Six teenage girls in Rakai District earn their living by growing vegetables and keeping pigs and poultry. They are pioneer members of Butabago Agali Awamu Dreams Farmers Group. "We are farmers by choice," said Betty Nagganja. "We chose farming from other enterprises like tailoring, hair and beauty salon, baking and crafts making."
Nineteen girls were asked by a research organization, Rakai Health Science Project, which enterprises they preferred. Six of them chose farming. They are based in Butabago village, Lwanda Sub-county, where they own a joint garden as well as personal gardens. They grow different vegetables and crops such as cassava, and bananas. "We find it more paying to grow vegetables because they don't take long to mature," said Hilda Natukunda, the group's treasurer.
They produce cabbages, tomatoes, and local vegetables (nakati, jjobyo, bbugga, sukuma wiki, nsugga and katunkuma.
It is easier to earn money during drought conditions because vegetables are easier to irrigate. Throughout the long dry period that devastated farming activities in the district, they were able to keep their business going.
"We get training from agricultural extension officers from Community Enterprises and Development Organisation (Cedo) on how to use livestock manure to grow vegetables. We have our own animals and we fetch water from the steam and irrigate our gardens whenever it takes long to rain. Our customers come from as far as Kyotera Town."
The 'Dreams' in the group's name has a special meaning. It stands for: Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-Free, Mentored, and Safe.
The six girls are part of a bigger group in more than 18 sub-counties aged 15-19 who have been through difficulties like dropping out of school, getting married early and then being abandoned, single parenthood, which situations could lead them into transactional sex and catching or spreading HIV if they had not gotten into gainful employment.
Such adolescent girls and young women are identified by Rakai Health Sciences Project which hands them over to Cedo and other organisations to teach them income- generating skills to make them self-reliant.
Charles Katamba, the programme manager, Cedo, said: "We give them institutional group training apart from agricultural skills."
Natukunda told Seeds of Gold that the group meets every week to decide what to do with the money they earn from the sale of their products and how to share the profits. Their future plans include, buying spray pumps and efficient watering cans as well as opening a joint savings bank account.