“Yii, I didn’t know much about farming back then!” laughs Justine shaking her head in disbelief.
The Uganda mother of seven is describing the time before Signpost and Ugandan partner VAD (Voluntary Action for Development) began working in her community of Muguluka.
“We used to grow tomatoes, egg plants, bananas, maize and beans on a very small scale – just one acre of land – to eat and sell,” Justine explains, “but it was not successful, and we only had food enough for one meal a day.”
When asked to reflect on what she felt the problem was, Justine instantly ticked several points off on her fingers.
“Yields were low because we did not know anything about best agronomic practices, let alone how to set up a vegetable garden,” she says, “and our income was as low as 45,000 Ugandan shillings a month (£10).”
When Signpost started working in Muguluka, Justine began to participate in the community’s farmer group where she began to learn many new skills that would help her turn her farming practices – and her life- around.
“At last the agricultural trainings helped me know the right crops to grow in the right season, as well as how to arrange crops on my farm in order to get high yields,” she says. “For example, now I put quick growing crops like vegetables in a kitchen garden or around the compound, rather than on my farm land. I also know how to prevent pests from eating my crops using natural pesticides that I can make from locally available materials.”
These changes together with many other small, learned improvements have really changed Justine’s farming business and this increased prosperity is made noticeable by the small groups of goats, pigs and chickens moving around on her land.
“They are just a part of my new savings bank because this is actually a real business now!” she laughs, gesturing at the animals. “Now my crop yields have increased so much that my monthly income has tripled and my whole family can now eat three times a day! Truly, our lives have turned around.”