Apac women learn farming techniques

Ms Harriet Oloro, standing next to her cassava plantation. Learning how to take care of crops like this have increased her profits from farming. Inset she weeds her simsim garden. PHOTOS BY LOMINDA AFEDRARU.

Ms Harriet Oloro, is a farmer growing assorted crops including simsim, cassava, maize and millet. She seems to be so passionate about simsim growing because she says that she spends most of her time weeding the crop.

All this is thanks to the management of Kubere Information Centre (KIC), a community based Information Communication Technology firm focusing on enhancing agricultural activities amongst rural women farmers through ICT.

This firm empowered Ms Oloro to climb to greater heights in her farming. The farmer says that when she got married in Atana village in 1998, she found her husband with a chunk of land totaling over 20 acres and it was all lying idle. When she got there, she immediately began tiling the land to produce food for home consumption.

“I started tilling the land on my own using family labour and I basically grew beans and cassava for our daily bread at home, but time came when I said I should expand the level of my activities and I began growing various crops after getting information on radio about the importance of farming,” Ms Oloro said.

She says that in 2002, her husband married a second wife and decided to demarcate the land between two of them. She was given approximately five hectares of land which she has ploughed to grow the simsim, cassava, maize and millet.

She has demarcated one acre of land for growing simsim and millet and the rest is used to grow cassava as well as maize and green vegetables.
Her next move is to engage in growing upland rice on a big scale because most farmers in the district engaged in this scheme are getting reasonable income.

Ms Oloro joined KIC women farmer group in 2005 when the ITC firm began teaching them modern farming techniques through the use of radio programmes. She explains that KIC asked them to join groups of 30 women in 12 different places.

Each group was given a radio set and mobile phone for purposes of receiving information on how to go about with modern farming. Ms Oloro says that previously they were involved in rudimentary farming using traditional seeds and they didn’t spray the crops. They did not know what to do if crops were infected by pests and diseases but with this knowledge acquired from KIC, the women are now able to produce better yields in bigger quantity and of better quality.

Mr Oloro said in the year 2001, she planted half an acre of simsim and harvested two bags out of which she obtained Shs400,000. Then in 2005 she invested Shs15,000 for ploughing the land and Shs30,000 for weeding all the crops. And she harvested six bags of simsim, two bags of millet, 15 bags of cassava and 10 bags of maize from which she earned more than Shs1m.

Ms Oloro is now talking of earning approximately Shs2m per annum out of all the crops she is growing. Apart from growing these crops she also rears two cows from which she gets milk for her children. She is now been able to take her two children aged seven and 13 years to good schools and wants to educate them up to university level.

Ms Oloro is not happy with lazy women who do not want to engage in farming activities and instead wait for their husbands to provide for each and every necessity in life. “Women must stop being beggars and waiting for each and every thing from their husbands as if God did not give them 10 fingers to work hard. I am advising all women to come up with all the ability they have and work hard. This is in line with being independent in that if a child falls sick and the man is away, you should take the responsibility of taking this child to hospital and inform your husband later about the progress of the child’s health,” she said.

Kubere Information Centre project Assistant, Mr Gilbert Egwel said his team came up with the idea of empowering women farmers through ITC because they are more involved in the farm activities compared to men. KIC is a firm supported by the government of Netherlands with an agreement to run its activities for five years.

Its management organised the women in 12 groups, each group comprises 30 members. These were trained on how to listen to radio programmes especially the one hour farm programme on the community based radio station, Radio Apac.

Egwel believes the women have eventually acquired skills of presenting their farming experiences on radio for other farmers who are not part of the programme to learn more. They were also trained on the use of mobile phones most especially the programme run by MTN on farming through the use of mobile phones.

According to Mr Egwel, the 12 women groups are in various villages in Apac with one group in Lira and one in Gulu. While training them the team gives emphasis on the crops grown in this region which include, cassava, sweet potatoes, cow peas, beans, including pigeon peas, sorghum, cotton, simsim, maize, sunflower, yams and vegetables among others. He said much as there are agricultural extension officers in every sub county of the district, farmers were not getting enough information especially on the pests and diseases affecting their crops and the intervention measures possible.

“Cassava here is faced with the problem of cassava mosaic, simsim is being eaten up by simsim cobweb and the sunflower seeds are eaten up by birds and these women didn’t know how to go about it but now they can do it all,” Mr Egwel said. KIC also helps in giving information on where the women can market their produce.