Champion Farmers

Lilly’s Story

Lilly Awor Obua, a Global Water Initiative (GWI) "Champion Farmer"

My name is Lilly Obua. I live in Loro village, Anepkide parish, Olilim Sub County in Otuke district. My family consists of eight members.

My husband and I own 15 acres of land. We have put eight acres under crop cultivation, three under animal husbandry and four under fallow. We mainly grow cassava, millet, sweet potatoes, rice, sorghum and beans. Our major cash crops are rice, simsim and ground nuts.

I rely on family and hired labour to produce. Rice, simsim and millet are labour intensive during planting, weeding and harvesting. I spend up to Shs 180,000 [$70] a season on labour.


Our farming is purely rain fed. When it is dry we suffer poor yields and with some crops, no yield at all. I would have loved to irrigate my land but I think it is expensive to acquire the necessary tools.

Otuke lies in Northern Uganda, not far from the border with South Sudan.

Last season from one acre of land I harvested one bag of rice and 5 bags of groundnuts, one bag of pigeon peas, eight bags of sorghum, two bags of simsim and foure basins of beans. I sold one bag of simsim and two bags of groundnuts and I used sorghum as a payment in kind for hired labour. I earned Shs 510,000 ($200).

I use the money from farming mainly for school fees, hiring labour and covering other family requirements. Although we usually have enough to eat, there are some months of deficit. In that period we limit portions at mealtimes.

In this community it is difficult to get on alone. We have a group, OBANGA ATWERO VSLA through which we access credit and also save money. I am an auditor for the group.

In farming my major challenges are drought, pests and diseases, and stray animals. These are very destructive. My dream is to mechanize in order to increase production.


Sophie’s Smallholding

My name is Sophie Acen. I am 49 years old. I live in Tecwao village, Otuke district. In my family we are eight “ three male and five female. Our gardens are 500 metres from the homestead. The distance to the nearest water source, which is a borehole, is 200 meters.

In 2002, rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) made this area inhabitable. They were killing us. We run away and started to live in a camp in Ngeta, in Lira district. I returned to the village with my family in 2008. It was a bush. We had nothing left. We had to start life afresh.

We own close to 45 acres of land,  15 under crop cultivation, five under animal husbandry, 10 under fallow and 15 not in use.

We grow rice, groundnuts, millet, pigeon peas, simsim, sorghum, tomatoes and beans. Our major cash crops are rice, simsim and tomatoes. The rice is purely for selling. I grow rice to get school fees for my children. I have a son in boarding school in Kampala, in Senior Six; another boy is in Lira, in Senior Two; I have three children in Primary school and one in nursery.

Sophie Acen, a Global Water Initiative (GWI) "Champion Farmer"

Our farming is purely rainfed and our main source of labour is the family. Two of us are fully engaged on the farm. The others help during their school holidays. We also hire some labour especially during weeding.

Last season we harvested 150 kilos of beans and about the same amount of millet as well as pigeon peas. We also produced 420 kilos of unhurlled rice and 70 kilos of simsim.

We sold all the rice at Shs 1300 per kilo. The total income from the sale of rice was Shs 506,000 which we used to pay school fees for our son in Lira.

From last season’s harvest we were able to feed ourselves for eight months. During food deficit months, usually April to June, we cope by reducing the number of meals in a day, limiting portions at meal time and providing casual labour.

My goal is to mechanize farming so that we are able to increase production.


Mary’s Runoff Pit

My name is Mary Okori. I am 28 years old and a single mother of one. My daughter, Tracy, is 2 years old. We live in Aweii village, Ogor Sub County in Otuke district.

Last year, Tracy and I moved back to my father’s house. I had to leave her father because of irreconcilable differences.Mary Okori

My father gave me 7 acres of land to cultivate when I returned home. I am growing cassava, rice, millet, beans, simsim, and vegetables. I have also prepared seedbeds for my tomatoes and onions which I received from GWI EA. In addition to the crops, I rear chicken and goats. My farming has been purely rain-fed, but with the water harvesting pit I have dug, I should be able to grow crops during the dry season and all year round.

I learned about water harvesting from my aunt Anyensi Kelle, a Champion Farmer. She inspired me to dig the pit and harvest the rain water that was being lost during the rainy season. I received technical assistance from the GWI EA extension workers and with the help of my father and one hired help, we completed the pit in three months. My pit has a storage capacity of about 32,000ltrs.

My major challenges in farming are drought, flooding during the heavy rainy season, hailstorms, pests and diseases and finding affordable labour for my gardens. My dream is to increase my agricultural production so I can educate my daughter and construct a permanent house.

Anna’s Business edge in the market

My name is Anna Anyinge. I am from Loro village in Olilim Sub County.

