Namutumba Abayudaya community is a rural Jewish community in Eastern Uganda. The community depends on subsistence farming for their livelihood, using traditional farming methods which results in poor or low harvest, thus leaving the community exposed to famine (food insecurity) and unreliable income, hence poor health and inadequate financial support for children’s’ education.
Upon experiencing these difficulties, in 2018 members of the Namutumba community created the Namutumba Agriculture for Life (NAFL) project, aimed at improving agricultural practices that will promote food security and increase household income, for both the Jewish community and their non-Jewish neighbours. NAFL is designed to support targeted households with provision of improved seeds/seedling, suckers, fertilizers, pesticides, farming implements, agricultural training and field monitoring, environmental conservation. At the same time, the project is focusing on uniting the different religions in the community, improving health, empowering women and supporting children education for both girls and boys.
As the project concluded its first 3-years and achieved the preliminary goal of food security, the second 3-years phase (2021-2024) will be focusing on maintaining the food security while enhancing societal resilience and empowerment.
The objective of this project is to increase food security, the household income and societal resilience of the Namutumba Abayudaya community and their neighbours. The project will contribute towards the following long-term outcomes:
Maintain food security and nutrition; Maintain resilience to droughts; Maintain social cohesion between Jewish, Muslim and Christian families; Create post-harvest potential such as marketing and large-scale sales, and find suitable markets for crops; Advance gender equality, domestic and gender community resilience.
The project currently supports 77 households with a total of 530 beneficiaries. It is expected to increase the beneficiaries to 100 households (approximately 700 people including dependent children). The majority of beneficiaries are women, youth and children. Families are treated equally regardless of their religious affiliation and comprises of Jewish, Muslim and Christian families.
Project activities includes five project components.
This component aims to increase agricultural production by supporting the following activities: (a) procuring of improved/drought resistant suckers/seedlings; (b) making of organic pesticides and fertilizers; (c) Environmental conservation and (d) farmer training/Field monitoring.
- (a) Improved suckers and seedlings: The project will obtain improved suckers and seedlings including pineapples, coffee and ginger as cash crops. However, the focus will remain on the growing of maize, bean, cassava, groundnuts and bananas for the farmers to maintain food security within the community. The improved suckers are drought tolerant and produce a higher crop yield (estimated to be 20-30 percent higher) compared with indigenous suckers. Since there are two planting seasons, suckers/seedlings will be purchased in February (distributed in March for planting) and in June (distributed in early July for planting). The allocation of suckers/seedling to households will depend on the farmer’s need for each crop.
As farmers adopt knowledge through training, they will self-produce suckers and seedlings from the crops and become self-sustaining. This process of self sustaining crops was already achieved with cassava, maize and ground nuts.
- (b) Fertilizer and pesticides: The project has trained farmers how to make organic fertilizers and organocide and will provide the needed materials to prepare these products. These fertilizers are environmentally friendly and serve the same purpose as the artificial products. Fertilizer and pesticide production has improved production level and has helped farmers be self-sustaining.
- (c) Environmental conservation:
The increased demand for charcoal and logs for brick burning, and timbers for construction and exportation has resulted in deforestation. Excessive use of polythen bags limit rainwater infiltration into the soil, and cause soil pollution. Other challenges include Soil digging for bricklaying that causes soil pollution, and an increase in industries has polluted the air with fumes.
These developments have contributed to changes in the environment and weather. They have led to prolonged droughts and floods that affect agriculture in the region. NAFL will harness tree planting and conservation education to protect the surrounding environment.
Activities will include: Raising tree nursery beds; Procuring the seeds of specified tree species; Purchasing water cans for watering nursery beds; Encouraging farmers to purchase trashcans for their household; Ensuring farmers have good toilets, latrine, and a water can at each household for good sanitation; Encourage farmers to preserve and plant more trees of good species.
- Farmer training and mentoring: Training supports farmers to effectively use the provided resources. This includes (a) planting the available land with different crops, including setting targets; (b) how to work with new and improved resource such as suckers/seedlings, organic fertilizers, organocides, and equipment; (c) environmental conservation techniques and benefits; (d) record keeping; (e) post-harvest management, including how to save for the future; and (f) value addition and marketing. The training is both on-farm as well as at the demonstration garden. The project provides an Agricultural Specialist who regularly visits the farmers, monitors and helps them actualize what they learned in training. Training activities also include farmers’ visits to successful farms.
This component is not part of the regular budget but is referred to as a ‘value addition’ needs. These are some of the community propositions (what they need to grow and expand). The farmers will be trained and supported to improve post-harvest handling, storage and value addition, and stronger market network. Specific activities include: (a) construction of a central storage facility; (b) investments in processing and marketing facilities; and (c) transportation.
- (a) Central storage facility: Currently, households lack adequate storage facilities, exposing crops to weather and pests. Families are therefore forced to sell their crops immediately after harvest. The community requests building a communal storage facility, located on community-owned land. This will protect crops from weather/pest damage, thereby minimizing post-harvest losses, and will enable farmers to store produce until they are able to get favourable prices.
- Processing and marketing facilities: The community desires a graining mill and packaging unit, located on community-owned land to process maize, cassava and groundnuts. A mill would increase household incomes, and would also create jobs for some community members (machine operating, packaging and marketing). Operations and maintenance of equipment would be funded by a portion of sales.
- Transportation: The community proposes to purchase a truck to transport harvested grains from garden to family homestead for drying, to the central storage facility, and to the market. The vehicle would also permit the transportation of agricultural purchases such as suckers and seedlings.
A VSLA program will help farmers save money to use for family expenses such as education for children and healthcare. It will also help them access loans when necessary for their domestic and business needs.
Village Savings and Loans Associations groups will be formed based on the existing structure of groups and will be supported by a trained staff from the Namutumba for Life project. The staff member will be responsible for selecting the leaders, starting on the saving activities, initiating internal borrowing for the first four months, external borrowing following seasons when necessary, and lastly reconstituting for the next saving cycle. The VSLA groups will be linked to the existing microfinance services offered to borrow for agricultural inputs and boost improved yield production and increased incomes for the farmers. The VSLAs will also function as the agents for micro financing for the project.
The community has a Coordinating Committee and Project Implementation Team to ensure efficient and equitable distribution of project components. A project office is located at the Namutumba Synagogue in Nawasekese village. This office functions as a meeting place for the Coordinating Committee and Procurement Committee, and a workspace for the Project Implementation Team. All project files are safely stored in the office.