Jasper Dan Okello | May 13, 2013
Ms. Josephine Acen made a meagre living by making and selling pancakes and growing a few crops. She operated her small business for several years, but never earned enough. Her life changed when she received new land and new knowledge.
Ms. Acen lives in Aboke sub-county, in the Kole district of northern Uganda. She often earned less than 100,000 Ugandan Shillings (less than $40 US) a month from her work. This was not enough to allow her to pay for her family’s basic necessities, and further her four children’s education.
Although the government provides free primary education for all, Ms. Acen could pay for only one of her children to attend secondary school.
Her uncle allowed her to move her family onto his land. Ms. Acen says: “My earning has increased since I moved in here to stay at [my uncle’s] place because I now have enough land.”
The Ugandan government operates the National Agricultural Advisory Services, or NAADS. After attending workshops run by NAADS, Ms. Acen harvested 15 bags of soya beans from one and a half hectares of land. At 750 Ugandan shillings per kilo, she earned one and a half million shillings (approximately $600 US). The money helped pay for her son’s university tuition.
Extension workers introduced her to new crops and techniques, including composting, intercropping and crop rotation. Ms. Acen applied her new knowledge immediately. She says, “The following season, I planted maize on the same land and earned about 900,000 Shillings ($350 US) extra.”
Denis Oyap is the NAADS coordinator for Aboke sub-county. He taught Ms. Acen to make her own compost from whatever raw materials were available on her small farm. She uses maize stalks and leaves, and the compost has helped her pineapples grow well. This year, she expects to earn about three million shillings ($1,175 US) from selling the fruit. With this income, she plans to build a permanent house.
Ms. Acen thinks that growing more than one cash crop works because it protects farmers against fluctuating prices. If one crop drops in price, farmers have a second option.
Her success has inspired her neighbours. They now visit her for advice on how growing more than one crop can make the most of their land. They, too, have learned to leave enough space in their fields to grow more food crops for their families.
Ms. Acen knows she was fortunate to move onto her uncle’s land and attend trainings through NAADS. She says, “If I had not moved to stay with my uncle, I couldn’t afford to pay school fees for my children and get more food.”