Growing through adversity
Fresh and dried eggplants (aubergines or brinjals) bring a smile to Margaret’s face
Margaret Anite fled the Democratic Republic of Congo for Uganda in 2013 because of a war that threatened her family. Soon after arriving in Uganda her husband mysteriously disappeared, leaving her to look after their seven children. Her sister’s four children were also in her care, so food was constantly scarce and rations from the World Food Programme were never enough. Even a comforting cup of tea was out of the question.
When JAM started working in the refugee camp, she did not pay much attention to the farming activities since she couldn’t see the point.
“All I knew was to think about my miserable life,” she says.
Eventually, however, the frequent household monitoring visits encouraged her to give it more thought.
“I decided to put myself together despite my situation and embrace JAM activities,” she says, recalling how the harvest from her tiny plot of cowpeas, onions, eggplants and tomatoes brought smiles and happiness to her family.
“For once we had a variety of vegetables to eat; on one day we ate cowpeas and on another day eggplants would make us a meal.”
She explains that the long, slender eggplant variety provided by JAM is “super yielding” which allowed her to sell the excess and make some money for the first time in a long time.
This year Margaret planted seeds on a larger piece of land and was able to dry and pack two sacks of eggplants (about 100kgs) to sell in the first quarter of next year when they are not in season.
“Getting money from my own handwork was the most surprising and exciting thing that could ever happen to me, given my situation. This was an eye opener for me.
“I decided to use the money to buy sandals for my family because for quite a long time, me and my children had been walking in bare feet. I also used the remaining money for buying sugar so that my children could have a taste of tea with sugar.”
Together with other refugees, Margaret is part of a block farming group that shares land, tools, produce and life stories.
“It’s through working in a group that I kept busy with less time to think negatively. A lot of experience-sharing among group members made me realise that I wasn’t the only one going through a tough time, she says, adding that the shared laughter has also shown her that there is happiness to enjoy in life.
“I, the same Margaret, … also learned that I am actually a good leader!” she says, adding that she never expected to be elected as such.
“It’s been a transforming journey with JAM and for that reason I plan to continue with vegetable growing,” she says, outlining her plans to build a home and send her children to school with the proceeds.
“JAM offered me a shoulder to lean on when no one else did.”
The long and slender eggplant variety are super yielding, ensuring a good harvest for Margaret and her family