BEFORE you cover the night: Watch “A life without Kony”

21 04 2012

A few days ago together with a group of bloggers and storytellers we drove over 300 kilometers to Lira District in Northern Uganda to document stories of war victims.

As concerned citizens of Uganda we are aware that even though the war in Northern Uganda ended over six years ago, some of the effects of Kony’s brutality will never go away. Evelyn Akullo and her mother Mildred Omara survived narrowly when the rebels set their house (grass thatched hut) ablaze about 6 years ago. Even after numerous medical surgeries the duo sustains big scars from the severe burns.

As we excavate more stories of the victims of the war we learn that Kony remains the least on the agenda’s of the victims.

Evelyn Akullo, war victim + student

Evelyn is now back in school and her biggest worry is whether she will ever achieve her dream. Her dream is to become an engineer. She believes that her determination can get her there but she worries about the school fees. Her mother’s right hand and part of the neck remains paralyzed which makes it hard to bank on her for school fees.

Bosco Okema is a former child soldier – he regrets the things he was forced to do while in captivity. He escaped from captivity and he is one of the many returnees who got a chance to go back to school and later get a job. He is now the Administrator at Action for Community Development – Uganda. This non-profit organisation supports sustainable agriculture through giving seeds (ground nuts, soya beans extra) to war victims in different parts of Northern Uganda.

Morris Okello is a peasant farmer, his wife was 50 years old when the rebel abducted her. She was later voluntarily released from captivity and she returned home. Morris’ family is one of the 50 beneficiaries from Action for Community Development’s program.

Morris’ farm is his sole source of livelihood and this has helped him to support his family and send some of his children back to school. “What he did was actually very very bad, I have heard where they would even roast people in pots in some other adjacent villages there. capturing small children….. those were very very bad thing” Morris laments. He says that he doesn’t see capturing Kony as a priority because Kony is not in Northern Uganda at the moment. He recommends more sustainable ways of supporting the people of Northern Uganda.

to be continued….





Youth, Rural Development and ICT: ARDYIS Essay Contest Extended to 15 August 2010!

26 07 2010

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in collaboration with FARA, Yam-Pukri, CAFAN, AYF, ANAFE, PAFPNET, has recently launched an essay writing contest on “Youth and ICTs in Agriculture and Rural Development”.

Youth finding solutions to challenges in agriculture and rural development using ICT !

The deadline to submit is extended to 15 August 2010.
The essay contest is open to young people aged 18 – 25 years old, from urban or rural areas of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific countries. Win up to 1,500 Euros, make your voice heard and improve your capacity by submitting your essay today!

Interested? : Read Details here:- http://ardyis.cta.int/en/activities/awards/item/48-awards/48-awards





internet Vs mobile phone: rural farmers to judge!

18 04 2010

Talking about social media and ICT. Today I am helping my friend Cissy to create a Facebook page for her organization. She works with Ntulume Village Women’s Development Association (NVIWODA). In a humble setting lies the story of the Ntulume Village Women’s Development Association (NVIWODA). In June 1987 a group of women residing in Ntulume Village founded, Ntulume Village Women Development Association. NVIWODA operates in ten districts of Uganda, the organization equips women with skills, networks and shares knowledge and information with twenty seven women community based groups.

Apparently NVIWODA does not have an independent website, however they are hosted on a subdomain www.nviwoda.internnection.com – powered by Kabissa and also profiled on the women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) website – http://www.wougnet.org/Profiles/nviwoda.html

NVIWODA is one of the 99 or so women organizations profiled on the WOUGNET website.

As we chat she sparks a question, “So, how has the internet benefited the rural farmers in marketing their produce?”

Nice question – I think to myself. But the internet has not benefited the rural farmers that much when it comes to marketing their produce. The rural farmers have more or less benefited from the internet indirectly. As a matter of fact, access in rural areas remains a big challenge.

But this doesn’t mean that rural farmers have not used ICTs to commodity prices. The mobile phone has proved to be a

Women farmers testing use of Mobile Phones to access commodity prices..

very handy tool due to its flexibility in functionality and yet doesn’t require special skills to operate.

I telling her a living example on how Kubere Information Centre –  a project formed by Women of Uganda Network under the Information Sharing and Networking program has helped many rural farmers over the years on how to use ICTs to access agricultural information. Kubere Information Centre works with rural farmers from Lira, Oyam and Apac. These farmers are also trained on how to use the mobile phone to access commodity prices.

