From an Unending Cycle...
"I felt farming was a punishment. It was work for the poor people, those without any other alternative in life," Sofia Katende says.
For most of her life, Sofia felt she had no choice. Her one-acre farm in Kasambira, Uganda was her sole source of income, but produced very little because she could never afford quality seed and fertilizer at the time of year when she needed to plant. Come harvest time, she faced the same dilemma every year: store her maize for several months to later sell it at a higher price—but risk major harvest losses from pests and rodents—or sell her maize immediately after harvest at a throw-away price.
“My life had stagnated. Nothing I tried worked.” Sofia says.
As a mother of four children, Sofia depended on income from her harvest to pay for her children’s education. Her eldest son, George, was in his final years of high school and Sofia couldn’t bear to watch him stay at home.
“I worried about my son’s performance at school. He had to miss so many days,” Sofia says.
... To a Fresh Start
Sofia desperately needed a change. She planted a small plot with One Acre Fund. Together with her neighbors, she learned new planting techniques, including seed spacing and how to microdose fertilizer. The results were clear: from two pounds of seed, Sofia harvested 770 pounds of maize, more than three times her normal harvest. In 2015, Sofia learned how to reduce her post-harvest losses with improved storage techniques to ward off pests. Five months later, the price for maize at the market had increased 75% as maize became harder to come by. Sofia took advantage of the demand and sold her surplus.
With the money she earned from selling her surplus, Sofia was finally able to pay George’s school fees. She also had enough money left over to open a shop at her market, where she transacts mobile money and earns a profit through the transaction fees. And recently, Sofia bought a refrigerator and placed it in her shop so she could sell cold water and passionfruit juice to thirsty customers.
For Sofia, it feels like a new beginning.
“I want to be the best farmer in my village and provide the best for my children. When my children grow up, I want them to remember me as a hard-working mother,” Sofia says with a smile. Her plan is to send George, who is going for his final high school examinations this year, to university next year.
Thinking about her success last season and what she hopes to accomplish next season, Sofia has realized that she doesn’t need any other alternative. Farming is no longer a punishment: it is her best bet to achieve her full potential.