Business is growing for farmers in northern Uganda
Northern Uganda has long struggled with development after years of conflict. Many young people were displaced during the fighting and didn’t get a chance to learn the skills that would ensure they could put food on the table. Through volunteers such as Sheila Rushforth, we’re working to change this.
Here, Sheila discusses the project and its impact over recent years.
20 years of conflict
Northern Uganda experienced conflict for 20 years with the Lords Resistance Army rebel group abducting children and young people and forcing them to become child soldiers. The majority of villagers were moved to internally displaced people’s camps, with some remaining there for years.
After the conflict
Once the peace agreements were signed in 2006, it took a while before people went back to their villages. Then they found their animals were gone and their fields overgrown. Often they had nothing but a hoe to their name. They had lost their skills having spent years sitting in the camps, reliant on food hand-outs. Now the challenge was moving from a humanitarian response to a positive and sustainable solution.
Business start-up kits
It began with ‘business start-up kits’, including livestock such as oxen and pigs, and continued with teaching the building blocks of good business development: Technical training on crop management, financial literacy and running savings and loans schemes. Farmers developed the right skills and began to advance together.
Reaping the benefits
It has been a great success. By the end of my placement last year farmer groups were stronger, more land was cultivated, there was more livestock and increased savings. In short, business was better.
Furthermore individuals and groups had diversified their enterprises. They were more resilient to weather changes and fluctuating market prices. Nearly half the groups had already joined larger farmer cooperatives, or were working together to create new cooperatives which would give them better bargaining power with major buyers.
There were different success stories across the groups. One group - Pe Nwongi in Lira initially had nine pigs and money to build a sty. They now have beehives, a citrus plantation, pine trees, goats and oxen and a plough. This means their members can afford to pay school fees, medical costs and are investing in their future. They’re not just standing on their own two feet. They’re thriving.
They’re not just standing on their own two feet. They’re thriving.
I was heart-broken to leave Uganda. I saw big changes in the people I spent time with. They had built strong foundations and were ready to move upwards. We got to know each other, despite the language barrier, and I was so inspired by the commitment and self-help within local communities – certainly not an image we usually receive in the media. I’m still in touch with many people I got to know, and hope to revisit one day