She was so excited to hear this; that the mobile phone can be used to access commodity prices. “I would love to share this knowledge with the rural farmers we work with.” I demonstrated to her how to access the commodity prices on her phone which is on the MTN service/ network. We request for the market prices for matooke – the sms charge is UGX220 (approximately USD 0.10). In just a few seconds she has the commodity prices for matooke in various districts around Uganda – “Interesting now I know how to use my phone better! I will be using my phone to send market prices to my colleagues in rural areas.”

Apparently she is working on an idea which involves the use of a notice board. On this notice board the farmers write their market prices prior to the communal markets in their rural areas. She says once implemented this idea would help reduce on exploitation of rural farmers. She says that this idea will first be implemented in Kabarole and then to other districts. She will also use her cell phone to access the commodity prices which she will then pass on to rural farmers to write on their notice boards prior to the market day.

“Many farmers in rural areas sell off their produce not for profit but to get necessities like kerosene to fuel lamps in homes.”

Become a Fan of NVIWODA on Facebook!!





I Reinvent Cooperative Farming and the Granary in Uganda

18 03 2010

“Food security is not just about a one meal.”

Cooperative farming is a system where farmers voluntarily come together,pool their resources in buying farm inputs,using resources (like land ,water, machinery) and market the produce and
divide the earnings.
Just like I said in: I report inadequate food access and availability in Uganda.
“Many regions in Uganda are practicing subsistence agriculture – mainly because the land is owned by private individuals in small plots; so, the
people choose what to do on their plots of land.”
Because family farms in Uganda are too small, not to mention issues like poverty – which makes modern farming equipment very expensive. Cooperative farming offers farmers a machinery pool, a marketing cooperative and a credit union.
Every thing that a local Ugandan farmer needs:

  • a platform to share farming skills and produce together as a team
  • the marketing cooperative ensures that farmers are not exploited against by the middle men.
  • the credit union makes it easy for farmers to acquire the loans they need to improve on their farms.

In Uganda, farming goes beyond just feeding one family. Agriculture is an “Economic Activity”. Even with subsistence farming being very common, farmers still hope to sell a small portion of their yields to generate some income. The problem comes when the yields are too small for the family. This where the poor farmer is stuck between “conflict of wants”:

  1. sell some of the small produce to provide other basic necessities (which in many cases results into food shortages). OR
  2. reserve all the farm yields for the family (which results into failure to provide other basic necessities)

A brief background of Cooperative Agriculture in Uganda
Cooperative farming exists Uganda – or at least it used to, but it didn’t turn out very well.
This is because:

  • at the time demand for food was not as high as it is today,
  • at the farmers didn’t see the need for modern farming equipment – no need for loans
  • farming on the family farms was subsistence – no need for agricultural markets or even machinery pool

Today, the agricultural sector is being modernized, demand for food is increasing day by day. It is about time we took farming to the NEXT Level – Cooperative farming.
This will help local farmers over come smallness. Production is done cooperatively providing a platform to share production land, machinery, skills and earnings.

THE GRANARY:

Scenario 1: “Our cooperative(s) has worked hard all season to produce corn or beans or whatever it is we have produced. Now, WHAT NEXT?”
A granary is a storehouse for threshed grain – helps to keep grain from rodents reach.
Granaries used to be common in many parts of East and Northern Uganda where grains like millet, corn (maize) are commonly grown.

A traditional granary is a round-shaped structure of about 8ft circumference, usually raised at least 3ft above the ground. It is constructed using local material such as mud and wattle and plastered
with a layer of cow dung to fill up holes and smoothen the finishing.

What happened to the Granary?

It all goes back to subsistence farming:

  1. Because the farmers are not cautious about the state of food access in Uganda, they gave up on the granaries.
  2. Increased levels of poverty – farmers want to sell off the surplus of their yields because thats the only way of earning to cater for other basic necessities (like school fee for the children and health care)
  3. farmers produce enough for their families – hence nothing to keep in the granaries.

Also READ: bosco-Uganda: The Granary and Granary – the Solution to Drought and Famine.

Of course the granary helps with seed security. Where there is NO seed security, food security cant be possible.

Increasing food access in the community and beyond:
I encourage farmers to start up cooperatives, we have explored some of the most important advantages (take advantage of economies of scale).
In my home village farmers are already coming up with such strategies – now the only thing to do is to help them make their cooperatives work – for social and economic benefit.

