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How Joseph Became an All-Season Farmer

Posted On: December 22, 2023
Farmer Joseph Nyakuni and EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Agnes Eyotaru in Joseph's okra field.
EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Agnes Eyotaru (left) and farmer Joseph Nyakuni (right) inspect Joseph’s flourishing okra field.

When field crop farmer Joseph Nyakuni began growing vegetables in northwestern Uganda, he knew nothing about vegetable farming. Two years later, he is implementing advanced horticultural methods and modern technologies that enable him to harvest vegetables all year long. 

Joseph recently spoke with EWS-KT Technical Field Officer Agnes Eyotaru about his vegetable farming journey. 

TEREGO DISTRICT, UGANDA — My name is Nyakuni Joseph, and I am a practicing vegetable farmer for both rainy season and dry season. I belong to a group called Alivu Initiative, where I started this kind of work. [Editor’s note: Alivu Initiative is a village savings group composed of farmers. Members save on a weekly basis so they have a joint income source from which they can get affordable loans to facilitate their production.]

The first time I engaged myself in vegetable growing, I had no knowledge and skills. I could just see what other farmers were doing, and they then encouraged me to grow my own crops. 

I came to realize that East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation supports farmers with technical knowledge, and when I visited their learning plot at Omugo Subcounty headquarters in Terego District, I learned a lot of things that I did not know. I began to attend training sessions in my community and to learn how the different crops are grown, most especially when it comes to plant spacing of crops such as okra, tomato, cabbage, cowpea, and collard greens.

At one of the trainings, I was able to speak to the trainer, a Technical Field Officer called Agnes, who is now my teacher. When I asked her how I could be helped in growing vegetables, she told me that she could help me if I have other farmers around me or in a group, so they can learn from her too, and if I have a field near a water source. 

Therefore, I began to look for some land near water. I was excited to embark on dry-season farming so as to earn more money without seasonal limitations. 

Several people stand between the raised beds in Joseph Nyakuni's okra field.
Joseph chose okra for his demonstration plot.

Agnes then told me to select the crop that I would wish to get trained on, and we would use it for a demonstration plot. I chose okra, and we started right from seedling production, how to make the leaf pots, how to make a seedling house.

I have learned a lot from East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation because they create a difference for smallholder farmers. The difference is in techniques such as planting in a zig-zag format, fertilizer application and the right amounts and timing, pruning of the plants to get a good-quality harvest, and use of high-quality seeds which are resistant to diseases.

I am now able to apply fertilizers on my own, and I know about mulching, and planting on ridges, and how to space the different types of vegetables. I have also learned about pest and disease identification and management, different pesticides and fungicides to use, and how to use them properly. 

The land I found is near a river, and I learned all about dry-season production of vegetables. During the dry season, I filled watering cans from the river to irrigate my plants. However, because I was dependent on hand watering, this limited the amount I could grow.

This inspired me to acquire a solar irrigation system so that I can have continuous production for all the vegetables. I got the solar system on loan. I first paid a deposit, and the remaining amount is divided and remitted every three months. Already I am getting higher yields due to the irrigation system, and it takes much less time to water my crops.

I have learned a lot from East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Uganda. I have also started telling different people that EWS-KT has given me the technical knowledge on vegetable production and also about the benefits I have realized from them. I wish to keep working under their guidance to ensure that I continue progressing in vegetable farming.