Female-run farms flourish after RRP training
Helen Koja holds her son in her arms as she strolls through fields of fresh green vegetables. She bends down, picks a piece of spinach and hands it to the baby in her arms. This, she says, is full of vitamins; and will help children to grow up strong. The spinach and other crops surrounding Koja’s home are doing more than that: they are providing much needed income for the community after years of poverty and conflict.
“Three years ago, my village was not safe,” says Koja. “We had no choice; we had to leave. When we came to settle on this land in Wonduruba, we had nothing. We had to start over.”
As Koja struggled to find her place in her new community and to feed her family, she decided to try and grow some sorghum beside her home.
“I didn’t know how to do it; I was just throwing seeds and covering them with soil. I saw other people watering their land; so I watered my land too,” she says with a laugh. “Eventually some things started growing.”
Her yield was small; but enough to feed her family, so she continued cultivating. What Koja lacked in technical knowledge she made up for in tenacity; and the RRP team noticed.
“We would pass by her everyday and see her working in her garden, says Kalisto Inyani, of ICCO. “It was obvious that she was serious and so we asked her if she was interested in participating in the RRP agricultural training.”
“I was very excited,” says Koja. “They said they would come back and get me when it was time for the training to start. I wasn’t sure if they would show up or not, but they did, and I was ready.”
During the programme Koja and others learned how to plant and take care of different types of crops such as sesame, sorghum, groundnuts, and vegetables.
“Now we cultivate all different types of food and are not broadcasting anymore; I have learned to plant in lines; and this has increased our production greatly.”
In fact, production has increased so much that Koja is not only able to feed her four children but to sell vegetables from a small stall she has set up on the side of the road. With the money she makes from this, she can afford to pay members of the community to do the digging for her; and sometimes even take produce to sell at the Wonduruba market.
Today, Koja grows cabbage, spinach, onions, tomatoes; foods that she didn’t know how to grow or even how to cook before the RRP training.
“I was cooking with anything; as long as it tasted OK and filled us up,” she says. “But now I know which foods have nutrients that my family needs to grow strong.”
With the profit, she plans to buy other seeds to plant and to send all of her children to school next year. But the big purchase will be a brand new house. The region where she is from is more stable, and it is possible for her to return home, but Koja is happy where she is.
“Look around,” she says with a smile as she spreads her arms towards the thriving crops around her. “My life is here now.”