Resilience Farming Turned “Unproductive” Land to “Productive”; A Case of Aleleniconi Farmer Group in Moyo District.
The words of Sherry McAlilly, “Music exists to speak the words we can’t express”, is what we felt when we caught up with the excited members of Aleleniconi Farmer Group in Alur sub-county in Moyo district. The group composed a beautiful song about NURI programme thanking the extension team for making them see light .
The joy on the faces of the group members made meeting with the group a beautiful one. The group is located in Lama, a place which was historically very beautiful, fertile and agriculturally very productive according to the narration of the groups chairperson as quoted; “…..Historically, Lama had very fertile lands where every farmer that planted seeds on the soils would have very good harvest. Crops cultivated were maize, cassava, sorghum and maize which yielded well because of the hilly terrain provided soils that were so good for production…”
What went wrong?
As narrated by one group member Lillian, the unproductivity of the land started when the refugees from South Sudan were settled in the Village in 1996. Their settlement led to cutting down of trees which exposed the land to erosion. The population of the refugees exerted pressure on the land, some of them moved with their cattle that were grazing on the land, some streams that provided water also dried up. ,. After their repatriation in early 2000, the land became unproductive due to loss of fertility. Their crops couldn’t yield much therefore affecting overall household food production. The average number of meals per day was reduced, it was difficult to obtain firewood and other necessities that were acquired from the sale of agricultural produce. Before joining the community individuals were copying on their own but with little exposure, their efforts were not yielding much as quoted below:
I have been managing the situation alone and saving for emergency wasn’t an idea, then came my friend who told me the community is forming a saving group and asked if I could join the group.
The turning point for the community members:
In 2015, Aleleniconi Savings Group was founded by the community members with the aim of saving for emergency. According to Louga, it was difficult to save as members complained a lot about lack of money since the yields were low and this was exacerbated by the limited knowledge in farming.
“God blessed us in 2020 when the extensionist from NURI arrived in our village. Our group was selected to benefit from the program. During enterprise selection, our group chose cassava as an enterprise from which we were trained on climate smart practices,” said Lillian. The group established 2 acres of ‘NAROCAS I’ demonstration site as a learning site for the group and were able to obtain UGX. 2,000,000/-. from the cassava chips.
At the start of 2021, out of all the groups in Moyo district, “we were very lucky to be selected to demonstrate a new farming concept known as “Resilience Design”. From this new method, we established a permagarden,” noted Louga. ……the choice of the new practice with our group was because our land was degraded and soils were exhausted and prone to runoff…., we wondered how the resilience designs farming method would do to improve the soils which were infertile and unproductive”. It was an inclusive practical exercise that involved both the farmers and Extension Officers. …… “we learnt how to establish water conservation structures like bioswales, smiley berms and double dug beds to take good care of the vegetables” narrated another group member. “the process was labour intensive and involved integration of locally available resources like charcoal dust, green manure, animal dug and even use of stones as mulch in the establishment the resilience design structures” narrated Louga.
What was the game changer from resilience designs knowledge?
Upon planting the different species of vegetable seedlings on the established structures, it was like magic when the vegetables sprouted excellently and the state of the site changed within a time period of only 2 weeks. As the vegetables matured, the first to be harvested was spinach which we started selling and on average we were earning UGX. 40,000/- per week as reported by the group treasurer with joy in her face. The trenches established were functioning well seen from reduction in the rate of runoff from upstream, secondly water was being stored in the permagarden and everywhere was green in spite of the no rains received in week.
Other vegetables soon matured and harvesting continued. These were eggplants, cabbages, tomatoes and onions which the group agreed to sell and we were earning on average UGX. 200,000/- on a weekly basis. . The production became sustainable because our Laponyi (Extensionist) taught us organic pest and disease management and minimized our expenditures. From the first lot of harvest, collectively the group earned UGX. 3,526,000/- which has been put in the group savings box to plan for the next planting seasons aid the group treasurer.
What is exciting about the resilience design site?
In Aleleniconi Farmer Group, already 7 of the group members have adopted at least one or two of the resilience designs structures in their individual household. Testimonies indicate adoption of the knowledge. According to Lillian, a group member, “I also got interested in growing vegetables, from our VSLA, I borrowed UGX. 150,000/-. I bought a packet of onion, 2 packets of cabbages and 1 packet of tomatoes. As per now am too excited because I have started selling my tomatoes, I have earned UGX. 200,000/- from the sale of the tomatoes but still more are in the garden. I expect to earn UGX. 1,500,000/- because the cabbages are left with a few weeks to mature and onions are almost ready.”
Resilience design method of farming has completely changed our landscape and farming style. We have adopted and we believe when we continue we shall completely transform our livelihood.
“We cannot express our happiness to NURI, we are so happy and thank you NURI for empowering us by not giving us fish but the net to go fishing ourselves (metaphoric gesture)”
Story Credit: Resilience Agricultural Unit (RAU) Moyo