Not Your Average Farmers' Market
Today, Yp has reason to be optimistic. With the signing of a ceasefire between the LRA and the government in 2006, and the prospect of lasting peace a real possibility, thousands of northern Ugandans have begun returning home.
That’s not to say there aren’t huge hurdles to overcome. The fields that once provided a bountiful harvest are in disarray. The cattle to plough the fields have been stolen or killed by raiders. Disputes over land ownership are common.
With little money for tools and seeds, restarting a farm was a distant dream for Yp and others like him. The International Rescue Committee is distributing tools, seeds and equipment to local farmers, as well as providing agricultural training to roughly 4,500 residents in Kitgum and Lira districts. Experts help aspiring farmers learn to spot quality seeds in the market and plant them at the optimum time.
The IRC has also begun to host “Farmer Field Days,” an annual event in Kitgum and Lira districts intended to encourage farmers by giving them a space to display their crops to local and regional buyers. Part Saturday market, part networking fair, the field days have proven immensely popular.
“We’ve created these events so that the buyer can meet the seller, so that they can better work together,” explains Mike Opio, technical coordinator for the IRC’s Economic Recovery and Development Program in Uganda.
Farmers can buy subsidized farming equipment at the events as well. Yp, for example, purchased a grinder for his crops. “Before I had this grinder, my work was very difficult because everything had to be done by hand,” he says. “I was only able to afford it because IRC subsidized the cost. Now, people in my community come to me asking to have their crops ground and I earn good money.”
“So many of us were born in the camp and don’t know how to farm,” adds Michael Bongomin, 39, a manager with a local community-based organization who attends Farmer Field Days to network with IRC’s agricultural experts. “What’s more, there are new technologies that came along when people were in the camps, so now they need training on the latest tools and new ways to plant.
In addition, the IRC runs a village savings-and-loan program that encourages farmers to invest their incomes to earn interest.
“We are very happy to be here to show off the crops the IRC has helped us to grow,” says Opoka William, 56, as he tends to a customer’s needs at the farmers’ market. Buyers and sellers nearby scramble to make deals before the sun sets. “What we really want is to become self-sufficient,” says William. “I believe one day soon we’ll get there.”
The Farmer Field Days program is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency.Learn More
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