Sitting under a big mango tree shed, a group of women and men peel freshly harvested cassava tubers that will later be dried in the scorching sunshine in Nam Abili Village, Adilang Sub-County, Agago district in northern Uganda.
Barely making ends meet
On this day, the group is supporting 26-year-old Josephine Adong, a fellow member of Can Oribo Ariba (Poverty Made Us Come Together) Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). The mother of three has recently ventured into commercial agriculture following a series of sensitisation efforts supported by GOAL.
Like many subsistence farmers in most parts of Uganda, Josephine was accustomed to growing crops such as beans, sweet potatoes, and millet on her family’s small piece of land purely for home consumption, with no surplus to sell and cater to other family needs.
“On many occasions, I had no money to cater for the children’s school and medical bills. This is due to my lack of knowledge on better farming techniques, as I had for years depended on a hand hoe, which would give me minimal yields at the end of each season,” she explained, before adding that: “I used to sleep in a very tiny house with all children and this was very discomforting. To make matters worse, we used a mat as our only bed.”
Starting a business
Today Josephine is glad that she received the training needed to improve her farming under the Uganda Youth Engine (UYE) project, with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), which aims to empower 3,715 young people to engage in agricultural income-generating activities. 70% of the young people targeted under this project are women.
The project has been deployed in four sub-counties of Agago District, including Geregere, Kotomor, Adilang, and Wol, and encourages young people to engage in the soybean and cassava value chains as a way of generating income. Josephine joined the UYE project in 2021 and immediately began growing cassava on seven hectares of land. Using the proceeds from her cassava, she has started a produce business where she buys and resells crops such as beans, maize, and millet. She is also the current chairperson of her local VSLA, which has 32 members (23 of whom are women).
“Last year, I saved 1,756,000 Uganda shillings (approx. $470 or €425) and used the money to purchase two ox ploughs, in preparation for this year’s farming season. I’m extremely grateful to GOAL for giving me skills in agriculture and savings that are greatly improving our lives as a family,” Josephine said. “My life has greatly improved, since I can now afford to pay school fees for my children, pay medical bills, and provide other basic necessities like clothes and food.”
Despite a prolonged drought that devastated several gardens in her home district of Agago in 2022, Josephine is estimated to earn between 6 to 7 million Ugandan shillings (approx. $1,876 or €1,660) this year, which she will use to kick start the construction of a brick house for her family, to replace their tiny mud-and-wattle semi-permanent hut.