Meet Helen Edwe, a 73-year-old woman providing agro-technologies to her fellow farmers
Seventy-three-year-old Helen Edwe, a farmer and grandmother of eight children live in Achan Kumi village, in Inomo sub-county, Kwania district, Northern Uganda. She is the sole breadwinner for her family and has taken on the role of providing maize shelling services in her community.
In 2014, Helen attended a brown-field day that was organized by Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) under their then K+S project in Apac district. The field day sparked her interest to acquire a mobile maize sheller; she wanted to earn extra income for her family.
‘Brown-field days’ is SAA’s end-of-season activity that involves demonstrating different time and labor-saving production, postharvest, and processing technologies to farmers.
Like most farmers who attend the brown-field days, Helen Edwe solely depended on subsistence farming for her family’s survival. This changed the moment she was exposed and made up her mind to acquire a mobile maize sheller. Inspired by what she had been taught, Helen saved her income from selling sunflower, maize, and beans with the hope of financing the procurement of her first maize sheller. At that time, her family was growing and so were her needs and responsibilities.
She bought her first mobile maize sheller at five million Uganda shillings ($1,422 from one of SAA’s machine fabricating partners. She is the first to tell you how pleasant it is to transition from barely getting by to being self-sufficient. She says, “I was amazed by how fast it works and the huge qualities it churns out in a short period,” It shells up to 32 bags of maize per hour, and about 175 bags in a day. “My grandchildren ride it to the farmers and shell their maize at three thousand Uganda shillings ($0.85) per bag. Farmers are not charged for transport” explained Helen. The sheller cleans the maize as it shells and the demand for its services has spread as far as Inomo, Aduku, Bala, and Akalo sub-counties.
To work effectively, her grandsons, Peter Elem and Ario Desmond do routine maintenance, and repair it when it breaks down; SAA has equipped them with the skills to sustain its use.
Satisfied with the income she was generating from the mobile sheller, Helen acquired another mobile maize sheller in 2020 from the same supplier.
Previously, Helen was earning between one hundred and eighty thousand Uganda shillings ($51) and three hundred thousand Uganda shillings ($85) per day from one sheller. With the acquisition of the second sheller, her daily income has increased to between four hundred thousand Uganda shillings ($114) and six hundred and fifty Uganda shillings ($185) per day.
This year, Helen with technical guidance from SAA acquired a walking tractor with a double-disc plough, planter, and a cart as auxiliary attachments using her savings. Helen and her grandsons have been trained to operate and maintain the tractor; they plan to start offering ploughing, planting, and transportation services.
She is happy that she has built herself a house and can fend for her grandchildren. She says, “My grandson recently finished a technical college; he does not have to go looking for a job because I employ him”. She employs eight youth in her community including her grandsons. Helen continued, “Thank you SAA, I no longer have to live hand-to-mouth, and my community is satisfied with the services I offer.”
Plato famously wrote, “Our need will be the real creator.” This statement resonates with Helen Edwe’s story.