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Small farm, nutritious food, healthy pregnancy

Uganda, December 20, 2010

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The Dwog-Paco women’s group is located 44 kilometers from Kitgum, one of northern Uganda’s largest towns, along a muddy terrain road deep inside the Acholi ethnic group's homeland. As a fresh Mercy Corps Kenya writer and photographer on a practice assignment, I met 28-year-old Grace Ange, a member of the women’s group.

Grace spends most of her time with other members of the Dwog-Paco group working on their one-acre horticultural farm. Their farm is covered with cabbages, onions, tomatoes, carrots and eggplants. “My family gets food from this farm” she says confidently.

Her husband of seven years, 32-year-old Paustino Opiyo, does chores like repairing bicycles and occasionally doing work on the farm. The family’s future looks bright three months into Grace’s first pregnancy, with more to tell about the changes in their past, present and future life perceptions.

The family stayed for seven years in a nearby internally-displaced persons camp as a result of the long conflict here in northern Uganda — in fact the name of her women's group, Dwog-Paco, means "come home" in the local language, a reference to returning here after that displacement. Despite several problems and challenges during the conflict and life in the camp, Paustino only wants to remember or share one major story that disturbed him then: the plight of a stressful and harsh environment that caused a seven-year dry spell of not able to conceive a child.

But today that has changed: Grace is expecting their first child. Both she and Paustino think it has a lot to do with the fresh vegetables and nutritious food they're harvesting on their farm thanks to Mercy Corps' Healthy Practices Strong Communities Program.

“When we eat tomatoes, onions and vegetables from this farm, we are helping the foetus grow well and be healthy,” says Paustino, the proud father-to-be. The family has also been able to provide food rich in vitamins to Paustino’s younger brothers and sisters, who eat from the same pot.

The farm has much more to give to the family. As a member of the Dwog-Paco women’s group, Grace is entitled to a percentage of the one-acre farm’s produce surplus sales. She explains that she is already saving for their baby's school fees.

And their little farm is not only nourishing those who've already returned to this tiny village, but also the next generation to come.