Planting Seeds of Hope in Uganda

Women farmers earn income and gain confidence.

In Uganda’s Kiryandongo settlement, more than 65,000 refugees, primarily from South Sudan, have established temporary homes. Approximately 1.4 million refugees live in Uganda overall and about 85% of them are women and children.

As part of Uganda’s progressive refugee policy, each refugee is given a small plot of land, but many have not been able to use their land productively. Our Optimized Land Utilization Model (OLUM) project – supported by the Swedish International Development Agency – provides training, tools, and seeds for refugees to plant and harvest crops to support their families.

One of the most commonly grown and cooked vegetables is Sukuma wiki – collard greens in English. Translated literally from Swahili, Sukuma wiki means to “stretch the week.” As families deal with the COVID-19 lockdown, lost income, and reduced food rations, the nutritious crop is living up to its name, and our training, tools, and seeds have helped to fill the gap.

Meet two refugees who are growing Sukuma wiki and other healthy vegetables and stretching their harvests to make sure their children have enough healthy, nutritious food to eat.


Laker Lucy, a refugee in Uganda
Lucy’s mushroom business inspired many of her neighbours. Photo: Action Against Hunger.

Laker Lucy came to Kiryandongo in 2014 and learned how to cultivate mushrooms last year. Her business took off, and her success has inspired many of her neighbours.

When COVID-19 hit, the lockdown in Uganda affected her mushroom growing – she could not access the raw materials, particularly the mushroom spawn, needed for production. Lucy could no longer make enough money and needed to find other means to provide food for her large family, which includes both children and grandchildren who depend on her.

“Since the schools closed, all the children came back home and they eat a lot,” Lucy explains. “With such a big family, I needed to diversify to ensure that I could feed all of them.”

“From my mushroom savings, I bought a few vegetable seeds and, with the help from Action Against Hunger staff, we set up nursery beds of onions and Sukuma wiki. We have already started eating the Sukuma wiki and the onion leaves,” she says.

Lucy harvests Sukuma wiki with her granddaughter. Photo: Action Against Hunger.

“My vegetables are doing so well. Together with my children, we set up more nursery beds,” says Lucy. “I hope to sell the surplus from my harvest and invest more in my mushroom production.”

Lucy hopes to expand her mushroom business as soon as she can access the supplies she needs to restart. In the meantime, she continues some small-scale production to maintain her customer base.


Agnes focuses on farming to feed her family. Photo: Action Against Hunger.

When Uganda’s lockdown went into place a few months ago, Lamwo Agnes faced the loss of her sole source of income.

“I used to make and sell snacks in schools but now that schools are closed, I no longer make them, so I no longer get money,” says Agnes, whose frustration is clear. “The food we get is not enough for us all.”

Agnes depends on food rations and crops she grows at home to feed her six children and four nieces and nephews. Much of her time is now focused on farming to make sure she has enough for her family.

“I received seeds from Action Against Hunger and I planted them. We have started harvesting some vegetables, especially the Sukuma wiki, which the children like so much. I also planted some pawpaw trees last year and we are enjoying the fruits now.” Her face brightens as she walks toward her orchard.

Agnes learned to make her onions harvest last. Photo: Action Against Hunger.

In her trainings, Agnes learned not only how to grow her crops, but how to make her harvest last. She has not had to buy onions at the market after her bountiful harvest last year – she still has some onions in storage.

“The market price for onions skyrocketed, and I’m glad I was trained on post-harvest handling. I managed to store lots of them for my family. Sometimes even my neighbours borrow from me. I have already transplanted more onions and tomatoes in my garden and I’m helping my neighbours as well,” she explains proudly.

“Because I no longer have any other source of income, I’m focusing on farming,” says Agnes. She rents land from her host community, and grows sweet potatoes, beans, tomatoes, onions, collard greens, peas, and maize alongside the existing pawpaw trees. “I am thankful to Action Against Hunger for the knowledge, seeds and other inputs I received.”


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