Bytes to beans: the journey of a Ugandan IT specialist turned soybean farmer

Hilda Atwongyere's journey from IT specialist to a revolutionary farmer is a testament to resilience and adaptation in the face of adversity. The loss of her job in 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, sparked a transformation that led her from the digital world to the soybean fields of Mubende District, Uganda.

Hilda's first foray into farming was met with hardships – prolonged droughts led to shattered soybean pods and significant losses. However, the intervention of OKEBA Uganda Limited, supported by SNV's Climate Resilience Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) project, opened a door to sustainable and profitable agriculture.

SNV's impact in addressing the climate crisis is profound. In 2022 alone, the organisation increased the climate resilience of 169,000 farmers through its work in agri-food, energy, and water projects. Similarly, the CRAFT project, under the leadership of SNV, has been instrumental in promoting climate resilience. Since its initiation in 2018, it has enabled over 195,000 smallholder farmers to adopt or apply two or more climate-resilient farming practices.

With OKEBA's aid, Hilda was introduced to MAKSOY3N, a drought-tolerant, early maturing, and disease-resistant soybean variety. Along with the seeds, she also learned the principles of climate-smart agriculture. The 35 year-old was trained in timely planting, efficient weeding, and the safe application of fertilisers, all guided by weather forecasts.

‘I appreciate the fact that the new variety has big seeds,’ Hilda says, noting their quick germination and robust growth. With this innovation, Hilda's farming journey took a positive turn. She planted 300kgs of MAKSOY3N across 23 acres and harvested an astounding 15 tonnes of soybeans in a season.

‘I don't ever regret quitting my profession because farming is a profitable business once you decide to go climate smart,’ she affirms. Hilda's success with climate-smart farming allowed her to diversify her income, opening a part-time stationary shop in Kampala.

But her story goes beyond personal success. Hilda’s adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices has made her a lighthouse for other farmers in her community. Her farm has become a learning hub, attracting farmers from near and far seeking to understand the potential of climate-smart agriculture.

The transformative power of her story has turned her into a local mentor, and her farm, a catalyst for change. Hilda's actions have sparked a wave of employment, offering jobs to young people and women in various farming activities. Through her, the principles of climate-smart agriculture are spreading, empowering others with the knowledge to adapt and thrive in the face of changing climate conditions.

Hilda's transition from IT to agriculture represents more than just an individual triumph; it embodies the spirit of sustainable development. Her story illustrates the potential impact of initiatives like CRAFT in promoting climate resilience and sustainable practices that can be replicated in other communities around the world.

While many see climate change as a daunting challenge, Hilda's story illuminates the opportunities that can be discovered when we confront these challenges head-on, demonstrating that sometimes, life's biggest disruptions can lead to its most rewarding opportunities. Her example, now shining in Mubende District, is an inspiring illustration of the potential within every seed and the remarkable things that can grow when given the right care and environment.

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Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow