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Ninty-year-old Peter Teiko packed his bags and jumped on the bus headed for Kampala in search of greener pastures.

He was willing to take on any odd job in the city — even begging — to live a rosier life. Teiko’s story explains his desperation. As he awaited his primary living examination (PLE) results in 2006, warriors raided his home and stole all their cattle, killing his father in the shooting.

His mother later died due to severe malaria. When his brother joined a warrior group, Teiko was lost.

“I was in Latome in Napak and decided to go to Kampala with my friend to find a job. When I reached Iriiri [in Karamoja], I saw my friend selling vegetables — cabbages and sukuma wiki. He had a lot of money. He encouraged me to start farming; so, I came back and started digging,” he says.

Returning to his 40 acres of land in Makok, which he had abandoned in the hope of a better life in Kampala, Teiko started growing onions, tomatoes, fruits, maize, sorghum and egg plant.

“At first, I would see people selling maize flour expensively; I couldn’t afford the seeds to plant,” Teiko says.

When GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), a German development agency, visited his village, it gave him seeds of various crops.

“Instead of revenging and raiding to get back my cattle, I decided to settle in agriculture as my main way of making money because, with a harvest from two acres of land, I could buy even more cattle than the ones they had taken,” Teiko says.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Selling his produce in Iriiri town was impossible because the Nabwal road that connects Makok to Iriiri was impassable and insecure, with constant attacks from warriors.

When GIZ visited his village again to see how Teiko and his fellow farmers were progressing, the organisation learnt that the farmers faced a huge security risk, including being robbed of their produce as they trekked to the market.

Following appeals from the communities in Nabwal, Iriiri sub-country, Napak district, GIZ agreed to rehabilitate the 21.4-kilometre road with the help of the community.

The repaired road was recently opened by the German Ambassador to Uganda, Klaus-Deiter Duxmann, who was accompanied by his wife and the GIZ country director, Martha Gutierrez.

Learning to farm

With expansive virgin fertile land in the Karamoja green belt, some Karimojong started farming. Napak, with a population of 25,000 people, is home to the largest of the nine settlements in the green belt.

This is where GIZ decided to take some of its farm field schools. The project trained 39 facilitators who were deployed to train other farmers in nine settlements. The schools are meant to promote improved vegetable production for sale and better nutrition in the settlement community.

The project provided initial start-up inputs such as certified seeds, farming tools and training in improved agronomic practices. According to the Food and Nutrition Baseline Survey conducted as part of the project in January last year, 39% of children under five in Karamoja suffer from chronic malnutrition, 12% are wasted and 26% of women are underweight.

A total of 147 members have joined the farm field schools, each of which has a vegetable garden for members’ household consumption and income generation.  Although the green belt has one rainy season a year, the project set up irrigation schemes from the perennial springs from the hills in Nabwal.

“Everything has been a challenge. The biggest problem was food production, but we have brought down dependence on food aid from 70% to 40%,” said Janet Museveni, the First Lady and minister for Karamoja.

After selling off his produce, Teiko made a profit of Shs 150,000. He used part of this money to buy a small camera. When he is done digging in his garden, Teiko takes photographs around his village to supplement his income.

Among other programmes launched was a self-help slaughter slab at Lorengedwat trading centre, under the watch of an inspector, to help in ensuring high quality meat.

“Once the Moroto-Nakapiripirit road is re-opened for regular traffic, local sales of meat to clients in busses and other vehicles should be possible and stimulate local cash income,” Ambassador Duxmann said.

GIZ also installed a grinding mill to help farmers in a region that produces a lot of sorghum and maize, to add value to their products, hence earning more income.

Since 2009, the German government has injected Shs 30bn into development projects in Karamoja. The projects mainly focus on sustainable food security and peace consolidation. The programmes are implemented by GIZ and other German NGOs with their Ugandan partners.

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