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Urban Farming Unites Mothers Of Special Needs Children

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By Ritah Mukasa

Raising special needs children can be overwhelming. It is even worse for a vulnerable mother who also needs help in all aspects of her life.

In Nakivale refugee settlement, Isingiro district, there are several mothers struggling to raise children with cognitive and psychomotor disabilities.

In 2019, more than 30 mothers formed Wenzetu Association and it has since transformed their lives. They are currently 180 members. Some engage in vegetable farming in groups.

Petronille Ilukandora, the chairperson, says the mothers come from different villages including; Kashojwa, Nyarugugu, Base camp, New Hope and Sangano where they meet every Tuesday afternoon.

“We form small groups of 10-15 people and start up gardens for subsistence and commercial purposes,” she says.

Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment (YICE) helps them to set up the vegetable gardens using regenerative farming techniques.

For example, they make and use organic manure and pesticides to protect the environment while promoting food security and healthy living.

Ilukandora adds that they decided to have group gardens because most of the members live on small plots of land.

Those with big land offer part of it to the group.

For example, she offered 50X120 plot of land in Nyarugugu D on which her group set up their garden. They are 10 members.

They grow beetroot, carrots, eggplants and leafy greens such as Sukuma wiki, spinach and dodo among others.

On how they divide labour, Ilkandora says, they follow a daily timetable. Some members look for manure while others weed and water the garden depending on the season.

She says on hot days, they walk two kilometers to fetch water.

However, Jane Musonera, the garden manager is the only one allowed to harvest the vegetables. She then distributes among the members depending on what each wants.

She also sells and introduces the proceeds to the group. They have a savings scheme where members can get soft loans to invest in other businesses.

Musonera, says, vegetables have improved her six children’s health especially her 10-year-old daughter who has autism. She gives her beetroot juice and greens every day.

Thankfully, the daughter no longer falls sick as it was before the mother joined the project.

“My husband was murdered while in Rwanda. I fled to Uganda and now depend on this project to look after my children,” she says.

Aline Kabugulu another member says the project has taught her a lot about agriculture. Before settling in Nakivale, Kabugulu was a successful businesswoman in Congo DRC. She now knows how to improve soil fertility and make pesticides as well.

She also got a loan worth sh30, 000 and bought three local chicken to start a poultry project.

Anociata Kiza 40 is another beneficiary. She lives with her two sons in Nyarugugu C village.

Her first born is 15 years and the second is nine with Down syndrome.

Kiza is single handedly raising them. Her husband was murdered while in Burundi, reason she fled to Uganda with her first son.  She would later conceive her second born out of rape.    

“I had lost hope but I am now happy. I also do sack gardening in my home and earn sh5,000 weekly. My son’s health has also improved thanks to the steady supply of the vegetables,” she explains.

However, Ilkandora says, they face a challenge of water scarcity and garden tools like hoes.

“We also want big land to grow food crops such as beans, maize, cassava and sorghum because we cannot depend on vegetables alone,” she says.

Kiza is now a happy mother after joining the group. Photos by Ritah Mukasa

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