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Pamela Mawa - farmer and mother

Entering the third harvesting season as part of the School Demonstration Gardens project Pamela Mawa and her six children are starting to feel the impact that the project is making.

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Even if more than 80% of Ugandans are involved in agriculture a lot of farmers rely on very basic farming techniques. Simple training – such as planting in lines or using organic fertiliser – can therefore have a tremendous impact.

The School Demonstration Gardens Project has established demonstration gardens at 15 schools and these serve as learning sites where 25-30 local farmers per school come on a weekly basis and learn simple techniques that they can replicate at home.

Why farming at schools? Because there is a direct correlation between low quality education at a primary level and food insecurity resulting from poor agricultural productivity.

 

 There is a great change because my presence in the school actually makes my children come and concentrate in class. Because they know at least every Tuesday, Mama is around school so they don’t need to joke with studies. 

Meet Pamela Mawa
Pamela is 50 years old, a widow and has six children. Her income provides for the entire household. The training she has received includes planting in lines and techniques for covering plants to preserve moisture on her small piece of land. And things have improved so much that the market is now coming to her: “People come and buy fresh vegetables from my home. I have a wide range of customers because I have different vegetables; okra, garden pea and cassava.” 

Farmers growing businesses

Whereas weeding and planting in straight lines are laudable traits of a farmer they are not enough to make farming profitable. The produce also needs to be managed and marketed and the farmer needs to have a sense of business.  Through the training Pamela has received she has learnt the importance of keeping a record of production costs of each crop in order to make sure she doesn’t sell at a loss. Now that she is only selling at a profit she has enough to spend some of the proceeds on better seeds and for preparing land for cattle so that she can turn what used to be subsistence farming into a profitable business. And things are changing already even if Pamela only farms on a very small piece of land. “I was able to get a profit of 20,000 Uganda Shillings (USD 5.90) which I used to pay school fees,” says Pamela.  

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Saving money – and spending it wisely
The Demonstration Gardens are at local schools – and it is at one of these, Labala Primary School, that Pamela receives training. She goes at least once per week and makes sure to attend meetings in the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). This is where some of the training in agricultural practices takes place – but also where all the farmers in the project save the money they make after each harvest. Just below one third of the money that goes into the VSLA is earmarked for the school. How the money is spent is up to the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and School Management Committee (SMC) – and it is typically spent on school meals, scholastic materials and building pit latrines and other structures. Better materials and better structures reflect positively on the quality of the school but the school meals are also very important – because it is very difficult to listen to the teacher when all you can hear is your growling tummy.

Savings prepare you for anything
As for the remaining money, 30% goes to a group development fund and 40% is split between the members. The group development fund plays a particularly important role as an instrument to help the farmers take on expansions or developments that were previously out of their reach – and it demonstrates the importance of saving money. This can also come in handy when facing drought, sickness or other emergencies

 According to the training that I got, I should always be prepared for anything. So in case any sickness happens, I have something for transport and I have something for medical bills and the rest of it.