Hon. Rebecca Otengo – Minister of State for Northern Uganda – paid a visit to a project that was implemented by CPAR Uganda in Agago. The Project: “Improving Food Security and Agricultural Livelihoods of War Affected Communities” was supported under the Government of Uganda’s Agricultural Livelihoods Recovery Programme (ALREP) that was funded by the European Commission through United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO).The Minister visited the project with a delegation which was composed of the Minister, local government officials from various districts and other civil society organisations. The visit was hosted by farmers who were members of Farmer Field School (FFS) groups which benefited from the project.
The delegation was amazed by how the farmers were able to technically explain the various technologies, especially their study activities. There was clear evidence that the farmers had actually internalised the approaches, since each one of them wanted to explain part of the process. And when they did, they made no mistakes! The Minister was so impressed that she bought all the egg plants the farmers had brought to the meeting. The second theme was increasing access to finances for household investment. The Farmers were able to explain to the delegation the whole concept of village saving and lending (VSL) and went ahead to explain how VSL activities have helped them. For example, one lady said she was able to borrow money to start up a fish business and as a result she has been able to buy six goats; she had come along with them to the meeting. Another lady shared that she borrowed and bought piglets. The Minister was so impressed to the extent that she asked to join as a member of the VSL Scheme of Adong Ki Tic FFS. She requested them to review their group constitution, so as to accommodate her since she will be paying in absentia, perhaps on a monthly basis. The Minister gave UGX 250,000 to Adong Ki Tic FFS as a token of appreciation.
The third theme was increased household food security. Under this theme, the farmers were able showcase various key food security crops that they are multiplying, including: cassava, beans and groundnuts. They were able show to the delegation the performance of the local cassava variety compared to the improved MH 97/2961.They also explained how the oxen had helped increase production, since they were able to open more land; although they sighted a challenge of 30 members against one pair of oxen. This prompted The Minister to promise to donate an additional pair of oxen to the participating groups (four FFS).
The Minister was full of praise and thanked CPAR Uganda for the great work done. The Minister advised all farmers to grow cassava since cassava is a key food security crop. She added that in Alebtong District where she comes from, they passed a law that requires every home to have a cassava garden. That those without would get arrested, since they would be considered food insecure and would steal from other peoples’ gardens.
“It was one of my best experiences during my time here in Agago and I will always live to remember the day” shared Denis Ejus, the author of this report. At the time when he wrote the report, 7th May 2013, Ejus was the CPAR Uganda Project Team Leader for that project.