and I decided to buy another three piglets. I sold the sow (mother) after the piglets had finished weaning. In addition, I was able to plant sweet potatoes and I’m able to feed the pigs on these leaves, and then later harvest the potatoes for food.”
Obedi’s training and success has had a big impact on his children. “We can buy food comfortably, and as a parent I’m not worried about school fees anymore.”
The model farmers in each village then pass on the information and skills to other farmers in the village, transforming the lives of one farmer at a time. Obedi is now training other farmers in the village. “Information is power,” he says. “There is value in knowledge and skills. I see myself in a better place in just a few years to come.”
Owimana Ann, a 35-year-old single mother of four children from Kivenginyi village, was also selected to take part in training. However, the immediate results were disappointing.
“After the training I was given 30kgs of beans, since this was my farming enterprise. I went ahead and planted them but unfortunately they did not yield as expected, so I only got 16kgs.”
But Ann didn’t give up.
“That didn’t make me lose hope because I still had the knowledge and skills –with such you don’t just give up. So I tasked myself to do better in the next season. I put in more effort in terms of management, as we were trained. I did things completely differently this time.
“Previously I used to weed only once, spray once, then sit back and wait for the months to go by until harvest time. After being trained, now I weed three times or more depending on how fast the weeds grow. I keep checking on my garden almost on a weekly basis to see at which rate my crops are growing, as well as spraying often. My yield for this season was actually better than ever before – I got four bags as opposed to the previous two bags with the same seed input.”
Ann sold three of the bags for 970,000 shillings (about $260) and kept one bag for consumption at home. “Now I know the value of not selling everything,” says Ann, “which I learnt through the post-harvest handling training. I used the money, with a top up, to acquire half an acre of land, so as to expand my farming enterprise.” She bought a silo to improve the storage of her produce, through a loan which she is now able to pay off with the extra profits.
“From all the changes that I have made so far, the most significant is being able to keep produce for home consumption. I never sell all – I plan for tomorrow and I plan for days of food scarcity. This is major, and with the silo I have no worries of my produce going bad.”