AnnaBefore GWI EA started supporting the farmers in Anepkide parish, I had insufficient knowledge about Soil and Water conservation and Vegetable production. But when they intervened, and started supporting Lilly Obua, a farmer in a group where I am now a member, I saw how great the practices were and developed interest in learning the new innovative techniques and practices they were teaching the farmers in my neighbourhood.

I implemented the practices with support from GWI and hosted a study- evaluation of performance of Tomato varieties; Money maker and Roma under Soil and water management using of Manure, Raised beds and soil cover using mulches on my land. In no time I realised that the techniques were far much better than our traditional practices.

I have also learnt how to diagnose plant diseases and the remedies to common diseases and pests. Last season, my tomatoes were attacked by the late blight infection but through GWI extension workers, I learnt how to identify the disease at the onset, and implement control measures. I now know that timely staking, mulching, pruning and adherence to spray schedules play a big role in the control of a number of tomato diseases.

I am extremely happy because these new practices and knowledge have improved my yields and I have been able to earn from the sale of my produce in one season what I had never thought I could earn in a year. Last season, from my tomatoes, I earned UGX 984,200 ($350) from a 600sq metre plot. If I cultivated an acre, I would earn over UGX 4 million ($1,420) in a space of 3 months. With the entrepreneurial and marketing skills I obtained from a business skills training, I was able to out-compete my competitors at the market.

I believe that if I continue doing this over the season, I will shift from a grass thatched house and begin sleeping in an iron-sheet roofed house.

Milton’s Vegetable Fortune

My name is Milton Ocen. I live in Aneng village, Anep Moroto parish, Orum Sub County in Otuke district.

MiltonI have planted tomatoes before, but in a small area and with poor management. However, last season, with the knowledge given to me by CARE extension workers, I planted an area of 978m2 from which I was able to earn Shs748,200. With that money, I was able to take back my children to school; two in Senior Three at Orum Secondary School, another one for vocational training at Labora Youth Development Centre and the fourth child to Primary One in Orum Central Primary School.

This has also changed my perception on planting vegetables. I actually regret the years I spent planting things like simsim, cassava yet I have never earned that amount.I have now purposed to become a vegetable farmer.

I want to try growing and selling carrots for the first time in Otuke. This season, I plan to have 10,000 heads of cabbage and have also planted green pepper.


Crop rotation increased my yields

My name is Sisay Walelign. I live in Zinchbet village, Ema Shenkero kebele. My family consists of five members.

Sisay2My family and I own 6 acres of land with 5.5 acres under crop cultivation. We grow potatoes and tomatoes for home consumption and sale. I used to produce very low yields during the dry season. However, this changed when I joined the GWI EA programme as a Champion Farmer. My farming knowledge and skills have broadened because of the trainings and support from GWI EA. Although our crops were irrigated before, the water used to evaporate leaving the soils very dry. I have learnt to irrigate early in the morning before the sun comes out. My land neighbours a river, which makes irrigation easy for me. I have one hand-dug well and I am constructing another. I have learnt different conservation agriculture techniques. I used to plant potatoes on the same piece of land consistently and my production kept on diminishing. I am now practicing crop rotation and using compost.

Since I started practicing the improved techniques and technologies, my production has greatly increased. Last season, I earned 600 Birr ($30) from selling my potatoes and 400 Birr ($20) from my tomatoes. I would have earned more but I lost many of them to frost. The market for tomatoes is sufficient and the seed varieties that we received from GWI EA were really good. I bought 2 bags of compost manure for the next season with the money. I am now able to feed my family and guests.

I have rebuilt and upgraded my house using the earnings from selling my irrigated produce. i have also purchased some goats and sheep. My dream is to increase my potato and tomato production and to venture into other crops such as green pepper.


Yeshume’s growing fortune

My name is Yeshume Chekole. I am a 20-year-old single mother of one. I live in Yehonal village in Korata Kebele, Ethiopia. Before joining the GWI EA programme, I used to practice traditional methods of agriculture. I had very limited knowledge on how to make a living from agriculture to sustain my 3-year-old daughter. After my husband left, life became very difficult. I had to borrow food and money from friends and relatives to sustain my family.IMG_4633

When I was selected as a champion farmer, I received training on Water Smart Agriculture, poultry management and how to operate a motorised irrigation pump, to enable me continue crop production even in dry seasons. I also learned about the agronomy of planting in rows and using improved seed varieties for better yields.

With the knowledge and skills I acquired, I planted improved varieties of potatoes, tomatoes, hot pepper and maize on 1.2 acres. Today, I believe I am one of the most successful champion farmers in Korata Kebele, just eight months into adopting irrigation and conservation agriculture techniques.

