For many people, the 3 months’ lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic was a challenge. It was hard to survive on meager savings and adjust to the sudden change in the pattern of living where one was required to only stay at home. But for Acola Annette, the lockdown was a blessing in disguise. She got the rare opportunity to venture into her passion. Annette 24, a 2nd-year student at Karamoja’s Nakapiripirit Vocational institute in Uganda had a dream of setting up an animal husbandry farm. Following the closure of schools as a preventive measure to the spread of the COVID -19, she went home with an idea to sell the one cow that her mother has bequeathed her. The UGX 520,000 income from selling her cow, was re-invested to acquire a herd of 5 piglets each at UGX 70,000.” I knew this was the right thing for me to do because this area has many bars and people love eating pork” she reminisces with a smile. Annette’s pig farm has grown to include 13 pigs and she is now also buying local chicken to diversify her farm products. She also grows sorghum, sim-sim, and cassava to help feed the family. “I got the time to try out all the farm projects I had dreamed of because the end of lockdown coincided with the rainy season here in Karamoja,” she says. Annette says that the opening of restaurants has helped the business to grow. She sells 2-3 chicken a week and she is able to earn at least UGX 45,000. Her biggest challenge was feeding animals since they mainly feed on left-overs from restaurants and the pork orders were not anticipated since bars were closed. Annette dreams of becoming a veterinary Doctor at the end of her career.
Onoit Emmanuel, has been through a lot to become the experienced welder that he is today. He has done many odd jobs. Emmanuel started off as a casual laborer offering manual labor in his community for pay as little as UGX 10,000 ($2) a day. He then served as a worker at many construction sites and later as a security guard under G4C security group, providing free services in the company’s electronic shop in Jinja in exchange for food and shelter. The young skilled welder from Nakapiripirit Vocation Institute in Karamoja is happy to be a professional welder and metal fabricator. “This skill is my life, it puts food at my table and has earned me respect in this place” he affirms, adding that the youth in the area have now given the titles “Ekapolon” (to mean boss in local dialect) Luck came his way when an advert was pinned on a mango tree at the Uganda Technical College Elgon, where he had dropped out of school because he could not afford fees. Enable with funding from Ireland Embassy was recruiting Karamajongs willing to acquire practical skills for development. Onoit who had earlier attended technical training in a non-registered school in Mbarara, had spent all his little savings to give him an education only to get a fake certificate. “This opportunity wiped all the tears I had cried after losing my money to a fake institute” he speaks with emotion. “I could not let this opportunity by-pass me” he says. After acquiring this skill, he was offered a job at a welding workshop in Nakapiripirit. Later the owner wanted to close the workshop because it was not making businesses sense. He pleaded with him and slowly by slowly he revived it, acquired equipment and moved location to set up his own. He can now afford rental space worth UGX 80, 000 per month and has built capacity of up to UGX 4,000,000 worth of assets over time. He is grateful that the programme has facilitated him to attend capacity building workshops to improve his skill. Recently he even signed up memorandum of understanding with the Nakapiripirit Vocational Institute to help train fellow students. Born to Mr. and Mrs. Among Phoebe and Onoit Michael both peasants, Onoit attended Alengot Primary school, Sajik royal college and Serere High school before joining the institute. .