+++ Drought and aridity due to El Niño +++ In Uganda, hunger and malnutrition are a threat. The region of Karamoja is particularly badly affected.
Try something new – planting white cabbage, for example, or ploughing a field with the help of oxen. Smallfarmers in the village of Ogur in Uganda are trying these things out as part of a Welthungerhilfe agricultural project. Their courage has paid off.
The bike has given up the ghost. The large white cabbage intended for the canvas sack is placed on the ground and Alex Opoio assesses the damage. Another flat tyre, just when he needs to cycle to market. By bike, the journey takes 50 minutes – but now he has to push. It will easily take him four hours.
White cabbage, an unknown vegetable
Alex Opoio lives with his family in a small roundhut on the edge of Ogur in northern Uganda. He has been a participant in a Welthungerhilfe project for the last five years: On his land, one hectare in size, he is growing white cabbage. A vegetable that up until five years ago he had neither seen nor heard of. Back then, Welthungerhilfe staff introduced white cabbage at an agricultural training session. They explained that it was resilient, tasty and good to cultivate. Alex Opoio decided to take a chance and have a go at growing cabbage. It worked: Opoio now harvests so much that he travels to the market every week to sell his crop.
This year there was unusually heavy rainfall. The harvest is good, the end of the cabbage field is scarcely recognisable to the naked eye. Like strings of footballs, the white cabbage heads are pressed up against each other – the biggest certainly weighing six or seven kilos. “It will probably bring me 3,500 shillings at market”, explains the farmer proudly. 3,500 shillings equate to one whole Euro. “If it carries on like this, I’ll be a millionaire – in shillings”, he grins. As well as white cabbage, he is also growing onions and tomatoes. It was previously assumed that these vegetable varieties would not grow in the area.
The courage to try something new
“We have convinced our project participants that sometimes it makes sense to try something new”, says project leader Anthony Otude. For the last four years, the 42-year-old and his team have been organising the Welthungerhilfe project in Ogur. “We started simply. Distribution of seeds, dissemination of new cultivation methods, support in the purchase of oxen. Until recently, the people here ploughed the fields by hand”, explains Anthony.
Samuel Obwota, who lives a few kilometres away from Alex Opoio’s cabbage field, is now working with oxen. Welthungerhilfe always distributed the animals to groups of farmers so they could collectively organise the field work. Samuel Obwota puts the animals into the wooden ploughing harness, tightens the plough and the animals set off. Within a few minutes, six rows have been ploughed into the field. By hand, that would have taken at least half a day.
What will the future bring?
The village residents are benefiting from the project. Some are worried as the project will soon be at an end, others are optimistic: “From now on we have to see for ourselves how we move forward – and we will achieve that”, says one.
A day later, Alex Opoio has repaired his bike. The next trip to the market is set. “When people see that my vegetables look good and healthy, maybe some of them will come to me directly to buy them. That would save me the travelling back and forth.” But it is not yet at that stage. Alex jumps on to his bike, the sack of cabbage heads on the pannier rack. In less than an hour he’ll be at the market – as long as the tyres hold out.