The Granary is very important. At least one granary per community. This will help check famine and rural poverty. But of course a community granary wouldn’t make much sense if the communities are not providing equal efforts towards food production. So, first I demand for equal commitment towards the cooperative society and once we have this spirit in place, we Reinvent Cooperative Farming and the Granary to increase and improve on farm yields while ensuring better storage measures for the seeds and yields.

READ COMMENTS ON MY URGENT EVOKE BLOGHERE





I report inadequate food access and availability in Uganda.

14 03 2010

Uganda’s economy widely depends on the agricultural sector. The biggest population of Ugandans benefits from Agriculture – both directly and indirectly.
Many regions in Uganda are practicing subsistence agriculture – mainly because the land is owned by private individuals in small plots; so, the people choose what to do on their plots of land.
Because families practice subsistence agriculture on small plots of land, their target is to produce enough to feed their families until the next harvest. In many cases they fall short of their target. Often yields are not enough to feed the family until the next harvest. This has greatly been attributed to the poor farming methods (many farmers have chosen to remain local – NO diversity in their farming methods), prolonged droughts, pests and diseases.
Under circumstances, the farmers are faced with situations where they have to sell part of their produce to cater for emerging needs – access health facilities, pay for school fees, rent, provide for their families, name it… In many cases they sell their produce at very low prices because the market is not readily available plus the middlemen exploit them because they are desperate to sell.

Threats to Food Security in Uganda:
Poor farming methods. Farmers are still practicing traditional farming methods which hamper their yields. Practices like cultivating up and down the slopes which lead to massive soil erosion, over cultivation not giving soil enough time to regain fertility among others. They grow local crops – which cannot survive under bad weather conditions and more prone to pests and diseases.

The LAND TENURE SYSTEM. Because the land is owned by individuals in small plots, every farmer aims at producing enough to feed their growing families. Farmers are producing on small scale because they are constrained by their plots. In many cases the plots are quarter an acre. The men also tend to have more control over the land as compared to the women – Gender and Land Issues. For example the man makes the final decision over what to use the land for. This limits on the productivity of the women interms of agriculture. Also the man has more control over the yields – in many cases they choose to sell/ trade part of the produce for “local beer”.

 

Pests and diseases. Poor selection of crops plus lack of preventative measure has also contributed greatly to the ever reducing yields in terms of quality and quantity. Many local farmers still grow local breeds which are less resistant to pests and diseases.


Lack of agriculture support and Market Support. The governement/ private sector has not worked out a strategic market and agriculture support plan for the farmers. Farmers are not knowledgeable about the available markets and market prices – hence they are exploited by the middle men. The work very hard season after season, year in year out to feed the nation but their efforts are not rewarded appropriately. The agriculture support programs by the government have not been effective – instead they have been failed by the high ranking official due to corruption, embezzlement and misuse of the funds (see one of the such cases here: Kanungu NAADS Officials Arrested).


The communities remain unaware of the food insecurity in the country. The ministry of Agriculture has not made enough efforts to sensitize the farmers about the inadeqaucy of food access and availability in the country. This has made the farmers more relactant in terms of production. The farmers are also unaware about the opportunities provided by large scale production.


Increasing population – triggering rural urban migration! The population of Uganda is growing at a very high rate. As the population grows, the competition for food and land increases. As a result the demand for agricultural products increases – the supply remains constant or increases by a very small margin making food very expensive. The energetic youth are swarming cities like (Kampala the capital of Uganda) and other towns leaving food production to the elderly. The elderly are less energetic, less flexible and less innovative.

 


Many people still believe that the agricultural sector is for the illiterates. This has made the agricultural sector less sounding over the years. The learned are looking for “white collar jobs” in big companies.


Innovative solutions

Many non-profits, the government and individuals are making efforts to ensure a future with guaranteed food security. Here I must mention the work done by the following:

 

Food and Agriculture Organisation Uganda – FAO’s Integrated Support to Sustainable Development and Food Security Programme (IP). The aim of the IP is to promote synergy through interdisciplinary collaboration and information-sharing across and in support of ongoing rural development programmes.

 

World Food Programme. WFP carries out a range of development activities that seek to address the underlying causes of food insecurity through two priority sectors: agriculture and market support, and food and nutrition security. Agriculture and market support to small-scale farmers and traders aims to leverage WFP’s local purchasing and is provided through the construction and rehabilitation of market infrastructure such as warehouses and community market access roads; training in post harvest handling; and the purchase of the farmers’ produce – mainly cereals and pulses.

