This post comes from Jim Kelly, Chairman of the Board for IIRR. He has been working with IIRR for 25 years, and works closely with the US Office and Field Offices.
Our work at IIRR is always more rewarding when we get really great stories from our field offices, and I especially love having a face to pair with our great initiatives.
Our Farmer Field Schools in Uganda bring education to a normally marginalized community, and provide alternative and sustainable mechanisms for education in rural Africa. We facilitate these schools so the farmers can adopt improved farming technologies like integrated pest management and organic farming, and learn livelihood skills to raise the incomes of their families and their communities. The farmers gain new farming techniques, business tools, and also learn how to integrate disaster risk reduction planning into their farming plans.
The greatest stories are those that show the direct impact of our programs on individual lives. Knowing that someone who attended our programs gained valuable skills, and then was able to transfer those skills into a tangible gain for their family, is a really powerful aspect of the work we do.
Obua Janan, who attended our classes in Abura Mwonya, is 32, married, and has 4 kids. Before IIRR developed a Farmer Field School in his town, Obua had never been a part of any farmer group. He was farming, but he was only planting low acreages of land, and lacked basic agriculture knowledge and business skills. Upon joining the FFS, he worked with a group that set up a commercial enterprise, planted 4 acres of groundnuts, and received a huge return on their investments with a 15-bag harvest. After the success of the groundnuts, the group planted tomatoes, sunflowers, maize, and beans. They also began construction on a poultry house.
After just a few months in the program, and upon learning how to incorporate a savings plan into his business model, Ubua has saved thousands of Uganda Shillings. He is using his earnings to build a house with iron sheets, to pay school fees for his children, and to buy household items.
“My income level has increased, and I am able to pay school fees for my children. Everyone in my home is very happy,” says Ubua. He plans to use his new skills and business savings plan to invest in bigger acreage next season, and to become a mentor for new FSS members.