Nabwire Winnie lives on a rocky piece of land in Busia, Uganda. The poor soil has made farming the land a challenge for years.
Transforming her land and soil was not going to be easy but in 2020 Winnie decided to join Trees for the Future’s (TREES) Forest Garden training program in hopes of establishing a more productive farm.
A Forest Garden Transformation
With the use of compost, Winnie has been able to firm up her soil and grow the most food she has had in years. Her soil has progressed from being stony to allow her practice intercropping with crops like bananas, papaws, vegetables like collard greens, beans among others on her piece of land.
“Intercropping helps with pest management, regaining soil fertility and controls weeds in a garden,” says Assistant Technician Anna Nabwire.
More crops in the garden means more food and a more diverse diet for Winnie’s family of 11. The Forest Garden provides valuable resources too. Firewood is scarce in the region because of deforestation, but Winnie has a renewable supply right outside her door.
“Getting firewood here is hard because people have cut down most of the trees but my home does not have that issue because of my agroforestry trees.” Winnie says.
Pascal Mangeni is a 50-year-old Forest Garden farmer who has transformed his garden from its old monocropping patterns to a full-blown source of food all year round.
“Before the project, I only had cassava and maize in my garden which I would harvest once a year. My family struggled to have food and I often used to buy from neighbors,” Pascal shares. “I am grateful for my permagardens that give me food all year round.”
Spreading the Word of Farmers’ Success
“[Pascal’s] Forest Garden was like stepping into a painting, it was so calming, almost meditative,” says TREES Ambassador Marcus Mepstead.
Marcus Mepstead became a TREES Ambassador in 2020. He uses his platform as an Olympic athlete to spread the word about Trees for the Future and Forest Garden farmers’ success. On a recent visit to Uganda, he stopped by Winnie and Pascal’s Forest Gardens to see their progress firsthand.
“Each Forest Garden had a different energy. Winnie’s was growth and opportunity,” says Marcus. “A feeling that with some work, the good times were just around the corner.”
And he’s right. By year three of the project families meet the global target for dietary diversity. 98% of farmers say they are confident in their financial stability.
“Hearing each farmer talk about long term plans and opportunities, sending their children back to school, earning relationship independence, supporting their families… rather than just focused on living hand to mouth was really special.” Marcus says.