Aluel Chol, 30, is a mother of six children – four boys and two girls and is an active member of Panda Agro Pastoral Field School (APFS). Before joining the APFS, Aluel says that only one of her children was attending primary school because the family could not afford to pay school fees for the others. The children were malnourished being unable to afford two meals a day.
Prior to coming in contact with IIRR, Aluel was growing vegetables on a small garden approximately one quarter feddan (1.038 acres), from which she earned fewer than 2,500 SSP ($25). This was not enough to meet her basic needs, let alone send her kids to school.
Aluel says her community became excited when the APFS methodology was introduced by IIRR and FAO in 2015. They decided to form Panda APFS group, which comprises 25 members – 20 women and 5 men.
She says that with guidance from their facilitator trained by IIRR and FAO, Panda APFS group received a wide range of trainings on vegetable and crop production.
She shared that they have plots where the group performs comparative studies to better understand the issues in growing crops. Additionally, APFS members practice Agro Ecological System Analysis (AESA), where they learn pest identification and management.
“We were encouraged to establish individual vegetable plots at our homes. I established two vegetable plots approximately half a feddan in size, and started growing a variety of vegetables such as kudra, kale and onions where I apply the knowledge from the group study plots,” she says. As the result, she now earns 15,000
SSP ($150) from the two plots she cultivated. Aluel was able to pay fees worth 10,000 SSP ($100) and used the 5000 SSP ($50) to buy household needs. With the knowledge and skills she has acquired, Aluel hopes to increase the size of the plots to be able to raise enough funds to pay school fees for the children.
“I have benefited a lot since I joined the Agro Pastoral Field School. My family now has access to a variety of vegetables for household consumption. We take two meals a day and the health of my children has improved in a short time. I no longer frequent the health centers to get supplementary feeding for my children. We bulk our harvest and sell the vegetables as a group to get income for my family. From this income, I am able to send three of my children to school: one in primary 6, one in primary 4 and the other in primary 2. I use the savings from the sale of vegetables to buy clothes and pay for treatment of my children when they get sick. Although our group’s activities are sometimes afflicted with insecurity, we have remained committed to our group objectives. I am happy to participate in the APFS group activities and appreciate this project.”