CPAR Uganda Ltd challenged our staff members to replace grass lawns and flowers on the grounds of our base camps with food crops. The only condition that we gave them was that they must establish and maintain their food gardens using best agronomic practices and, as well, ensure the gardens are aesthetically pleasant.
They accepted the challenge and using their own labour and other resources our staff members established food gardens on the grounds of our properties as follows:
- Lira Base Camp: they are growing vegetables and fruits, including: eboo, malakwang, alaju, tula, sukuma wiki, green peppers, pumpkins, alodi, kal, amola, shears, ginger, avocado, pineapples, passion fruits, water melon, green bananas and mangoes. From two vegetables, eboo and malakwang, according to them, they generated an estimated monthly income of Ushs. 29,000 (twenty nine thousand shillings); an estimated annual income of Ushs. 348,000 (three hundred and forty eight thousand shillings). Their main customers, according to them, were teachers of Lira Central Primary School. As at 31st December 2016, ginger was still growing in-field. The seeds harvested from alodi, kal, amola and shears are preserved for planting in 2017.
- Loro Base Camp: they are growing vegetables and fruits, including: eboo, malakwang, alaju, green peppers, pumpkins, beans, maize, sunflower, hibiscus, jack fruit, tangerine, passion fruit, mangoes, oranges and guava. They sold 135kgs of beans at Ushs. 189,000 (one hundred and eighty nine thousand shillings); 211kgs of sunflower at Ushs. 211,000 (two hundred and eleven thousand shillings); and 225kgs of soya beans at Ushs. 338,100 (three hundred and thirty eight thousand one hundred shillings). Since we financed the production of beans, sunflower and soya beans, the sales income they refunded to CPAR Uganda.
- Gulu Base Camp: The vegetables they are growing are: cabbages, eboo, okra, green peppers, nakati and malakwang; and the fruits are mangoes. Their Nakati and malakwang, according to them, fetched on average Ushs. 20,000 (twenty thousand shillings) per month; that is an estimated Ushs. 240,000 (two hundred forty thousand shillings) per year. Their main buyers, according them, were staff members of organisations that are renting office space in our base camp.
- Pader Base Camp – Sunflower was grown and the harvest of 145.8kgs was sold at Ushs. 175,000 (one hundred and seventy five thousand); which revenue was returned to CPAR Uganda, since we financed the production costs.
Our food gardens in place of grass lawns project has demonstrated feasibility and viability of using small spaces to grow nutritious food for own consumption and for income generation.
It has also demonstrated the logic of accessing land through use rights as opposed to ownership rights. CPAR Uganda owns the land, which it has accessed to its staff members to use within the ethos of prevailing customary tenure systems of Nilotic peoples of Uganda.
Our staff members’ gardens at our base camps also demonstrate how to turn costs centres into income generation centres. And they do so in a practical way that can be easily replicated by smallholder farmers at household level.
By promoting the replacement of grass lawns with food gardens, we cut costs for maintenance of our base camps; CPAR Uganda saved all costs for mowing grass lawns and for sweeping the grounds.
Another major lesson that we have learned is the importance of investing in irrigation, in order to ensure all year food production. Our staff members made significant losses, due to stunting and premature drying of crops, due to long and extended periods of dry weather.