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COVID-19 and agriculture: Lessons from a Ugandan woman farming as a business

In memory of my late Mum, who was an agriculturalist, I do farming as a business. And I am happy that through our large scale banana growing innovation. we created employment; we fed the market and generated income; and we fed our fellow community members.

And, importantly, also, we proved that it is feasible and viable to do banana farming in Gulu District and quite likely the wider Northern Uganda. Here is our story and the lessons that we learned.

After leasing land (hiring land in local speak), five acres of land for five years, in 2017, we set out to implement a banana project in Northern Uganda. Basically, our intention was to demystify the myth that Gulu doesn’t grow matooke (green cooking banana) or bogoya (sweet banana). We hired a banana manager and some piecemeal workers to plant and maintain the plantation.

In 2018, our first harvest of two acres was good, so good in big bunches, and they sold out quickly. In the same bumper harvest year, 2018, we replaced the gaps, added three more acres. And in 2019, we were overwhelmed by the harvest, which was on a bi-weekly basis.

The biggest challenge we faced was THEFT BY HUMANS, and an invasion by baboons and monkeys. The farm barbed wire fence was being cut down on a daily basis, and all the big bunches were cut off during lunch breaks when workers are resting at a shelter. Dogs were deployed during day time, the theft shifted to night time.

With the onset of COVID-19, our banana plantation manager was taken ill and the theft escalated. The plantation wasn’t well attended to, due to the lockdown, and poor supervision. A weird disease set in and this has destroyed more than half of the plantation; a big loss! Surely, Uganda needs more agriculture extension workers.

My attempts to support socio-economic transformation through an innovative banana project have to come to an abrupt halt. We will close shop by December 2020. But, the lessons we have learned, we carry them forward with us to be factored into our next plans. We will diversify our banana plantation into a perennial tree project, land access permitting.

While we are closing down our large scale banana plantation, we still strongly believe in banana farming in Gulu at household level. We all know now that our rich fertile soils can support banana growing.

Dear good people of Northern Uganda, yes, FARM THEFT IS FOR REAL. However, if each household puts some two sweet banana plants in a homestead, there will be no need to steal.


The content of this story was today, Tuesday, 29th September 2020, published by Victor Oling on her Facebook wall. With her permission and with minor edits, we have hereby re-published Victor’s powerful testimony.

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