By Chandia Sharon and Bazio Doreen.

“Whereas a mere thought of disarming factors like inadequate start-up capital, unforeseen natural challenges (climatic), limited production energy (man power/machinery), destructive human/animal activities among others may all but unnerve any faint hearted in pursuit of long-term success dreams as a farmer, sheer determination, hard work, endurance, patience, among all, the WILL to succeed as a group is a story only told for the brave”.

Woodlot Ma-anyalwa- A little-known village woodlot farm group found in Pereci Cell, Pakele Sub-County now a Town Council in Adjumani District, West Nile Sub-Region, finds itself in News for the good reasons before they could even reap fully from their sweat and hard work 3 years on.

Amidst challenges, the gender sensitive group old and youthful with a clear mission amongst others was a beneficiary of shs56 million government fund through DRDIP initiative project under the office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in FY 2021/22 financial year.

For starters, Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP) is a displacement impact project designed to address expanded development needs for refugees and the hosting communities. The project seeks to provide development and direct income support to the poor and vulnerable within refugee hosting districts in Uganda.

Created in 2017/18 financial Year with no initial government funded projects, Pakele Town Council which directly hosts hundreds of refugees from South Sudan, now had an opportunity to benefit from a “generous government initiative through DRDIP” under the office of the prime minister in 2021-22 financial year with initial target of only the “real” rural setting.

Woodlot Ma-anyalwa-group with 3 sub-groups namely; Nyivura-tiolio, Ojigo, Central and West Ataboo all received cash (totaling shs56 million) of which they procured seedlings as environment component pilot project with approximate total membership of 96. Since the procurement process under the project was by the communities, so was the implementation supervised by the District Forestry Office, assisted by 2 extension workers who helped in the selection processes. However, as the project continued 3 years down the road, only one active group has stood the taste of time. 

Woodlot Ma-anyalwa - group which planted 14 hectors of eucalyptus trees, 1 hector of tick tree totalling 15 hectors of land availed by the area LC 1 Chairperson on a temporary 15-20 years upon agreement, finds itself fast becoming a “benchmark” sight for visitors. These include; Schools, individuals and international groups like the IGAD, which officially sent members to the humble but imposing sight as witnessed by the area town clerk Mr. Yazid Jackson. 

Due to this success among others, Pereci has been selected to lead the Parish Community Association forum of which OPM injected additional shs30 million under livelihood and estimated shs28 million as revolving fund. The group shall also further be used as a “model” to others.

Apparently, over shs100m DRDIP money is estimated to be in circulation. This is expected to create more impact and spur growth upon good use.  However, politicising the project and sadden change in the guidelines of procurement system from community to implementing partners (IP) still remains a challenge, as this affected the subsequent project implementation.

Communication gaps, delayed supply of tree seedlings to groups for instance have also been sighted with an urgent call for the next program be awarded back to the community, guided by technocrats as before.

Additionally, the issue of poor access roads to link the sight to possible market opportunities equally remain contentious.

All in all, a cool feel of fresh breath and renewed optimism of life amongst group members I spoke to could not only be felt but also seen. Something many of them agreed never crossed their wildest imaginations before this project.

Ma-anyalwa - wood-lot community actually view this DRDIP livelihood project as “God sent”, to up lift them out of poverty. “Before this DRDIP livelihood project, most of us were so indigent to the core that we could not even afford basic necessities like salt and sugar,” recounted Mr. Ajuga Joseph, Chairperson of the group.

In excess, the group also learnt how to diversify and ventured into other equally productive money generating activities as they anxiously await harvest of their main priced enterprise. For instance, the group quickly formed 3 VSL groups A, B, C, planted grains such as rice and beans on the same farmland which on harvest generated 250kgs and 150kgs of rice/ beans respectively.

On review, the proceeds from this harvest generated millions of shillings (shs7.020.000 million) of which part was ploughed back into the VSL groups as revolving fund at 10% interest.

Accordingly, the wood lot project at this stage is as good as ready for harvest, pending advisory from the District Forestry Office upon consultations and clear market price negotiation stands.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Ondoa Korina Ewakodra, the Secretary for Production and Environment in the LC5’s office personally says, she has witnessed the hard work of Woodlot-Ma-anyalwa Community and thanks them for owning this DRDIP project that has led to their success in Pakele. “Eradicate poverty together and feel the impact of government projects in every home,’’ she urged.

In a nut-cell, the story of Woodlot-Ma-anyalwa Community in Pereci Cell, Pakele Sub-County, Adjumani District could be a testament for more pro-active government initiatives or increasing life span of those that have visibly improved the lives of the people who badly need it regardless of age, gender, political affiliation, religion or race. It takes nothing to make a certain deep, indigent village persons smile after hard works’ day even before they could earn their bread.

Mitirikpwe Gladys, a group member, believes the project was timely especially for mothers. She says the project saved mothers from misery as the nutrition component paid at least shs95.000 to all the breast-feeding group mothers, thereby enabling them to feed well from the site. She now also operates a side business out of the same little money.

Maunjina Malia, 72, group member: Initially never believed in group collaborations due to corrupt members she encountered previously. This perception however changed when her husband introduced her to DRDIP. Under livelihood, she is now a proud owner of a poultry farm; a side business she runs hand in hand with making and selling energy stove making.

Ondoa Esther, another group member, also previously collected and sold fire-wood for survival but not anymore. After joining the group under DRDIP, she now runs a side piggery farm along with bread baking business started by money saved from her earnings at the group which now gives her an income of about shs30.000 daily. Ester now prides herself of being able to raise over shs2 million to pay tuition for her child at the university after sale of the pigs.