For many, church grounds are a place for prayer and spiritual reflection. For 28-year-old Maxwell and his friends, their local church has also provided them with a place to earn a living for themselves and their families.
Maxwell lives with his wife and 3-year-old son in Abuli village in Apac district, Northern Uganda, where he has been farming for a long time. He grows and sells tomatoes, peppers, jackfruit and bananas. Despite his endevours Maxwell had struggled to make a living on a small plot of land.
“My land is small and there was no readily available market for the crops and the prices were very low. I wanted to start in larger scale horticulture but had no idea how to plant and manage seed beds. I didn’t know how to space them or how to spray crops to manage pests and diseases,” Maxwell says.
Young Africa Works: Markets for Youth
Fortunately, a friend of Maxwell’s heard about Nile Forestry Agro and their partnership with the Young Africa Works: Markets for Youth programme. GOAL is partnering with the Mastercard Foundation to help 300,000 young Ugandans access dignified and fulfilling employment as part of Young Africa Works. Maxwell and his friends contacted Nile Forestry Agro and things began to move fast from there.
Maxwell and his group received training to help manage horticultural crops, learn which chemicals to use and how to market their produce. After the training, the group was provided with tomatoes and green pepper seeds to start off their farm.
The programme was transformative for Maxwell. But their group still needed to source land. Fortunately, their community church stepped in and offered their land. Maxwell and his team cleared bush on the land for the farm, but had to hire an ox-plough from one of the church elders for the second ploughing at 100,000Shs (c.$25USD). This was the only cost they incurred in starting the farm, as they did majority of the work by hand.
On selling off their first harvest, the group earned an impressive 212,500Shs (USD$55) from the tomatoes and 245,000Shs (USD$65) from the green pepper. They are still harvesting green pepper and expect to earn even more.
Increasing Family Incomes
Maxwell and his group used the earnings to formally register as a business, to dig a water reservoir and to rent a room at the church for produce storage. They have also since set out to start their own individual gardens, planting onions, eggplants and cabbages.
While his other group members have started gardens closer to their homes on their own land, Maxwell’s individual garden is still on church land. He keeps records of all his expenditures and earnings and is very happy with his current income stream. He’s now growing and earning significantly more than he was before he started the programme.
“I now earn three times what I used to earn. My household income is much more stable, and I have big plans for my family and my farm if all goes well,” Maxwell says with a smile on his face.
Planning for a better future
Going forward, Maxwell hopes to acquire his own land for farming, over which he will have full control of his own farm to ensure his children get a decent formal education, and enable him to build his family a better home.
Jasper, a friend of Maxwell’s and also a member of the group, is thankful for what they have achieved together. While the threat of drought is a constant concern, they are working together to purchase a water pump to tackle the drying conditions.
The group also want to strengthen and upskill enough to share their expertise with other young people in their community, through trainings on the demonstration farm.
“Young people have already reached out to us for advice and training in horticulture,” Jasper says.
With the determination and tools needed to grow, Maxwell and his community are already looking forward to a brighter future.