Charles Komakech plunges his hoe into the rust red soil, shooing away a wayward chicken. Corn pushes up, shoulder high, stretching toward the sky. Within hours, the rains will come thundering down, turning the tiny farming roads in this slice of northern Uganda into muddy rivers.
It’s been a good year for Komakech, and not just because of the rains. The 38-year-old farmer counts among more than 7,000 smallholders in the Acholi sub-region to join WFP’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme. With profits from his bumper maize harvest this year, he bought a pair of oxen and sent his children to school.
“P4P taught me farming skills and ways of growing as a business,” Komakech says. “We farmers can now sell our maize as a team.
With 2012 funding from Germany, the United States and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Acholi’s P4P programme is a collaboration between WFP and partners. By learning better farming, post-harvest handling and business skills, Acholi farmers have earned more than US$ 280,000 since the programme was launched in 2010. And because they join forces and sell in bulk, they can negotiate better prices from traders.
The uptick in the local economy illustrates a stunning turnaround for one of Uganda’s poorest areas. Years of conflict uprooted thousands, forcing many to seek WFP food assistance. No longer.
“Now that they’re back in their areas of origin, they want to farm,” says WFP Country Director Sory Ouane. “And WFP is playing a role of incentive to the market. With peace in neighboring South Sudan, traders are buying in Acholi. Schools and breweries are also buying from small farmers.”
Like many here, Komakech spent years in a camp for displaced people, returning home in 2007. “Now that I’m home, I can earn money from farming to buy mattresses for my family and feed them as well,” he says.
Tilling over, Komakech heads home. His children rush over, helping him clean the mud off his feet.
“I feel good about the future,” Komakech says. “Now I sit down and draw up a budget, instead of just farming without any plan.”