Much as gold-mining has benefitted some miners and dealers in Kassanda district, it has also posed adverse effects on the agricultural sector.
Jenifer Lhughabwe, an agronomist based in Kassanda, says there is a lot of displacement of people. These have turned into internal refugees with nothing to eat. There are also many orphans and worse still, the soils continue to loose fertility.
It is against that background that Lhughabwe teamed up with fellow agriculturalists and introduced regenerative agriculture and permaculture techniques through Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment (YICE Uganda) a community-based social enterprise.
“Regenerative agriculture is a farming system where you farm while conserving the environment,” she explains.
Noah Ssempijja, the YICE co-founder says these practices enable small-scale farmers to produce food in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, throughout the year.
“We strive to promote food security, regenerate biodiversity and achieve climate change adaptation all while improving farmers’ incomes,” he explains.
Lhughabwe says they engage farmers in permaculture training, water harvesting, irrigation, organic fertilisers and savings groups.
They also use mobile drip Irrigation kit which Ssempijja invented. Farmers are also encouraged to conserve the environment through tree planting.
Since 2016, this intervention has benefited over 1,500 households. Their incomes have improved and have achieved food security as well.
“Over 268 females and youth earn at least 100,000 from their produce monthly,” he says.
Meanwhile, they first carried out a survey and discovered that soils lost nutrients, but farmers were not bothered. There were no improved agronomic practices. Farmers simply depended no nature.
Lhughabwe is quick to add that regenerative agriculture brings together a set of agricultural practices that naturally enhance soil quality. It helps to restore fertility of diseased or exhausted soils.
Our livelihoods have greatly improved
For years, Joyce Nabukalu, a resident of Kanyogoga in Kassanda district, used to grow food crops for home consumption. The single mother of four lives on half-acre of land.
However, three years ago, she shifted to vegetable growing using regenerative farming techniques.
“My livelihood changed drastically. I now grow vegetables for sale all year,” she says.
From the proceeds she educates her children and sustain her family as well.
Nabukalu adds that she first attended seminars where she learnt how to make manure from cow dung, maize and beans husks.
“I get those resources from my farm. They are friendly to the environment and they don’t smell either,” she says.
Nabukalu also learnt how to make insecticides from local flowers and weeds like black jack.
“I boil the leaves and allow the mixture to cool. After, I spray it on the crops,” she explains.
YICE also provides the farmers with the vegetable seeds at a subsidized price.
Nabukalu also built an underground water tank using a tarpaulin. She uses the water to irrigate the vegetables.
“The productivity on my small plot has improved significantly. Before, my children were malnourished but today they are healthy,” she explains.
She adds that being a single mother, she used to struggle to make ends meet.
“I could hardly feed my family or even buy soap. But things changed with vegetable growing,” she says.
Nabukalu is now saving to buy a bigger water tank and a greenhouse to protect the vegetables from the birds she keeps.
Similarly, Sefolooza Nakitto another resident of Kanyogoga has also benefitted from the regenerative farming which she adopted four years ago.
She singlehandedly takes care of 20 children, including orphaned grandchildren.
“We all depend on farming for food, medical care and school fees,” she says.
Nakitto has managed to build a three-bedroom house all while fending for her family.
She grows vegetables, maize, beans and cassava.
“I first attended seminars and learnt to make organic manure from maize and beans husks. I mix them with cow dung, ash and charcoal dust,” she elaborates. She allows the mixture to decompose for about 15 days before spraying it on the plants.
Nakitto also makes pesticides using black jack flowers and tobacco leaves which she boils and applies near the crops.
“Our biggest challenge is access to markets. We also need a borehole for easy irrigation especially during the dry season,” she appeals.
Additionally, three years ago, Sarah Nagawa of Kyakatebe village started growing vegetables including beetroot, egg plants, sukuma wiki and nakati.
She says, from the training she learnt the health and economic benefits of vegetable growing and the importance of soil conservation.
“I now produce manure and pesticides using the local agricultural waste. For pesticides, she mixes plants with pepper, ash and water,” she says.
“Vegetables have a stable market. I have used the profits to start a rabbit farm,” she divulges.
Nagawa currently has 32 rabbits and is in the process of building a bigger structure on her land which spans quarter an acre.
“But seeds are scarce especially for beetroot. We also have water tanks but lack water sources,” she says.