If you look beyond Stella’s frail physique you will see an abundance of infinite strength and determination in her eyes…
In the year 2007, life struck Stella a devastating blow with the loss of her husband who was the family’s main bread winner. In spite of the circumstances, Stella tapped into her inner strength and vowed to make sure her only daughter continued going to school until at least senior four. The best way to make this possible was for Stella to move back to her parent’s home in Kyalugondo village from Kampala. Once there, she would tend to her inherited portion of her late father’s coffee farm in order to raise the money for her daughter’s school fees.
Stella’s list of dependents grew as soon as she moved back home as she needed to bear the expense of caring for her elderly mother and her orphaned nieces and nephews. In order to immediately begin generating income, Stella began selling pancakes and bananas in the local market as well as doing clothing alterations for community members. These businesses in addition to her coffee farm gradually began to improve Stella’s circumstances and restore her hope.
In 2017, Stella made another strategic move in a bid to transform her life. She volunteered her coffee farm to be a demonstration plot where Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are implementing and validating the Climate Smart Investment Pathway – also known as Stepwise.
Stepwise is a tool which was developed by IITA under the Feed the Future Alliance for Resilient Coffee (ARC) project which is a consortium of seven organizations; HRNS, IITA, World Coffee Research, Conservation International, Sustainable Food Lab, Root Capital and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). These organizations collectively aim to make coffee farming and sourcing climate smart in four prominent coffee growing countries; Uganda, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Stepwise practically demonstrates CSA practices by breaking them down into simple subsets which can be implemented incrementally according to farmers’ financial means meaning it is affordable and feasible. The CSA practices included in the Stepwise stages being implemented in Luwero are; weeding, de-suckering, pruning, manure application, mulching, fertilizer application and pesticide application.
As a direct result of being able to host the Stepwise program on her coffee farm, Stella has received a wealth of knowledge and skills on good agronomical practices and climate-smart agriculture which has enabled her to increase her yields and income. She has also become a role model and example to fellow farmers in her community and frequently trains them on how to strengthen their resilience against the continuously changing climatic and environmental conditions.
Although Stella still faces many challenges like not having enough money to hire part time labors to assist with the farm work or meet the costs of buying agricultural inputs – she can still smile at her future with optimism. Her dream is to one day own her own land, build a house and have a coffee farm where she will plant improved varieties and continue to support her dependents as well as occasionally spoil her grandchildren. In case you were wondering, Stella’s daughter did in fact finish form four and is now happily married with two children who are the apple of their grandmother’s eye!