Benson Okech is Accountant, at Grameen Foundation Uganda.
When one is traveling to the Rwenzori area, what rings in the mind of the individual are the cascading waterfalls from the peak of Mt. Rwenzori and the presence of several species of wild animals in the national parks in western Uganda. There also are other breaking stories about this area, including a group of poor farmers who are helping others like themselves improve their livelihoods by expanding access to accurate, timely information.
Zangura Ibrahim has been a subsistence farmer for several years in his little-known village of Kanyampara 1, Kacungiro Parish, Munkunyu Sub County, in Kasese District. His passion for agriculture was boosted when he learnt of people in his area called Community Knowledge Workers, or CKWs, who are recruited and trained by Grameen Foundation to serve farmers like him within the area.
Before Ibrahim knew there was a CKW in his area, his two-acre farm was planted with matooke and tomatoes for domestic consumption. However, with the help of Wanzalha Jacob, his local CKW, Ibrahim diversified his crops. He now also grows beans and potatoes, and uses the increased income he earns by selling them for necessities like sugar, salt and medicine.
With the information about weather and crop diseases that his local CKW made available to him, using a mobile phone provided by Grameen Foundation connected to a specially designed database, Ibrahim was able to harvest and sell his produce for 2 million Ugandan shillings (UGX 2,000,000, or about US$800), an amount he had never earned in his life, recalled Ibrahim with a smile on his face when I asked him.
In addition to the bumper harvest, Ibrahim has now acquired more 12 acres of land from his parents, which will enable him to plant more crops. He has even brought his wife on board to be in charge of planting beans, simsim and sweet potatoes, while he concentrates on planting matooke, coffee and other crop varieties on his 14-acre piece of land.
With a bigger piece of land and renewed hope of getting a more fruitful harvest, Ibrahim plans to buy a water pump to irrigate his crops during the dry season, so that his crops can grow well and earn him good harvest. He confidently says that should all things go well, he hopes to sell the produce from the 14 acres for up to UGX 5,000,000. To ensure that he attains this target, Ibrahim has already built a small house (seen in the background of the photo above) where he stays with his wife during the time they are on the farm.
The next challenge he anticipates will involve transporting his produce from his farm to the markets. Luckily, his local CKW can even help him by providing information about accurate market prices, so he can know estimate how much he will earn from his crops. The Grameen Foundation AppLab team hopes that the local CKWs will be able to help even more farmers in the area, who suffer from the same small amounts of land and capital that Ibrahim used to have.