 

National Agriculture Research Organisation.


Agricultural Research and Extension Network (ARENET). Agriculture Research Extension Network (ARENET) is dedicated to helping anyone involved in improving rural farming to readily access practical, technical and relevant agricultural information from various national and international sources.

St. Jude Family Project. St. Jude Family Project is a Community Based Organization (CBO) in Masaka, Uganda that began as a small organic farm on 3 acres owned by John and Josephine Kizza since the 1980s. Its purpose is to improve household income, crop yields, household food security and diet. St. Jude teaches the most vulnerable groups in the society ways of improving family subsistence farming and diet. The training techniques use locally available materials and the methods used are environmentally. “Personnaly I have been to this farm twice and I have always admired their work. This family project has been an inspiration to many farmers – today many farmers in smalls groups do exchange visits to this farm.” We need more of such WORKING examples.

Women of Uganda Network through Kubere Information Centre – (one of its projects).The KIC was established under the project “Enhancing Access to Agricultural Information using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)” whose primary target is rural women farmers in Apac District, with partner women groups in Gulu, Lira and Oyam Districts. This project is one of the activities under the Information Sharing and Networking Program area of Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET). The project is conducted with generous financial support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) and from Hivos.

To achieve a self sustaining food secure future, the governments together with the private sector should work closely with the communities to provide a strategic agriculture and market plan. Listen to the farmers challenges and provide working solutions. Up to now the communities are not aware of the food insecurities they are facing. This is because there is NO DIRECT communication channel between the government and the food growers in the country.

Our country is blessed by nature in that the soils are fertile and the weather is condusive for agriculture. All we need is to sensitize the farmers, highlight the pontentials agriculture is promising and provide better farming skills.





Information & Telecommunication Technologies for Agriculture

5 05 2009
A woman Illustrated how to use her mobile phone to get updates of farm produce market prices.

A woman farmer Illustrates how to use her mobile phone to get updates of farm produce market prices during a face-to-face meeting.

The question as of whether “Information and Telecommunication Technologies can be used as a major tool in fighting poverty across all sectors in Africa and the rest of the world” is finding answers to itself. The different technologies, software and tools designed with varying sets of functionality where “we are our own limits” have increased on the innovativeness of people who have access to these resources!

Well this is not news really, but if its news to you then you are probably asking yourself how this is possible (Information and Telecommunication Technology for Agriculture?).

Meanwhile, in Uganda today the ICT4 Development, ICT4 Education and ICT4 women have already set off. And many new ideas have been applied in the relevant fields.

Kubere Information Centre is a nongovernmental organization in Apac district (Northern Uganda) established under the project ““Enhancing Access to Agricultural Information using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)” whose

Women farmers testing the SMS application.

Women farmers testing the SMS application.

primary target is rural women farmers in Apac District, with partner women groups in Gulu, Lira and Oyam Districts.

The project is one of Women of Uganda Network’s (WOUGNET) activities. This project is conducted with generous financial support from the Technical Centre for Agriculture (CTA) and Hivos is funding one of Women of Uganda Network’s projects under the Kubere Information Centre (KIC) to promote Agriculture in Apac District of northern Uganda.

Most of the farmers under this project were producing on a small scale but now as empowered groups, they produce on a comparatively bigger scale. Their mother language is “Luo” however a few learnt farmers can speak English.  These farmers were divided into small groups according to their area of residence. And each group was given a mobile phone to simplify communication amongst the groups and with the Kubere Information Centre.

Kubere Information Centre was put in place to monitor the activities of these women groups and also to avail them with all the necessary agricultural information. KIC also answers most of the farmer questions through a QAS (Question and Answer System). The centre makes sure that all answers to questions are provided in both English and Luo. KIC has also built a website with “local content” (with two languages; English and Luo) to enable all farmers to harness the opportunities availed by ICTs.

Through partnership with Radio Apac, KIC has also been able to prepare weekly radio scripts and aired live on radio

Women farmers listen to a radio show while Kubere Information Centre staff take their questions.

Women farmers listen to a radio show while Kubere Information Centre staff take their questions.

interactive radio shows/programs with experts in farming/agriculture enabling rural farmers in Apac, Gulu, Lira and Oyam district to share ideas with a wider community.

Other activities include face-to-face meetings with the women farmers, use of SMS to get updates on market prices and the sourcing relevant agricultural information from the internet.