Story and Photos by Dan Bazira | Senior IT Communications Coordinator | Heifer Uganda
A smallholder dairy farmer, 35-year-old Oloka John loves his Friesian dairy cow and the benefits it provides for his wife and three children, who live together in the Bugiri district of Uganda.
"It was after visiting one of my friends that I realized I needed to acquire a cow for my family," John said. "But my financial sources were meager amidst the many costs for the survival of my family."
After discussions with his wife, John decided to join the Wacha Wa'Seme Women Group, formed and led by women in their community. John's wife, Kafuko Maria, said the men in their village usually do not like to join women-led groups. "It was a hard decision that I had to encourage my husband to join this group," she said. "But the benefits from this group along with Heifer International support have been gargantuan."
Before becoming involved with Heifer, the family's living conditions were difficult?they referred to it as a "life of lack." Their home was plagued by domestic violence, and their nutrition was poor because they did not know what a balanced diet was or how to best use their 3.5 acres of land. John and Maria said they had been practicing farming for the last 25 years without modern agricultural technology, which led to low production. With the Heifer trainings, however, the family's improved agricultural practices have led to higher production.
"Even before one receives the gift of a heifer, trainings conducted and adopted are themselves a source of knowledge and wealth creation," Maria said of Heifer Uganda's support.
The family established a poultry unit of 500 birds, a retail shop and a banana plantation. With income from their poultry unit, they purchased more land. In 2010, they received a pregnant cow from Heifer and named it Veronica.
John and Maria are grateful for Veronica, who produces about 6 gallons of milk per day. The milk sales bring in an annual income of about $2,143, which helps with their three children's education and with their living conditions.
The family wastes nothing?cow dung and urine are applied to their gardens to improve agricultral production, and environmental protection training helped the family construct an energy-saving stove. This has helped them save money on firewood.
"Gender awareness and HIV/AIDS [training] is another benefit I have achieved," John said. "I no longer behave like I used to, the way I used to handle my wife. Considering gender awareness, I have benefited from the project and our family relations have greatly improved. My wife now knows her responsibilities, rights of women, and how to treat me as her beloved husband. We help each other in running our family projects and share other roles, which was not the case before."
Maria agreed, "Today, we're a role model family that any community visitor and other villagemates do not take long to visit and seek our knowledge."
Dr. Joshua Zimbe, regional coordinator for Heifer Uganda, said the family has greatly transformed with Heifer's investment. "More people in this community have adopted improved technologies they learned from this family, which guarantees knowledge transfer through sharing and caring. The future looks bright for this family that started low."
John and Maria are committed to producing high-quality milk and produce, educating their children and improving the environment. Their transformation began with one dairy cow, and now they are changing the lives of others.