Twenty-five farmers, including 19 women, came together to cultivate crops in the “Bitojjo-Tukorenamani” (“Let’s Work Hard”) Farmer Field Business School. Before joining the school, their harvests barely had any financial impact on their livelihood; they were mostly for home consumption. In 2018, AVSI’s Graduating to Resilience began supporting the school’s members offering service bundles that include seeds, training and linkages to markets, and the group’s motivation grew. As part of the USAID-funded Activity, the farmers also learned good practices such as pest management, proper crop spacing, and soil and water conservation, alongside soil fertility management.
“We were farming for a long time, but it was mainly to feed our families,” says one of the members of the “Let’s Work Hard” School. “Proceeds coming from whatever we were able to sell mainly helped us buy salt and other items we didn’t get from the garden.”
The “Let’s Work Hard” group recently decided to expand their venture by renting half an acre of land to practice the skills learned from the demonstration garden. In the first four-month season, they planted maize, harvesting 200 kilograms which they sold for USD 55.
Motivated by the profit, they prepared their garden for a new planting season in August 2019. They raised USD 60 through their membership contributions to rent additional land to scale up their maize production. With the support and regular business training of Elijah Turyamureeba, their Community-Based Trainer, the group harvested 1.2 tonnes of maize in February 2020, which they stored to wait for a higher market price. Two months later, the group sold their harvest and generated USD 315 – a reasonable profit for the group’s expansion plans.
Driven by a great passion for commercializing their farming, the “Let’s Work Hard” members carried on with their activities even during the COVID-19 outbreak and nationwide lockdown. The farmers split into mini-groups of five to guarantee social distancing and installed a hand-washing facility in their garden. Even in a time of crisis, the clear vision and determination of the group were evident. They wanted to thrive.
From farming on half an acre to two acres, from a 200-kilogram harvest of maize to 1.2 tonnes, to renting land to buying their own, “Let’s Work Hard” farmers are progressing in their venture.
They are now planning to open a food store to market their growing harvests, a goal they hope to reach after selling their December harvest. They also want to buy a grain milling machine to add value to their maize and earn higher profits.
“Let’s Work Hard” is among the 266 groups receiving weekly training in modern agriculture, business coaching, linkages to the private sector for agro-inputs, markets, and extension services. The training is part of the seven-year USAID-funded Graduating to Resilience Activity that targets 13,200 refugee and host community households in South West Uganda to help them graduate from conditions of food insecurity and fragile livelihoods to self-reliance and resilience.