Learning through Farmer Field Schools: How Ugandan Communities Found Self-Sustainability
Population: 47.1 million
People in Need: 15.7 million
People Helped Last Year: 1,084,743
Our Team: 247 employees
Program Start: 1995
Uganda’s environment is under massive strain. With few resources available, many farmers are draining wetlands for agricultural use, and with deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, and water pollution impacts planting and harvesting. In recent years, climate shocks have exacerbated this deterioration. More than 70% of Uganda’s population works in the agriculture industry, yet many are losing their livelihoods due to the decline in crop production.
Over the last four years, Action Against Hunger has worked with partner organizations to teach agriculture skills and help incoming refugees learn how to improve food security. We launched a project that introduced Farmer Field Schools, an inclusive cooperative of farmers that come together to share resources, teach skills, and reach personal goals. Action Against Hunger oversees each Farmer Field School and distributes any necessary tools or resources that farmers need to succeed. After a few years, each farmer “graduates” to a new level, where they’re encouraged to set even higher goals and inspire others around them.
Jimmy Dratele, a member of a Farmer Field School in the Terego District, received hoes, seeds, pesticides, and other key materials from Action Against Hunger to kick-start his farm. For Jimmy, starting his business also meant building self-reliance.
“It gave me knowledge,” he says. “I was taught financial discipline. I managed to buy a motorcycle and a small grinding mill, and now there is growth in my work.”
Jimmy employs his neighbors when he has too much on his hands, helping them to develop skills and earn income. The Farmer Field Schools lead to a ripple effect: one student teaches another, and then another, and the skills are multiplied across the entire community.
Since 2019, nearly 6,000 farmers in more than 150 Farmer Field Schools have been directly impacted by Action Against Hunger’s program. Herbert Jurua, an Agricultural Officer in the Terego District, says that the schools made a huge impact after bringing new agricultural technologies to communities. They also supplied tools, seeds, planting materials, and improved breeds of animals, free of charge.
“What we are looking at here is household food security and household income. Those are two areas we seek to address in our sector,” he says. “At the end of the day, a number of households felt secure.”
The schools help with more than agricultural development. Farmers also learn about how to manage and care for their livestock, which is deeply intertwined with farming. The project has provided 480 oxen and 134 ox plows to the groups, which helps them to plow their fields, transport goods to the market, and more. Cultivating an acre using hand hoes takes about two months—with an ox plow, community members can cultivate a field twice that size in just one to two weeks.
Rajab Safi, the Chairperson of a Farmer Field School in Terego District, uses oxen to plow more land, transport luggage, and grind cassava on a large scale.
“Before, it was hard for me to earn ($130), but now I make [enough] money to take to a savings group,” he said. “I think we have set the communities on the path for stability in food production, food security, and nutrition security. We have provided skills which will enable the [community] to continue producing food long after we have gone away.”
In addition to oxen, several thousand Farmer Field School members received 1,829 goats. District Veterinary Officers trained Community Animal Health Workers on to care for their herds and protect animal health with vaccines and other disease prevention measures.
Community members are confident that their businesses will long outlive the project. Two years ago, Zainab Owok cultivated two acres on his plot in Yumbe District. Last year, he expanded to three acres of land—next year, he plans to cultivate ten acres.
Throughout the Adjumani district, members of the Farmer Field School cultivated 140 acres last year. This year, despite little rain, the farmers predict they will harvest 400 acres in this district alone. Not only has their production volume increased, but the community feels confident in self-reliance, sustainability, and independence from outside help. Even when one crop dies, they can feed their children without worrying about continuous production.
Loyce Afulu, a member of the Farmer Field School in Yumbe District, says that her mind was awakened once she started learning farming techniques from other community members and tilled her own farm at home with the help of her neighbors. Techniques included setting up solar-powered irrigation systems, tilling the land, and using ox-ploughs to maximize land usage. She was given two sacks of cassava cuttings and planted hers in her garden. Before she knew it, the cuttings sprouted, and then grew into something beautiful.
“The project has helped us, it has given me strength,” she said. “It has inspired me to have a target. My goal is to be an example to the people of Ariwa, especially my village. The training I received transformed my life.”
About the Project
The European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) Response to Increased Demand in Government Service and Creation of Economic Opportunities in Uganda (RISE) Project, organized by a consortium of nonprofit organizations and spearheaded by Action Against Hunger, launched the Farmer Field School program throughout several villages in Uganda. Action Against Hunger’s partners include the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Welthunger Hilfe (WHH), PALM Corps, and local communities in the Arua, Adjumani, and Yumbe districts of West Nile, Northern Uganda. Since 2019, EUTF RISE has improved the lives of nearly 150,000 refugees and members of their host communities.
Click here to learn more about Action Against Hunger’s work to support refugees and communities in Uganda.
Action Against Hunger leads the global movement to end hunger. We innovate solutions, advocate for change, and reach 28 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 55 countries, our 8,900 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. We strive to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.