A small table covered with cabbage, onions, and pumpkins is surrounded by the members of the “Can Eno” or “Poverty Comes” Farmers Group. It is hard to imagine just three and a half years ago the women and men seated here today were trying to survive in the dehumanizing Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camps.
People were forced into IDP camps during the 20 year conflict between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. During camp life, participation in daily life was limited. People were unable to farm and work the land to grow their own food. People were dependant on emergency relief efforts and food distributions to fulfil their right to food.
Fortunately, the conflict has ended and relative peace has been restored. However, the gap existing between relief efforts, in IDP camps, and development, in villages, made moving home an overwhelming task. People are faced with having to reopen land, rebuild homes, rehabilitate water sources and restore livelihoods. Despite all these challenges, people began moving back to their villages of origin.
The LWF is attempting to bridge that gap by working with farmers in resettled villages to reclaim the lives they once knew. LWF Uganda is partnering with groups of farmers, like those in “Poverty Comes”, to provide medium and long-term food security with training in Farmer Field Schools (FFS).
Ajuleta Abu, one woman in the group, says, “We learned skills to help us improve our harvest. We learned about micro gardens and growing vegetables. For example we can now grow cabbage, before we could not.” The planting of small vegetable gardens or “micro gardens” provides the family with improved nutrition, and increased food security. In addition, any excess produce can be sold in local markets to provide an income for the household.
Group members are at the heart of the development process from the beginning. They are working, deciding, consulting, and acting together. They learn how to plant improved seed varieties and multiply improved crop varieties. The FFS program is a dynamic approach designed teach skills and impart knowledge to farmers.
Farmers empowered with this knowledge are more likely fully participate in developing their lives and becoming self-sufficient. It is the hope of LWF, the graduates of the Farmer Field Schools will be able to restore their food security as they resettle back in their communities. According to Dorothy Aligi, “For us we will transplant this knowledge to our homes and continue with the group activities.”
For people like Ajuleta and Dorothy, as they rebuild their communities, the ability to consistently provide food to their families is a very important step in breaking the cycle of hunger and living productive, happy, self-fulfilled lives.