With the uncertainty and crippling of incomes the COVID19 lockdown paused, there was a looming threat of food security amongst families. For Rita Musoke, her family’s health was top priority and she knew she had to look for alternative ways to diversify their diet and improve nutrition during the pandemic.
“When lockdown was issued, my children and I started planting greens in sacks and jerry cans but soon run out of space and we had to devise other means,” she recalled.
Rita, 47, Chairperson Merissa Women’s Group is one of the women who were trained on backyard kitchen farming involving vegetable production which aimed at diversifying diets and improving nutrition at home. The various trainings with facilitators held helped families like Rita’s to establish special ‘backyard kitchen gardens’ and provided them with vegetable seeds, tools and good farming practices like how to make organic manure and fertilizer.
“Growing vegetables on multi-storeyed gardens has given me the opportunity to cultivate many seedlings on a large area and use less water,” proudly said Rita as she showed off some of the grown produce.
Multi-storeyed gardens are small circular raised beds stacked upwards in form of several level/ tiers, made with locally available low-cost materials. 45 seedlings can take up 4 metres if cultivating on land, however when one uses the multi-storeyed garden, 40 seedlings take up 4 tiers which allows on to produce more vegetables and diversify the types grown. As she reaped the benefits of her garden, Rita wanted others to benefit too.
“I realized the gap for vegetables in my community. People stop by my house asking to purchase some dodo or cabbage or skumawiki,” said Rita. She took advantage of this and started up her own company, “Gifted Hands Agri stalk and Demonstration Garden” where she teaches women in her community how to properly grow their own vegetables in their backyard. She used sales from her garden to register her new company.
“My children and I are now healthier ever since we incorporated vegetables in all our meals,” explains Rita. “The surplus from that we harvest is sold off for more money that will be used to purchase more seedlings and raw materials for the garden.”
Rita is a “Women at work” project beneficiary which partners with FIDA Uganda with support from Forum for Women and Development (FOKUS). The project has been running for the last 5 years.