Tag Archives: Uganda

LPA, the glue that binds smallholders and district officials in Otuke

This summer I had the privilege of working with GWI EA in Otuke District, Uganda, as part of my Master’s in Development Practice programme at Emory University. I was doing an evaluation of the Learning and Practice Alliance (LPA) model being implemented there in order for CARE to better understand the model’s strengths, weaknesses, and ability to be adapted to new situations.

It was really quite wonderful to arrive in Otuke, after months of reading and preparation, to finally put faces to the names I had seen in project reports, and to finally start understanding this place called Otuke. Otuke, like any place you have never been to, can be difficult to conceptualise without being there. Yes, Otuke is a very rural area (almost the entire population participates in smallholder agriculture), but it isn’t an isolated community without interaction with the outside world, which I find is a common misconception when I’m asked about my stay this summer.

Jillian observing the irrigation system at the Akwera demonstration farm in Otuke

Otuke District is divided into sub counties, and those sub counties are further divided into parishes. Within the parishes people live on their farms and interact closely with their neighbours, sharing labour and friendship with one another. On Saturdays many farmers bike or walk to the central area of the district (similar to a downtown area) to sell their produce and livestock. Vendors commute from Lira, the nearest city, to Otuke to sell packaged goods, electronics, and plastic items. The market was always a lot of fun to attend; it is a very social event and people stay all day.

This central area is where the district and NGO offices reside, and this is also where I lived, in a building with rooms that are rented out. There is no electricity or running water in Otuke, so there was a learning curve for me, but two interns working for GWI, Doreen and Vicky, are from Uganda and lived in the same building, so they taught me all of the tricks and we became good friends. To move from this central area to the Champion Farmers, I rode on a motorbike with Geoffrey, another GWI intern and new friend, who would drive and translate for me. Riding on a motorbike was also a new experience for me (it’s not common in the United States like it is in Uganda), but I absolutely loved it; it’s a great way to take in the surroundings.

The evaluation I conducted required interviews with Champion Farmers, district government officials, researchers, and GWI EA staff. My scope of work was fairly broad; I was gathering information about the progress of the LPA, trust and relationships between the farmers and government, gender equity within the LPA, enabling and disabling factors for the LPA and stories of change from the Champion Farmers. Visiting the Champion Farmers was absolutely the highlight of my practicum. On the farms I had the chance to sit down and get to know the farmers a little better, usually meeting their families and getting a tour of their farms as well.

Parliamentarians and Otuke district leaders at an LPA meeting in Otuke

I knew before I arrived in Otuke that a lot of work had been done through the LPA with the Champion Farmers, but it was surprising to see exactly how much in person. The farmers had learned about mulching, pruning, composting, spacing, and other water and soil management techniques. They have been applying these new techniques to grow tomatoes, onions, bananas, and pineapples, and while I was there the new crops were doing very well overall. Additionally, most of the farmers I spoke with have dug massive water-retention pits by hand to collect rainwater that can be distributed over their crops during dry periods.

As impressive as the physical impacts of the LPA were, I was struck even more by the LPA’s impact on relationships and interactions within Otuke. Otuke was the target of violent cattle rustling in the 80s and 90s, and the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in the 00s, during which time much of the population was displaced. Otuke District was only created after resettlement in 2010. My interviewees reflected that this period of time created mistrust and strained relationships between local citizens and the government. However, Champion Farmers and district government officials that I interviewed agreed almost unanimously that the LPA has changed their relationship for the better.

For example, through the LPA, district officials visit the Champion Farmers regularly and Champion Farmers are encouraged to voice their opinions and participate in meetings. This is creating interactions that were previously absent in the community, and the Champion Farmers expressed that the physical presence of district officials on their farms had improved their perception of the local government. Champion Farmers told me that they now feel like they are valued by the community, and the importance of their work is being taken seriously by the district.

For me, this social change is one of the greatest outcomes of the LPA and a true testament to the LPA’s ability to be sustained after GWI EA. From my own experiences, I’ve seen that it’s relatively easy to bring a community physical inputs or new methodologies, but what’s difficult is getting government and citizen buy-in to make sure those projects don’t disappear when it is time for NGOs to leave. What I witnessed in Otuke was true relationship building and the creation of a new foundation for change in the community. My time in Otuke was truly insightful, and an opportunity for which I am very grateful.

Members of Parliament and Otuke district leaders meeting GWI EA Champion Farmers and farmer group members in Orum Sub county, Otuke.

Jillian Kenny
Master’s in Development Practice
Emory University 2015

More field experiences from Emory University students who have worked with GWI EA here.

Harvesting rainwater gives Otuke farmers better yields

Otuke district, in northern Uganda, is typically dry with poor soils. For long, farmers in the area concentrated on growing cereals because they doubted the possibility of cultivating vegetables in such semi arid conditions. However, with the support of CARE International, farmers adopted water smart agricultural practices such as the use of ridges, compost manure, harvesting rain water and have since  witnessed a change in fortune. Milton’s is one such story. Click here for more.



Uganda to be water stressed by 2025

On 28th August 2014, GWI EA held the 2nd National Stakeholders meeting, under the theme “Opportunities for investing in water- smart agriculture for smallholder farmers in Uganda”.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide a platform to reflect on the public and private sector investments in regards to efficient and optimal water use in enhancing productivity on smallholder farming systems.

