Uganda: Landmine victim rebuilds his life (By Geoffrey Ojok, for Farm Radio Weekly)

| May 5, 2014

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Andrew Okwera lost a leg after he stepped on a landmine. In March 2003, the Lord’s Resistance Army placed landmines around the camp for internally displaced people where Mr. Okwera was living. Over a thousand people were killed.

Many victims were hacked with machetes. Mr. Okwera’s left leg was wounded by the landmine as he attempted to escape the carnage. Members of the Uganda Red Cross Society took him to the Lira Referral Hospital the following morning. His bone was badly damaged and, once an infection took hold, the leg had to be amputated.

Mr. Okwera stands on his one good leg and balances himself with his hoe in the hot sunshine. The farmer from Barlonyo village in Lira district, northern Uganda, has worked hard to overcome his setbacks. He counts himself lucky. He says, ”I went back into farming five years ago when food scarcity hit this place, in order to tackle my problems.”

Mr. Okwera works in his fields with his wife. He is an experienced farmer and has the knowledge to keep his farm running. Because he realizes that the climate is changing, he planted 30 seedlings of an improved orange tree variety as insurance against the failure of his staple crops.

He says, “At harvesting time, I reaped five bags of maize from one and a half acres of land [two-thirds of a hectare] last season. I then sold it to a private produce buyer and got 300,000 Ugandan shillings [$118 US]. I also harvested three bags of soybeans which I sold for 690,000 shillings [$273 US].”

Mr. Okwera used the money to buy an ox plough and two oxen. He is confident this will make his farming activities much easier. He also enrolled in Barlonyo vocational school this year. He is learning how to lay bricks and make concrete floors and pillars in order to construct buildings.

The government of Uganda built the vocational school in 2010 with support from Norway. The project was dedicated to the memory of the more than 1,000 people killed by LRA rebels in Barlonyo during the March 2003 attack.

From his success in the fields, and his training at the vocational school, Mr. Okwera has built a three-roomed house in Barlonyo village, where he lives with his family. He says, “[I am] overwhelmed by this turn of events. I am inspired to go into … larger farming.”