Jul 2017 18

Sowing the Seeds of Hope: Insights into GRG’s Livelihood Projects in Lamwo District

Posted in News

By Wibke Angelike and Oturi Denish,

As part of its commitment to work where it is most needed, GRG continues to target communities in Lamwo District. Currently, GRG groups are working on sustainable agriculture projects, particularly sunflower farming and beekeeping, to economically empower participants and encourage reconciliation within these marginalized communities.

The communities in Lamwo District have not only been seriously affected by the war, they also suffer from high poverty and unemployment. The population’s main livelihood is agriculture. Because 90% of the land is arable and the district is sparsely populated, a lot of the fertile soil is available for agricultural activities. However, the district remains economically marginalized and is unable to exploit its full potential. Irregular rainfalls have a negative impact on the sustainable food production. Moreover, the district has become a destination for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and especially bordering South Sudan, further impinging on food security and stretching social and economic services thin. The refugee settlements camps established along the South Sudan border are also leading to environmental degradation, including streams drying up.

Because Lamwo remains among the most under-developed districts in Uganda, GRG seeks to economically empower communities within the district through livelihood programs. In its third project phase, GRG is working with five groups (175 beneficiaries in total) within Lamwo District. The purpose of the livelihood activities goes beyond the improvement of household incomes and food security: by supporting the groups to develop their own projects, GRG seeks to promote reconciliation and interaction within the communities. While working to realize their own livelihood projects, the groups are encouraged to rebuild partnerships and trust between former LRA members and their communities.

The five groups are currently given training and start-up materials for sunflower production. Each beneficiary is supposed to receive and plant a kilogram of hybrid sunflower seeds.

“After harvest, the seeds will give them good yields, if they put them together and sell them as a group. [Group members’] bargaining power is higher as a group, and they can sell their products directly to factories or producers rather than depending on underpaying middlemen. Therefore, the prices they get in return for their products will be higher if they do everything under one umbrella”, explains Oturi Denish, the GRG Program Associate in charge of these livelihood projects. “It is about economic empowerment. And about changing the mindsets of the people.”

According to Denish, changing mindsets does not only require training in alternative methods of farming. It also requires GRG group members to come to see farming as a business. “The money that they will earn from selling the sunflower seeds will be partly spent for household needs. They also told me that they will pay school fees with that money. But then, a part of the money will be saved within the group. It engages all of them, everybody has to contribute. GRG gave them one kilogram of seeds to start, but they have to continue to buy new ones after selling the sunflower proceeds. With the money they earn, they can buy more seeds next time and sell even more. And so it goes on. GRG is there to encourage them”.

The groups are also trained to manage a beekeeping project within their villages. Building on previous successes with honey production, GRG provides the groups with hives, processing machines and packing material. Economic aspect aside, Denish is aware of the symbolic significance of the beekeeping project. “The bee farm is there for the whole group. Even when GRG leaves after the group’s graduation, they will still be united. Everybody in the community will always see the hives, and the hives will remind them to be strong….” Currently, the groups are tasked to jointly decide on the location for the hives.

Reflecting his recent trip to Lamwo District, Denish recalled mentioning “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” In order to meet our own sustainability goals, GRG bases its livelihood activities on years of experience and local knowledge. Denish explained that both products, sunflowers and honey, are “manageable” as well as “demanded on the market”. Both products are tolerant to changing weather conditions and, unlike many other agricultural products, not easily affected by pests or disease. Both products are lucrative, income generating activities because they produce good yields within comparatively short time spans.

To ensure the lasting impact of the activities, GRG relies on a group formation process. Community members are elected to lead the projects’ coordination and monitoring. Those elected undergo intensive training and share their knowledge with the rest of the group.

GRG’s livelihood projects are more than a means of supporting existence. They are a means of supporting war-affected and economically marginalized communities within our areas of operation and furthering GRG’s mission of facilitating the reconciliation and reintegration of former combatants with their communities in Northern Uganda.

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