Julius Mugaga/Umoja Standard.
Adjumani, Northern Uganda: Uganda’s Local Government Minister Mr. Raphael Magyezi has assured local farmers in Adjumani district of getting support from the government to enhance their capacity to carry out large-scale farming.
The Minister’s assurance follows his visit to the two Sub-counties of Ukusijoni and Dzaipi on Thursday where local farmers from the host community and refugees are conducting communal farming to boost food security.
Selected farmer groups from Pagirinya and Maaji refugee settlements and their host counterparts from the two Sub-counties are currently benefiting from a pilot communal farming initiative being implemented by Action against Hunger-USA Uganda Mission.
At least 3,000 acres of redundant land have been donated by local landlords to aid communal crop growing by host communities and refugees to address food shortages and malnutrition in children.
(L-R) Local Government Minister Hon. Raphael Magyezi, Albert Siminyu-Country Director of Action Against Hunger, Vuyaya Mathew-Deputy RDC Yumbe and a farmer interact at Pagirinya in Dzaipi Sub Country. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
Mr. Magyezi told reporters at the end of his tour of the various farmer’s groups that he was impressed with the success of the initiative which aligns with government’s Parish Development Model (PDM).
He particularly expressed excitement at one of the groups of refugees that hired 84 acres of land, planted cassava and earned 112 million shillings after selling their harvest recently.
Mr. Magyezi noted that through the initiative, there are possibilities that problems of feeding refugees can be addressed without them entirely depending on foreign food assistance.
“There is hope that we can now address the problem of feeding these refugees. A number of international organizations, ourselves as a country, are putting a lot of money into feeding the refugees and resettling them. I believe they are able to feed themselves, earn income and educate their children”. Said Magyezi.
The Minister said with the refugees now earning money from selling their own crops on a large scale, there is a shift in how they will be perceived not just as dependents but as part of Uganda’s growing economy.
“It’s a big paradigm shift from looking at a refugee as a problem to a source of income to the economy and relieving the government and organizations from offering them handouts”. He said.
On the last day of his tour on Friday, Mr. Magyezi handed over an assortment of equipment donated by ACF that included eight solar-powered water pumps, two tricycles, and two milling machines worth about 60 million shillings to farmer groups in Bikeri village, Ayiri parish, Ukusijoni Sub-county.
The equipment, according to the Minister, will help the farmers tap water for irrigation during the dry season, add value to their crops and ease transportation of their crops from gardens to the markets.
Local Government Minister Hon. Raphael Magyezi demonstrates digging as Albert Siminyu, the Action Against Hunger Country Director and others look on. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
Mr. Albert Siminyu, the Action Against Hunger Country Director revealed that the organization has been able to secure land for refugee farmers donated by the community to start block farming.
He notes that 200 acres of the donated land have since been opened, adding that farmers from the host and refugee settlements made their harvest recently.
“Yesterday we saw some of the early farmer groups that we began to work with last year who planted over 200 acres of cassava and registered a success”. Said Siminyu.
“Our plan now is to continue working with the government to advocate for refugee access to land and whim them off humanitarian food assistance”. He added.
He said since last year ACF advocated for the integration of refugees and host communities for harmonious living and food security for both populations.
Moses Lukwago, the Programs manager of ACF in Adjumani revealed that the success of the initiative was made possible with the mindset change interventions they carried out in the host community to willingly offer idle land for block-farming.
“We did needs assessment amongst refugees and host community, understood their challenges and priority then came up with tailored solutions that have paid off”. Lukwago said.
The communal farming initiative that brings together both the host and the refugees together has been hailed as a step in the right direction to support poverty alleviation alongside the government’s Parish through PDM.
PDM, one of the latest government programs, seeks to transform the 37 percent of Uganda’s population from a hands to mouth economy to a money economy right from the parish level.