From the sale of my produce, I have managed to purchase 3 sheep, construct a house and furnish my sitting room with household utensils. I have also rented half an acre of land for two years and already paid the land lord 3,000 birr ($150) off the income I received from the sale of maize, tomatoes, hot pepper and potatoes.

As a member of the Learning and Practice Alliance (LPA), I have had the opportunity to attend 10 meetings in the last eight months where women farmers interfaced with government and key decision makers to discuss issues related to water for agriculture. I believe that there is a great opportunity for women smallholder farmers to boost agricultural production, ensure food security and augment household incomes if they embrace irrigation and conservation agriculture techniques.

Dahisash’s amazing tale

My name is Dahisash Bikoyegne. I am a single mother of six. I live in Metsel village in Hamusit kebele, Ethiopia. When my husband died, I leased 4 acres of my land to community members, from which I earned just enough to buy some food for my family. At the time, it was against custom for women to engage in agriculture. I supplemented my income with menial jobs in the neighbourhood, but this didn’t bring much. My children dropped out of school to help me make ends meet.Dahisash

I took credit from Amhara Credit and Saving Institution and started to practice agriculture. However, I did not know how to make my land productive and I was soon drowning in debt. That season, hailstorm destroyed the potatoes I had planted, leaving nothing for home consumption or sale in the market.

Last year, I was selected as a GWI EA champion farmer. I received training on modern agriculture practices such as mulching, planting on ridges to retain soil moisture content and irrigation to supplement the rainfed system I had been relying on. I also received training on the importance of soil and water conservation towards food production. With my newly acquired skills, I prepared my land for cultivation and planted rice, maize, potatoes, sugar beet, pepper, tomatoes. From my harvest I earned 3,600 birr ($180), more than double the previous year’s harvest of 900 birr ($45).

I have now constructed a canal around my neighbour’s plot of land with the help of government. I can now access the nearby water source during the dry season and cultivate all year round. Securing food is no longer my worry. I have a variety of food to eat and cover the basic necessities in the house.

With my earnings from selling my produce, I have bought an ox , 3 sheep and a donkey to ease the farm work and transportation of my produce. I have cleared all my debts and I no longer take credit from the savings group. Today, I am the one who gives my neighbours interest-free loans. My two youngest children have resumed school. I want them to be literate, unlike me. I don’t want them to sign documents using their finger prints.

Lizael’s maize

LizaelSamwel_TZMy name is Lizael Samweli. I am 41 years old. I live in Mwembeni village, Same district, Tanzania. We are seven in the household.

We own close to three acres of land and we use all of it for agriculture. About an acre of the land is under furrow irrigation and the rest is rainfed. We have also converted half an acre to bench terraces.

We grow beans, sorghum, maize, cabbage and spinach. We rely on direct rainfall as well and water from a stream 200m away from home.

Most of the work on the gardens is done by the family – but we some times hire labour in order to be in time for the new season. It costs me TZS 88,000 to clear an acre for planting. Some of the produce we consume at home and the rest, we sell to cover school fees and other family necessities.

Last season we cultivated one acre of maize, one acre of sorghum and a quarter an acre of onions. We harvested seven bags of maize, five bags of onions and four bags sorghum. We sold all the onions and the sorghum.

Our yield was not good so we faced food shortages. We had to borrow money from relatives to buy food. We also had to reduce the meals consumed per day.

My goal as a farmer is to increase food production through irrigation in order to improve the family’s standard of living.


Doris’ rainwater harvesting dream

DorisJapeth_TZMy name is Doris Japheth. I am 41 years old. I live in Vundee village, Same district, Tanzania. We are five in the homestead.

We have five acres of land two of which are under crop cultivation. We use flood irrigation on a quarter an acre and another piece of similar size is under bench terraces.

We grow beans, potatoes, maize, tomatoes and carrots. We rely entirely on family labour. Some of the produce we eat and the rest we sell to get money for school fees and family necessities.

Last season we cultivated an acre each for beans and potatoes, and a quarter an acre each for maize and tomatoes. We harvested one bag of maize, one bag of beans, two bags of potatoes and 12 tins of tomatoes. We sold two tins of beans for TZS 5000 per tin, 12 tins of tomato for TZS 5000 per tin and one bags of potatoes for TZS 48,000. The prices were very low and we experienced food shortages. During food deficit periods we cope by reducing meal portions, borrowing money from relatives, reducing the number of meals a day and selling cattle to buy food.

Our yield was low last season due to little rain, pests and diseases and lack of agricultural inputs.

My goal as a farmer is to change from rainfed to irrigated agriculture. I want to use rainwater harvesting techniques and technologies to tap enough water for irrigation in order ton increase the yield.