Innovative projects for refugees, former child soldiers, and host communities in northern Uganda
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Oct 2014 27

Sesame: Planting new futures near the South Sudan border

Posted in News

By Oturi Denish

Sim sim (sesame) is one of the crops grown in our projects in the remote Uganda-South Sudan border area called Lamwo, and it is creating a lot of excitement among our GRG groups!  Almost all our groups are growing this crop and people walk far from their homestead looking for new land which they call “ker” meaning all their lives (i.e. wealth coming from that place), where they can plant more sim sim gardens.

Surprisingly, last month when we went to Lamwo for our group activities, we found our group members had a new name for their gardens calling them Somalia!  “That we have just come from Somalia making money” or “We’ve been weeding there in Somalia”.  This nick-name comes from the Ugandan soldiers who are part of the African union force in Somalia:  when they come back home, they come with money that allows them to build permanent houses from bricks and iron sheets, or buy cars and change their lifestyles.

Our groups are now preparing to harvest their sim sim (sesame) and are excited they will also earn a lot of money from “Somalia” (their gardens).   Currently the price of sesame is because of the high demand.  All the GRG groups farm exclusively organic which allows them to earn the best prices.  We have been able to link our groups to multiple agro-business companies who buy organic sesame, sunflower and other cash crops for sale on the international markets.  These guaranteed buyers are badly needed in the rural areas like Lamwo, which lack any sizeable markets people can reach on bicycle or by foot.  Also sim sim is popular in Acholi dishes, especially “odi” , a paste made from ground sim sim and ground nuts.  South Sudan is also an expanding market for sim sim as people there use it in many different dishes.  Now with options of where to sell our groups can choose between local, regional or international markets.

To assist our groups to improve the quality & quantity of their harvests, GRG provides  extensive training in planting techniques, organic alternatives for fertilizer & pest control and  post-harvest handling.    Our group members are very happy with such support we are giving  them since it is transforming their lives.  Otoo Justin from Atoo Pi Iya group in Ayuu Alali  parish in Lamwo told us recently “We didn’t have hope or know what to grow in the garden  when we came out of the bush and out of the camps.   Now that we are home we can regain  back our hope and improve our livelihoods thanks to GRG’s farm trainings.  If we can harvest  15 sacks of sim sim (1500 kg) we will sell this for almost 5 million shillings ($2000).  This  money can be saved in our group account, to plant more gardens next year and to send our  children to school.”

GRG encourages our groups to resume the traditional practices of farming in a group, so that  the effort of many hands means everyone in the community can eat well.  Group farming is  also a powerful activity for reconciliation for our groups to put the past hostilities of the war  behind them.  As they work together in the garden they help each other to raise-up their  lives, and begin to see each other as friends and neighbours, instead of as former LRA rebels  who abducted their siblings & children.  GRG’s groups average 40 people, with about a 50/50  split between LRA returnees & people from their surrounding community.  Our livelihood  programs are diverse, including pomolgy (fruit trees), bee farming, livestock rearing and  traditional and cash crop production as part of our holistic approach to re-building war-torn  communities and changing individual lives.

 

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