When John Walter Ocamgiwu dropped out of school in primary five, he shifted his focus onto farming, which has sustained him and his family since 1986. However, as he admits, the yields from his farming projects were never incredibly impressive but just enough to keep his family going.
“I take farming as a business and I used to plant many crops on my land but they did not do well. I planted maize, sorghum, millet, and sometimes even sunflower and soya bean,” he said.
This year, however, the 48-year-old Ocamgiwu is the toast of Latida Village in Pawor Parish, Lokung Sub County, which is some 20 kilometres from Lamwo district headquarters in Acholi sub-region. The reason is that in July this year, Ocamgiwu reaped a massive harvest from his soya bean crop.
Ocamgiwu’s friend, Richard Opoka, says while his harvest from 25 acres of sim-sim was impressive, neither he nor any other resident of Lukum Sub County can lift a candle to their friend’s feat.
“Walter harvested about 50 bags,” said the 53-year-old farmer, stating a fact which Ocamgiwu later confirmed. “He is leading us all this season and he is now still even harvesting some more.”
In a separate interview, Ocamgiwu said he harvested more than 50 bags from 15 acres of land. He added that in the next season, he plans to increase the number of his simsim gardens to 20 acres (?).
“This year I did well and I got money that I am using to pay school fees for my son in UTC (Uganda Technical College) Lira,” he said, adding that thanks to his farming exploits, he can educate all of his five children.
The two farmers from Lamwo district, both of who belong to Pangira Millers Cooperative Society, say their increased yields are due to a mindset change that resulted from participating in training conducted by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in parts of the Acholi and Lango subregion. Facilitation for Innovations and Sustainable Productivity (FINASP) also conducted similar trainings in parts of the Lango sub region.
Established in 1960, IIRR is a research and community development organization focused on empowerment, innovation, and transformation to address rural poverty. It currently operates in the eight developing countries Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Myanmar, Philippines, South Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
FINASP Uganda is a humanitarian & development organization based in Uganda and registered as an NGO since 2014. Their focus is to promote sustainable development through capacity building, research, innovation sand other initiatives among the rural communities in Uganda. Currently they have operational offices in Northern (Lira district) and Eastern Uganda (Soroti District).
IIRR and FINASP Uganda were commissioned by the German government through its international development agency GIZ, and the Uganda government, to conduct the training in the six northern Uganda districts of Oyam, Lira, Amolatar, Dokolo, Agago, and Kitgum with the support of, the Promoting Rural Development (PRUDEV) Programme.
PRUDEV is designed to build the capacity of local communities to foster agriculture-based Local Economic Development (LED), improve market integration, access to financial services, implementation of climate-smart agriculture practices, enhance awareness and capacities about monitoring reporting and verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, as well as improve the management of water resources.
Farmers such as Ocamgiwu and Opoka who have attended the training say the initiative equipped them with the knowledge to change their farming practices, resulting in better yields on the same land they had tilled for years.
“In the past, we used to farm without knowing which seed [read crop] is bringing us the cash or which seed can we should concentrate on. We would plant many seeds and hope that one of them does well but nowadays we concentrate on a few seeds. For me, now I concentrate on soya beans and sim sim,” said Opoka.
With increased resources and the confidence to expand their farms, farmers are now providing more employment opportunities for people in their community. Opoka says he employs seven men and three women to clear his land, open the field and plant during farming season, while Ocamgiwu says he has recruited seven men and four women.
Ocamgiwu says that while most farmers in Uganda often leave many things to luck, he learned during the training that the secret to a high yield is to pay attention to every stage of farming, right from planting.
“The lesson that I learned from the training is that if you want to be a good farmer, you have to buy quality seeds because they produce high yields. If you use the seeds that were kept at home, the yield may not be good because the storage may not have been good. Some of them may have got rotten and their germination will not be 100 percent,” said Ocamgiwu.
So far, GIZ’s PRUDEV initiative has enabled 11,700 farmers to receive training in basic economic skills, 200 MSMEs to receive skills support to develop business plans, and 25 executives of farmer organizations to receive training and coaching in organizational development. The programme has also contributed to the awareness and sensitization of the public on agent banking and to establishment of about 240 bank agents in rural areas and training of 180 district staff about Local Economic Development.
“Trainings on farm level and capacity development of local governments and civil society will directly benefit the rural population in northern Uganda,” says a briefing note by GIZ. “Our efforts will contribute to general agriculture-based climate-smart local economic development. Ultimately, PRUDEV will set the ground to create new jobs and increase productivity and incomes.”
by Benon Herbert Oluka