OAIC continues to build the capacity of Churches, pastors and their congregations to ensure that communities are empowered for enhanced livelihoods. During a recent visit to Uganda, the OAIC team got overwhelming responses on the great strides made by the various community groups and congregations in trainings that have changed the lives of these communities.
Pastor Fred Valavawa, often referred to as Musumba or the smiling pastor has changed the perception of his congregation on development matters. By frequently organising for trainings, their lives have changed tremendously as was quite evident.
“Our Musumba has done this congregation a great favour. He continuously organises for trainings that have empowered the members on best farming practices. After one such training, I returned home and planted 7 mango trees; 3 avocado trees and a variety of vegetables ranging from egg plants; tomatoes; pumpkins; kales and other traditional vegetables. This was done with organic manure and my family is been grateful for the tremendous improvement of their livelihoods,” says Dorotia Nakasangu.
It is worthwhile to note that most of Pastor Fred’s congregation and community members who are keen on these trainings comprise young people who have taken up farming as a serious venture. One such member is Lianti Jamada who is a professional High School teacher who also doubles up as an adult education specialist. Being a Muslim was not a deterrent for capacity building. He was not segregated from the trainings and his farm is used as a demonstration point for the community as it’s a great learning resource.
Jamada was interested in fruit farming and decided to venture into it after doing his research and saw the potential of a ready market for the trade as well as the health benefits for his family and the community at large.
“Despite being a Muslim, the Pastor who is my friend welcomed me to the church so that I could also benefit from the trainings that were being conducted. I returned home and planted several fruits trees. I currently have 32 avocado trees with the oldest tree having recently just started flowering. I also have 7 mango trees that are in the flowering stage. I invested a lot of money in my farm as I wanted to show my community members that great farming needs proper investments and best farming practices in order to yield highly. My farm is a model demonstration farm where the community gathers to learn in order to improve their practice,” notes Mr. Jamada.
Jamada further notes that their livelihoods coordinator, James Lubega has been very helpful in sharing critical information on farming and when faced with difficulties while farming, he is always ready and willing to engage. “I once called James to shed light on some issues that I was grappling with in my farm and despite him being at the district headquarters, he came all the way to the village to share ideas on how to deal with the situation. I have learnt and gained a lot from such trainings offered by OAIC and I am happy I wasn’t segregated because of my religion.”
He reiterates the importance of shared learning as often after trainings, community members visit each other to learn new ways of improving their farming. This is key as farmers continue to grapple daily with challenges of pests and diseases; lack of extension services as well as long distances to research centres.
Justine Balazawo, the pastor’s wife reiterates the importance of trainings to the community members which she notes has changed the thought processes of the communities keen on food and nutrition security.
“I have benefitted from these trainings myself. We have managed to successfully practice intercropping in our farm and the yields are encouraging. We have planted cassava in our 1 1/2 acre piece of land; we also have coffee as well as sweet potatoes. All these have been planted with knowledge acquired from the trainings. We have some banana plantations as well as fruits like avocadoes and mangoes,” narrates Justine.
The pastor’s family is keen on the nutritional aspect of crops. They often challenge the congregation to think about the importance of nutritional value in crops even as they plan what to grow for both subsistence and for income purposes.
“We noted with concern that families rarely thought about children even as they planted nutritional crops. We have thus improved our trainings to ensure that children are planned for as this is key in reducing the under 5 mortality rates,” adds Justine.
“After several trainings offered by the church, I definitely take into consideration the nutritional aspect of the crops before I plant anything in my farm. I grow sweet potatoes; rice; beans; soya beans; peas; bananas as well as 5 orange trees. However, my avocado fruits are not doing well, the fruits were recently destroyed and have no idea what the problem is. Extension services here are weak. My yams too haven’t yielded well lately,” laments Nakaiga Christine.
During the meeting, Rev. Nicta Lubaale the OAIC General Secretary stressed the importance of nutrition in the trainings in reducing the mortality rates of children under five. “Even as you engage in best farming practices, please ensure you teach your children to understand the importance and value of fruit and vegetable farming. Good varieties and proper seedlings make a big difference in terms of yields. We understand the challenge of extension officers and will thus continue to organise for more trainings,” he noted.
OAIC seeks to empower households through data and information to train communities to understand the importance of nutrition in reducing the infant mortality rates whilst ensuring that pregnant and lactating mothers are nutritionally fit. Households thus have a big task of ensuring proper planning as well as effectively engaging policy makers at the National and County governments to ensure effective participation in the agricultural sector.
“We have to be keen on who we elect. Are they serious about agricultural issues? Are they keen on agricultural budgetary allocations? We need to seriously scrutinize these issues and question politicians who frequent villages during elections to distribute money. Let’s engage politics strategically to ensure the farmer wins at the end of the day,” stated Nicta.