StepUp: Producing Crops in a Pandemic


Olivia Garner

IRT’s new volunteer, Olivia Garner, explores how StepUp communities have been coping with the Ugandan lockdown

As England enters another national lockdown, the challenges of Covid-19 are fresh in the national consciousness. As the pandemic draws on, the long-term and economic effects are becoming main concerns, not just nationally but globally.

IRT’s StepUp programme, in partnership with the Organisation for Community Action (OCA) in Uganda, helps support farmers to improve their livelihoods and achieve sustainable development. Farming communities are provided with training in technical agricultural skills as well as training in sanitation and hygiene and gender equality. But how have StepUp participants been coping in the face of Covid-19 and lockdown?

Those with small businesses selling agricultural products in town have suffered the most, as local markets closed down. This greatly affected small businesses and households relying on agriculture as their main source of income. Furthermore, with the markets closed, food prices rocketed.

Speaking to OCA’s trained experts on the ground, Christine from the Aboloneno Village, said, “At the beginning when we heard about the COVID-19 pandemic, we were very scared by the global death rate as aired out through a local radio. I used to do a business of selling fresh cassava in Lira town but because of the lockdown, I stopped for a while. This affected our daily source of income and survival since the little savings we had was spent on feeding and meeting other basic needs for the family members.”

Christine continues, “We therefore concentrated more on farming. We have planted rice, tomatoes and soya beans for co-operative business and other food crops. After harvest we intend to sell the produce and use the money to roof our house”.

Faustina, of Adaganii Village, has also found a way forward through agricultural work, especially with her grandchildren around to help out. Faustina testified that Covid-19 created a lot of fear among her and her family members. She said that the lockdown limited her movement which prevented her from seeing her children and other relatives whom she misses a lot. She told IRT, “As an old woman I want to see my children and relatives as it gives me strength to move on with life. This virus has affected my grand children’s education because they are back home and I don’t know when they will go back to school.” However, amidst all the challenges brought by Covid-19, Faustina has turned her fear into hope. She diverted all her attention to farming which she believes will produce high yields due to the agricultural practices and skills training received through the StepUp programme. She has planted maize, groundnuts, beans, millet, cassava and onions for food and commercial purposes.

Faustina stands in her Maize garden, excited about the good performance of the crop. She plans to use the money from the harvest for constructing a house.

Overall, the Covid-19 lockdown has brought unprecedented challenges to farming communities in rural northern Uganda. Through the StepUp programme, farmers have been helped to improve their crop yields in order to sell their crops, as well as gain self-sufficiency, helping them to overcome rocketing food prices. Savings gained through increased incomes also help to protect them from the adverse economic effects of the pandemic. However, as the pandemic shows few signs of abating, these farmers need our support more than ever to face the continued challenges of Covid-19 and sustain their livelihoods.

IRT needs donors to be able to continue our valuable work.

If you would like to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable farmers in northern Uganda, please consider donating today. You can do this through our website at or by calling our office on 020 8994 9120. Thank you!