Former IT professional switches to sustainable soybean production


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Hilda Atwongyere is a 35-year-old farmer from Mubende District. A former Information Technology (IT) specialist, Hilda wasn’t sure how to get by after losing her job when Covid-19 broke out in 2020. After an opportunity to take up soybean farming, she says she has a profitable business thanks to climate smart agriculture.

With no hopes of getting a new job after her former workplace downsized, she resorted to farming, starting with growing soybean using home-saved seeds that would mature after six months.

However, due to prolonged drought stress, the soybean pods shattered and most of the grains wasted in the fields after bursting, which prompted her to give up on farming after making losses.

However, Hilda’s friend introduced her to OKEBA Uganda Limited, an agribusiness that the Climate Resilience Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) project is supporting to scale up and promote climate smart agriculture practices and technologies in the soybean value chain. Through Training of Trainers workshops and field demonstrations, CRAFT is supporting OKEBA to promote household crop diversification using drought tolerant, early maturing and disease/pest resistant improved soybean variety, and productive use of clean energy to preserve and conserve ecosystems (such as solar irrigation, solar or hybrid post-harvest handling technology like collapsible dryers, energy saving processing equipment, and vacuum storage, pics bags and silos).

OKEBA introduced Hilda to MAKSOY3N, an improved soybean variety that is given to farmers at no cost. 

After planting the improved seeds, Hilda also applied other climate smart agriculture practices like safe use and application of fertilizers (specifically rhizobia) to enhance the supply or nutrient availability. She followed weather forecast for timely planting, weeding and other on-farm activities as guided by agronomists and extension workers from CRAFT and OKEBA. All of this resulted in a growth rate that was far better and faster, compared to the traditional seeds and methods she used previously.

OKEBA's improved soybean seed varieties

“I appreciate the fact that the new variety has big seeds,” she says, adding that they germinate in a period of one week after planting, which implies that she has to prepare for weeding, so as to keep her garden clean and healthy for resilient growth. 

Keneth Owoyesigire, the Managing Director of Okeba, suggests improved soybean varieties like MAKSOY3N produce many branches, which gives them room to generate more soybean grains.
 
In the latest season, Hilda planted 300kgs of MAKSOY3N on 23 acres of land, and harvested 15 tonnes of soybean. This motivated her to invest more in soybean farming.

“OKEBA has been there right from the very beginning, by encouraging me to attend learning events such as trainings; give onsite support at my farm and even going ahead to purchase my bountiful harvests,” she narrates. 

“So, I don’t ever regret why I quit my profession because farming is a profitable business once you decide to go climate smart. I have also been able to open another business in town – a stationery shop I run on a part-time basis in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda," she added.

Hilda Atwongyere

Hilda demonstrating the proper use of the collapsible dryer technology when drying soybean grains.

Her garden has become a learning site in her village, where other soybean farmers come to learn about climate smart agriculture.

“There are even other farmers who came to visit my soybean gardens from other districts. I also receive many phone calls from people I don’t know, contacting me to give them guidance on soybean growing in a climate smart way,” she says. 

In addition to being a demo garden, Hilda’s farm has offered her an opportunity to employ many youths and women as casual labourers that offer workforce activities ranging from cropland preparation and sowing to harvesting, livestock management, and post-harvest activities.

Written by: Lhwanzu Kitooke, CRAFT Communications Intern in Uganda

More information: The Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT), is a five year project, implemented in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda with focus on three pillars; increasing adoption of climate smart practices and technologies amongst farmers and agro-enterprises; increasing investments and business growth in climate smart value chains; and creating enabling environment necessary to ensure large-scale roll-out of market driven climate smart agriculture. The project is passionate about women and youth inclusion as one of the indicators seeks to increase the number of women and youth employed in the private sector. The cross-cutting workstream for gender and youth inclusion emphasizes targeted interventions where needed, to ensure equity and inclusion through a sustainable gender sensitive climate smart service provision.