Meet Janet, one of FRA's model farmers in Soroti

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Life storyAt 50, Janet Ilonya is one of the most inspiring stories from Asuret Sub County, located just outside of Soroti District. Janet joined FRA’s group of model farmers over a year ago to pilot the FRA/IDF farm planning model. Since then, Janet has never looked back. As required by this programme, Janet illustrated two sets of planning. She put to paper a pictorial of her current and desired farm plans, keeping in mind principles from the farm-plan model. Following the adoption of the farm planning system, Janet’s farming practices are thriving. During our latest visit to Asuret, we had the privilege of visiting Janet’s home and subsequently her farm.

In 2015, FRA contracted a consultant to determine Janet’s and seven other model farmers’ land size, soil profile and availability of other natural resources as these may influence the farmers’ farming activities. Upon assessment of Janet’s land, it was realised that the current positioning of her garden was not suitable for farming as the soil was rocky, infertile and lacking of necessary nutrients for farming. Ironically, the land upon which Janet had built her house was found to be the most fertile and suitable for cultivation. She was advised to move her house.

During our visit to Janet’s garden 6 months later to document her progress, we were shocked to discover that Janet hadn’t only taken the advice to heart, but to practice. With the piece of information she gathered from the consultant, Janet broke down and rebuilt her home on the rocky area, leaving the area that once held her home, to be her garden. Janet stated during our visit that she has never looked back since.

Today Janet plants citrus, cassava, potatoes, green vegetables, simsim, groundnuts, maize, and sorghum in her planned garden. Among these, she sells simsim, groundnuts, maize, and citrus, and saves the cassava, potatoes, maize and sorghum for household food consumption. Among the benefits Janet identified since she started using the farm planning methods, was the reduction in food Life story2wastage by her family. As Janet recounted that before, her family used to harvest and store food with no system for separating what to sell and what to eat. This she noted, often led to food going bad in the store which they would eventually throw away.

“Farm planning helped me plan for the food I was producing. Now, we come out of the garden with a specific portion of food to sell and to eat” she said.

However, Janet’s jones has not been all roses. She has come across a number of challenges among which reported werefloods during the rainy season coupled with prolonged drought during the dry season. This she says has ultimately led to food loss as most of her small vegetables have dried up due to the lack of water in the extreme dry weather. However, through the farm planning system, Janet is determined to see her family out of poverty and food insecurity. Janet has a vision of constructing a bigger store in her homestead specifically for storing her produce for sale.