When I came to Uganda, I worked with youth in the orphanages, slums and the homeless too. I started with using music to showcase their talents. However, I quickly realized that if there is to be any long-term impact, it had to be through agroecology.
I went back to Canada, got my training in permaculture and I came back to start my journey as an organic farmer and forester in Uganda. I started practically applying my knowledge while learning as well from the community around me. This is how Priceless Farms came to be.
Priceless Farms was started to prove that sustainable agroforestry and organic farming can become viable ventures for the community and the environment. I knew we had to establish an ecological land and foodscape to reduce poverty and ensure food security.
I get a monthly income from growing food organically. These organic farming practices have enabled our soils to support all kinds of crops that we plant.
Karim Kivunduka, one of the farmers living on the farm
We acquired 100 acres of land which took us 5 years to regenerate. We then set up 7 permaculture farms on which we planted various plants and collected their seeds to start a seed bank of the indigenous plant and tree species.
It has been over 10 years since we started this project and in this time span, we collected the seeds of over 60 indigenous plants and grown a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs and trees.
Working with the Community
To make this sustainable, we engaged our community in our work. We had a high food insecurity and unemployment rate. Recognising that a lot of people in the community were interested in farming, we knew this would be a focus.
“To guarantee food security and offer a more sustainable livelihood to families, especially those with limited or no access to resources like land, we embarked on creating eco-homes.”, Joseph Olupot, organic farmer and executive assistant at Priceless Farms.
Using recommendations from the community, we identified such families and gave them training on agroecological farming practices. Since we have an academy where we train the best organic farm managers, we gave the families an intensive 2-week training on organic agriculture.
After this, we built a home on the farm for them and gave them 2 acres of land on which they started organically growing their food. In exchange, the families work 3 to 4 days a week on our communal plots tending to our organic produce.
We have proper housing, can keep my animals and grow different kinds of food. Most importantly, I can take care of my children on the farm.
Aisha Mwesigwa, another farmer living on the farm.
To date, we have 13 families farming organically and financially sustainable enough to provide for the 35 children living on the farm.
Much as we grow a lot of food, we want to focus also on organic herbal medicines. For a pilot project, moringa is a great way to start. It is one of the top nutritious greens that is used to boost immunity, fight various illnesses and feed poultry.
“For our farmers, it is a lucrative plant that can already be harvested 3 months after its planting and can stay for up to 7 years before re-planting it entirely.”, adds Joseph.
We harvest 30% of the plant. The remaining 70% stays in the fields and mulches back into the soil.
Changing mindsets, organically!
Apart from the weather unpredictability, the other challenge we face is changing the mindsets of farmers to farm organically; especially in the beginning.
Initially, people in the community used chemicals for their plants like tomatoes claiming there was no other way to prevent pests destroying their crops. When we showed agroecological ways to deal with pests and also making organic pesticides, they experienced first-hand that farming organically is not only possible but also beneficial.
I love being an organic farmer because you are in harmony with nature and are always learning. We may face a lot of challenges, however, the only way we can ensure food sovereignty and security is by collaborating with each other and farming sustainably.