Story reported by Dan Bazira, Heifer Uganda senior IT and communications coordinator.

Traveling to Tilling Village in Eastern Uganda, you might think that the narrow paths are a clear indication that nobody lives here. It is a surprise to find that there are, indeed, people who live here; people like Charles Opolot and Hellen Adek, who have been married for 26 years and have 10 children, all in school.

A smiling lady dressed casually welcomed her guests with a statement: "Each time I hear Heifer friends are visiting us, I am always delighted, along with my family members. Who ever knew that we would host visitors from within the district, across Uganda and those from outside this country? Heifer has made us who we are today."

The story of this family began in 2006, when as a family they decided to join a community-based farmers' group in the area. The group had come together to carry out communal digging rotationally with the aim of addressing the food insufficiency families were facing. Adek said, "This was actually more labor-intensive that we thought, for we were still using our hand hoes to open up land, maximally to a tune of one acre per family." The group, Koile Amora Ican Project, approached Heifer International Uganda for support to address their difficulties.

Through a partnership with Viva Ireland, funding was secured to support this community with a Heifer project, the Animal Traction Project. "Little did we know that families like the Adek-Opolot family would turn out to be a creative family with what seemed to be meager support," said Dr. Joshua Zimbe, regional extension services supervisor.

A change in the family's history of misery, food insufficiency and a lack of education for their children came to reality when they began their project training. "With Heifer-tailored training, you start off learning before any live gift is given," said Charles. In 2008, the family received a complete set of bulls and ox-ploughs to help them open up a larger acreage of land for agriculture.

Today, Opolot's family has not only looked to the gifts they received, they have also diversified to other livestock species like sheep, goats and poultry. Each family member fully participates in the complete management of the affairs of this project. Last season, the family harvested more than 10 tons of maize, cassava, millet, groundnuts and sorghum from approximately seven acres of land, which they plowed using their Heifer-given oxen. Incomes are now assured within the family, the children are going to better schools, and the family's nutrition has greatly improved, according to Adek.

"To ensure that we have enough food for the family throughout the year, we have set up five local granaries to store our produce around our homestead," Opolot said. This creativity is not common within the community, and now other families have adopted this technique of post-harvest handling.

"Heifer International and partners have done us great in terms of addressing our genuine need; we are really appreciative of this support," concluded Opolot.

While Opolot and Adek have taken this first step in extending the life of their crop yields by building traditional, small-scale grain stores, there is definitely room for improvement. These grain stores are succeptible to pests, particularly insects. Read about two Iowa State University faculty members who have been working to develop an airtight, insect-resistant grain storage system.

Author

Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She has a master's in social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is married, a mother of two, and a wannabe urban farmer, raising her own chickens and killing most of her vegetable crops.