Archdiocese of Gulu Promoting Peace Building and Development Through Cassava Commercialization Project
Not only has the Archdiocese of Gulu fed the Christians with spiritual growth but also the diocese has embarked on looking at the Christians’ welfare.This came in at a time the Archdiocese launched a 10 year strategic program in agriculture to improve both the pastoral and spiritual livelihoods of the Christians.
The Gulu Archdiocese Cassava Commercialization and industrialization program iniated in 2018 aimed at mobilsing and sensitizing the masses to take up commercial production of Cassava to improve on their livelihoods but also enhance food security in the region.
The coordinator Rev Fr Matthew Okun Lagoro, the program is the dream and inspiration of the Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese Most Rev. John Baptist Odama in relation to the vision 2020 to 2040 by His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda which is aimed at raising Uganda to the middle-income status.
He mentioned that apart from the program in agriculture, the Archbishop had the vision to establish 32 new parishes concurrently of which 5 of them are already promoting the pastoral and spiritual nourishment of the people in the Archdiocese of Gulu and beyond.
He further went on to say, the program is as well been introduced to enable peaceful co-existence for development among the farming communities using strategies to promote industrialization and commercialization of crop production in the region.
According to the coordinator, the program is focusing at promoting mind set change that is geared towards nurturing peaceful, patriotic and service oriented faithful people in the region.For the program to achieve its set objectives, the coordinator added that they are encouraging the people to participate as individual, family and institution with at least a minimum of a hectare or 2 acres of land so as to be able raise funds to enhance food security and livelihood.
He emphasized the need to lobby for cooperation and support from government, the Civil Society Organizations and other stake holders by putting resources together for the growth and development of the people.
Since the inception of the program, Fr Okun said they are working with more than 10 thousand farmers who are spread across the five districts of Pader, Omoro, Gulu, Lamwo and Nwoya with the services being extended to other places in Lango Sub region.
A part from incorporating the farmers, he said, there is also mutual cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries and other government programs like the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) and National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) especially in coordinating purchase and supply of the Cassava products.
He also observed that within a space of three years since the program was established, it has so far created the interrelation and the peace building approach among the farming communities who bore the brunt of insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels of Joseph Kony in Northern Uganda.
Although the program is registering achievements, Fr Okun disclosed that they are also facing challenges as most farmers are finding it difficult to adopt to the scientific means being used in the cassava production. To address this, he said they will continue to sensitize farmers to embrace new innovations.Other immediate challenge according to Fr Okun, is the natural disaster especially drought, a factor affecting Cassava in the gardens although in the first year of operation, there was plenty of rain unlike in the second and third year of operation where the project has been greatly affected by prolonged drought despite strong resilient of Cassava to sun shine.
Fr Okun revealed that they also have a future plan to establish four Cassava factories in Northern Uganda following earlier discussions held with responsible stake holders while specifying that two factories will be built in Acholi, while one in Lango and West Nile respectively. The plan was arrived at with the view to supply products to various factories.
Other future plan according to Fr Okun is that they are looking for other possible means to bring together farmers in cooperative groups with the vision to guide and sensitize them not only to embrace Cassava growing but also other crops for holistic development of the people.