The well-attended meeting brought together representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Water, Parliamentarians, Policy makers, private sector organizations and smallholder farmers among others.

Here is a link to a full article on the meeting in The Observer newspaper;


NLS Meeting Participants.
Participants at the meeting

See our photo archive for more photos from the meeting.

Farmers Believe What They See

Technology can serve as a catalyst in agriculture, shifting farmers from subsistence to profit oriented production, and spurring dramatic quality of life improvement for the rural poor. New technologies can also help farmers contend with the mounting challenges to food security brought about by climate variability. The million dollar question is how to best get these new technologies to the farmers who need them.

A learning tour of Masaka and Rakai districts

The Global Water Initiative EA (GWI EA) in November 2013 organized a visit for its stakeholders from northern Uganda to Masaka and Rakai districts, in central and southern Uganda respectively, to expose them to water for agriculture technologies. One of the immediate objectives of the visit was to increase appreciation, understanding and inspire smallholder farmers to identify feasible and cost efficient water harvesting technologies to increase farm production.

Among the participants in the week-long study tour were champion framers, community based trainers, policy makers, technical staff at the district and sub county levels, and GWI EA partner staff from Otuke and Gulu districts.

A learning opportunity

This was a combination of theory and practice. After brief introductory presentations by the farm managers and owners, participants would be taken to the farms to see how technology can improve a farmer’s production.

The farmers learned how to harvest rainwater and manage run offs. They were taught how rain water harvesting facilities are built and maintained, as well as the economic and social benefits of rainwater harvesting.

Otuke farmers learn about rainwater harvesting

At a climate resilience centre in Masaka, hosted by Mr and Mrs Dhaki; the farmers learnt that it was possible to harvest run off and rainwater without external support. They were taught how to use the treadle pump and the importance of group marketing as demonstrated to the participants by the “Akamira Eyiye Tagiseera Mata” group where all the 27 members had planted Nakatti, a green leafy vegetable, and each member had two days to supply to their local market.

At Josephine Kizza’s family farm project, farmers learnt the importance of intensive land use for optimum land productivity. They learnt that for higher yields, a farmer did not need to open huge chunks of land but could work on two acres and earn sufficient income and be food secure. It is at this farm that they were introduced to the farmers’ motto: “Know what to grow, grow what you know and be known for what you grow.’’

After interacting and seeing what their fellow farmers were doing, the northern Uganda farmers, most of them from Otuke district, were inspired to harvest and use water to increase farm production. By February 2014, 10 out of the 13 farmers who had been on the trip had dug pits to harvest runoff water.

Ojur John, Champion Farmer, Otuke

One of the farmers, John Ojur, was inspired by the Friesian cows he saw on Josephine Kizza’s farm and has procured for himself one heifer which has now calved and he is getting milk.

The Masaka and Rakai experience opened many participants’ eyes not only to water harvesting technologies but also to farm management skills including book keeping.

“We are delighted with the experience we have had in Masaka and Rakai,” said Ojur John, a Champion Farmer in Olilim sub county. “We will go home and turn around our farming systems. We have a lot to do, a long way to go, but we will get there.”

When I visited some of these farmers recently, I found they were still excited about their Masaka and Rakai visit. They were full of ideas of what their farms would look like in the coming two years. Indeed, farmers believe what they see!

Miriam Imalingat

GWI EA East Africa, Uganda


Welcome to our Blog

GWI East Africa is nearly a year old now and we want to use this opportunity to invite comment from you on what we do, how we can help make change happen in support of smallholder farmers in East Africa and how we can reach out successfully to influence key decision makers.UGD00430 Whilst we have time to achieve change – the Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI EA) Secure Water for Smallholder Agriculture is a 5-year program of action research, advocacy and policy influencing – there is urgency behind what we do. Each year of poor or unreliable rainfall, farmer food security it seriously affected (in both Tanzania and Uganda this year, for example, rains have been poor (see how this has affected production levels in Tanzania). Our funding partner, the Howard G Buffett Foundation, generously supports our work because of a firm commitment to achieving change in support of smallholder farmers, the bedrock of household food security in East Africa.

Our program in East Africa is part of the wider Global Water Initiative working in addition in West Africa and Central America on water for agriculture issues. In all regions the focus is on generating solid evidence to support policy change. In East Africa our goal is that through this change, smallholder farmers will achieve greater food security through more sustainable access to and productive use of water.

We are working towards three strategic outcomes to achieve this goal: Greater political attention to water for smallholder production evidenced through changes in policies and plans, and their effective implementation at local, national and regional levels; Increased investment in smarter, affordable and innovative solutions to providing water for smallholder production, especially for women farmers; and that the voice and influence of smallholders, particularly women, will increase within institutions responsible for access to and control over water for agriculture.

These are complex and challenging outcomes to achieve, but we’re confident of success given the right political support and public debate. We will be using this blog to showcase what we are doing regionally, but also to invite guest blogs from our partners and others working with us across East Africa. Please sign up and join in. A starting point should be our Regional Charter on Investment in Water for Smallholder Agriculture. Concluded and signed up to by all participants at a recent regional meeting in Morogoro, the Charter sets out six key undertakings in support of water for smallholder agriculture. Please take a look and join us by signing up to the Charter here!

Dr Alan Nicol
Program Director
GWI East Africa