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Sparking a Pumpkin Revolution: Cynthia’s Story

Posted On: October 16, 2023
Farmer Cynthia Anyago smiles while holding two pumpkins
Farmer Cynthia Anyango holds two of the many pumpkins she has grown.

By Cynthia Anyango, a 28-year-old smallholder farmer in Uganda, as told to EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Eunice Akello.  

TORORO DISTRICT, UGANDA – In my community, pumpkin was never considered an income-generating crop like other vegetables. For that reason, not only me but the entire community never took pumpkin farming seriously, although most households at least had a few plants in the backyard that survived by God’s grace, with no management practices at all.

My name is Cynthia Anyango, and I am a single mother from Agururu A village, in Tororo municipality. I have been a key farmer under the Pumpkins in Africa project for the past two seasons, with technical support from East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation. 

During the first season that I hosted a pumpkin-farming demonstration plot on my land, most of the community members laughed at me, thinking that I was wasting my farming space and energy. Facing this lack of support from the community, I thought about changing my plan, but the regular visits from my EWS-KT trainer kept me motivated to push on until the end of the season. 

A month after transplanting my pumpkin seedlings, I realized something unique about the pumpkin plant: its leaves are edible. I started harvesting some of the leaves for my family’s consumption. By the second month, I was selling the pumpkin leaves in our local market, and the same people who were laughing at me were the ones buying them.

Farmer Cynthia Anyango helps a buyer load a large bag of pumpkins onto his motorcycle.
Cynthia Anyango helps a buyer load a bag of pumpkins onto his motorcycle.

When my pumpkins were ready, I successfully sold them to the buyers who came from the central market. By good chance, there were not many pumpkins at the time mine were ready, and that gave me an opportunity to sell them at a high price. 

My demo plot sparked a pumpkin revolution in my community. Now many farmers in the community—mostly women—are engaged in pumpkin farming. Pumpkin farming is easy to manage and is turning into a fortune for us mostly low-income earners. The pumpkin leaves, flesh, and seeds also supplement our household meals, which keeps our families healthier. 

Co-funded by East-West Seed founder Simon N. Groot with award money from the 2019 World Food Prize, the Pumpkins in Africa project has introduced nearly 19,900 farmers to the wonders of pumpkin farming. Pumpkin is an easy-to-grow crop that has rich nutritional benefits for farmers’ households and consumers alike.