By Stephen Ongaria

(BSc. Education Agriculture –Gulu University)

My name is Stephen Ongaria, a student at Gulu University, Uganda. When I started my university education, I never expected to be so much inspired to become a change agent within my community. It did not take long for me to understand that vegetable farming has huge potential in terms of income generation. Few months ago, I started growing vegetables commercially. My interest was in three vegetables: tomatoes, onions and collard (locally known as Sukuma wiki) because of the ready market these vegetables have throughout the year. Consequently, that means these vegetables have the potential to provide year-round employment to the youth and women in the community of Usuk-County, Katakwi District, in eastern Uganda whom I have been working with. While demand is often high, much of the vegetables consumed in the community currently comes from neighbouring districts such as Kapchorwa, Mbale and Sironko. This gives me a competitive advantage over the other farmers, because of the proximity I already have to the market.

I started my project with a working capital of 250,000 Uganda Shillings (UGX). However, I anticipated to earn at least UGX 4 million per harvest season, with the possibility to grow crops over three successive seasons in a year. With access to improved farming technologies such as irrigation systems, the earnings could even go much higher to UGX 12 million in three seasons over a 12-month period. The first returns of my project came with the Sukuma wiki, which was ready for harvesting, and which made me earn at least UGX 70,000 on weekly basis. I also expect to make a decent income from the onions and tomatoes. A kilogramme of tomatoes currently retails for UGX 3000, and I expect to harvest at least 200 kilogrammes. This will generate about UGX 600,000. On the other hand, a kilogramme of onions costs UGX 5,500, with an expected harvest of 400 kilogrammes. Aside from growing these vegetables, I have also planted cassava, peas and groundnuts.

Although I currently run this project at family level, I was able to extend the knowledge and skills by training the youth in the community to take on vegetable farming-both for commercial production and home consumption. I am glad to note that some of them are already applying the skills learnt to their own benefit. This has substantially contributed to change young people mindset about vegetable farming for the benefit of the community. On a light note, I also volunteered as an Ambassador for the MasterCard Foundation in the fight against teenage pregnancies, which are rampant across the country, but specifically in Eastern Uganda. I participated in talk shows, wrote poster messages, and took part in door-to-door sensitisation of community members about the dangers of teenage pregnancies.

Finally, it is now a fact that the Coronavirus pandemic has seriously affected livelihoods and slowed down many activities, as the Uganda Government observed several months of lockdown. I spent my lockdown period achieving other targets. I particularly invested time to make 10,000 bricks for my three-bedroom house project. With the internet data bundles provided by RUFORUM, I also enrolled and subsequently completed two online courses in agricultural risk management and agricultural economics. I’m already applying that knowledge to my farming project. I also took part in the RUFORUM entrepreneurship training, and was able to participate in the proposal writing. As I end my story here, I wish to acknowledge the support from the TAGDev project at RUFORUM, funded by the MasterCard Foundation. It is my hope that sharing this story will motivate other young people or students in Africa.

Contact information :

Email: stephenongaria@gmail.com

Phone: +256774313414 / +256707976776

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