Checking in with the Conservation Cotton Initiative: Meet Francis Obwona
The Conservation Cotton Initiative in northern Uganda is helping farmers like Francis Obwona rebuild their lives after decades of violent conflict.
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Francis Obwona stands near his corn crop on his farm in northern Uganda.
Francis is a member of the Kidere producer business group, which is made up of 150 farmers as part of EDUN’s Conservation Cotton Initiative farming program in Uganda. How has the program changed his life?
Francis is a father to 24 children, of which seven were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Two returned home, and five are still missing.
In 2000, Francis and his family went to live in an internally displaced persons camp (IDP camp), where they lost their ability to farm for themselves. They returned to their land in 2007, still traumatized by their experience but determined to reestablish their livelihoods.
So they began to grow corn, beans, groundnuts and cassava. In 2009, with support from the Conservation Cotton Initiative, they began producing cotton on two acres. In 2011, Francis and his family began working with TechnoServe, which helped train them in business and production skills, such as planting seeds in a straight line, spacing them correctly, and weeding their crops. TechnoServe also connected them with a local buyer, as well as supplies of inputs such as seeds and pesticides.
Before TechnoServe came along, Francis was producing 500 kilograms per acre. Today his yields are 1,200 kilograms per acre. His family continues to produce more and more food crops, enough to sell to the local market and provide food for the household. Francis uses his profits from cotton growing to pay school fees for his six children in primary school and two in secondary school. “We want to remain cotton farmers for life,” Francis says.