By Sarah Achieng
My name is Sarah Achieng, I come from Nwoya District in Northern Uganda. I am a Mastercard/RUFORUM scholar pursuing a Master of Science degree in Agriculture Enterprises Development at Gulu University.
Like most students across the world, COVID-19 has slowed the progression of my education. Nevertheless, since every cloud has a silver lining, the lockdown period gave me an opportunity to work on my research proposal with guidance from my supervisors.
This has saved me from the panic and pressure of balancing classwork, the mandatory university fieldwork attachment and proposal writing.
I have also been able to relate the research topic to my home project and part of my agribusiness vision for implementation in my community.
My research topic is “The Effect of Participation in Village Savings and Loan Associations on Maize Commercialization among Smallholder Maize farmers in Nwoya District.”.
This will also later indirectly give me room to test my research questionnaire’s validity in the community before using it in my actual study area.
With the favorable rainy season during the lockdown, my mother and I chose to test the soil fertility of the farmland which we bought earlier this year with savings from my scholarship stipend.
We started by planting sesame and beans, and recently, we added cassava and sweet potatoes.
Besides engaging in farm work and my research proposal, I have also been attending trainings and webinars such as the AGCELERATE webinar.
I also got an opportunity to learn more about backyard gardening of Aloe Vera, which not only heals scalps and wounds, but also acts as a body cleanser when its gel is extracted for drinking. The land we acquired already had a few Shea nut trees which my mother and I intend to multiply for commercialization of the oil.
The Shea oil is on high demand not only in Uganda, but also globally for its skin and hair nourishing benefits.
Because the land I acquired is close to the river, I intend to engage in livestock farming, particularly piggery and poultry. The waste from these animals will consequently be used as an organic fertilizer for the crops on the farm since our target is to expand the acreage and be able to sell locally and internationally.
My vision is to see my mum, who is currently employed as a school cook retire into agriculture. I hope to also use this expertise to improve livelihoods in the community.
I believe that my upcoming research on village savings groups and maize commercialization will expose me to more knowledge and open doors for me to build a career in agricultural commercialization for food security.
The reason why I decided to choose maize commercialization for this research is because Nwoya has fertile soils for maize production and yet majority of the smallholder maize farmers in the area continue to live in poverty.
On that note, my intended research will help me implement my vision as well as open up minds of smallholder maize farmers in Nwoya district.
It is an honour to have been one of the selected students to benefit from the RUFORUM scholarship. It is a chance for me to transform my community.