Refugees, host community farmers take on irrigation to grow vegetables during dry spell

(Last Updated On: 30 November 2022)

Chandiga said according to their assessment and market survey they will be supplying their vegetables to Maaji refugee settlement, and the Obongi market in the Obongi district.

By Marko Taibot

Adjumani – November 30, 2022: In an attempt to mitigate the diverse impacts of climate change, vegetable growers from the Maaji refugee settlement in Adjumani district together with members of the host community have taken to small-scale irrigation to sustain their food systems and improve their nutrition.

Thanks to the World Food Program (WFP) for financing the mini irrigation project and implementing partners the Alliance Forum for Development (AFOD) Uganda and Palm cobs for their extension services.

WFP financed the shs3.5m mini irrigation equipment to refugees and host communities for the 3 acres to a group of vegetable farmers numbering up to 30. The farmers have taken up to grow vegetables to supplement the little food support offered by the World Food Program. To implement the project, a member of the host community has offered land to grow the said crops.

Mr Peter Taban, 35, with six children from the Maaji Refugee settlement, is one of the refugees benefiting from the offer. Taban said he picked interest in the group farm after encountering losses last year due to the prolonged dry spell.

Taban who fled South Sudan in 2016 due to the civil wars said since then he has been renting an acre of land from the community at the cost of 100,000 but he has not been utilizing the land to the maximum due to the tight conditions and prolonged dry season.

“I have decided to join the communal vegetable growing because life has become difficult after the reduction in the food ratio; food has not been enough for me. I am hopeful with this project, I will be able to improve the nutrition level of my children and pay school fees next year,” Taban explained.

Taban also revealed that the joint project has improved the relationship between the refugees and host communities.

“We now need to be trained in local methods of making our own vegetables because we are not sure about the effects of the chemicals we use for spraying our vegetables, we want to produce organic vegetables to support and improve our nutrition,” Taban added.

Mr Dominic Chandiga a member of the group from, Ayiri Parish in Ukusijoni sub-county who is a national is optimistic that the project will succeed since they have a nearby water source that does not dry even during the dry spells.

RELATED: Refugees in Adjumani embrace cassava growing

“We are planting tomatoes, eggplants, bitter berries, on half an acre. Our plan is to expand all the three acres after the first harvest because the landlord is willing to give us more land,” Chandiga said.

Marketing strategy

Chandiga said according to their assessment and market survey they will be supplying their vegetables to Maaji refugee settlement, and the Obongi market in the Obongi district.

“We are working hard to ensure we get good quality vegetables so that we shall have a ready and available market starting with ourselves.”

Challenges expected

Chandiga said they are anticipating challenges of transportation since vegetables are perishable and yet they don’t have a motorcycle and boxes for packing the vegetables.

The members of the group suggest that for them to avoid damages and loss due to transportation challenges, they are soliciting support from other partners to provide them with means of transport.

The landlord’s interest

Mr Okello Waigo the landlord who offered the 3 acres of land said he was motivated to give the land because for many years he has owned more than 100 acres but did not make good use of the land and feels under this project, he will learn and also make good use of the land.

The landlord said he is yet interested in offering more land if it is put to good use since the vast land is idle.

“I want to make good use of this land, for years I have been watching this land but did not benefit from it, I know with this irrigation project we shall grow vegetables here all seasons,” Waigo tells me.

Mr Alexander Andama an extension worker with Palm Cobs said the three years project is being financed by World Food Program under the general food assistance and implemented by AFOD and Palm Cobs.

He said AFOD and Palm Cobs are providing complementary activities with the key objectives of improving nutrition, Agriculture, and Agribusiness.

He said in the last two years and a half, more than 20 farmer groups have been supported and empowered on how to grow vegetables.

“We have given out two solar powered mini irrigations to the refugees of Maaji and Pagirinya refugee settlement,” Andama said.

The refugee settlement that is benefiting out of the 19 refugee settlements in Adjumani district is Pagirinya, Maaji I & II, Nyumanzi, Ayilo I &ii, and Oluwa I & II.

“All the 23 groups were all demonstration farms and we were piloting the project, but in each season the group members have been able to raise shs650, 000 from the sale of their vegetables and this was backyard in their 30 x 30 meters of plot,” Andama said.

The breakdown in the food systems

The Business Support Assistance officer of the World Food Program Mr. Geroge Oket observed that the intervention is to improve the food systems.

In very many situations foods have been rejected because of poor quality and poor handling especially the issues of Aflatoxin.

“There is still a long way to go, we need to train our farmers on post-harvest management, we need to train them on food safety and quality so that what they produce is good for human consumption and attracts better markets,” Okot stated.

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