At just 19 years old, Okuja Jeremiah has transformed his life. Once a student having to postpone his education due to lack of tuition funds, Jeremiah now funds himself and his siblings’ schooling because of his agricultural business innovations through education.
Jeremiah grew up with five siblings on the seven-acre farm his parents owned in Kwera Sub-county, Dokolo District, Uganda. His parents are subsistence farmers who work hard for their family but with a lack of income able to support all siblings’ tuition consistently. The inadequate resources affected Jeremiah’s ability to continue school for a semester, as there were not enough funds for his tuition.
At the time, Jeremiah saw agriculture as a punishment. He felt his parents chose to hold him back from school to have him work in their farm, resenting his missed semester in school.
This drive to complete his education one day met opportunity in the form of his agriculture teacher’s lesson. This one was about tomatoes, in particular.
Onenchan Raphael is Jeremiah’s agriculture teacher. His passion for agriculture education and empowering the youth of Uganda through agriculture is evident as he has completed a Field of Hope training, and now implements Field of Hope’s curriculum in his classroom.
Raphael uses his lessons to inspire his students. He created a learning garden for his students to engage in hands-on learning. He purchased tomato seeds for his students to plant, watch grow, and eventually sell and witness the profits. Jeremiah said he was inspired by the opportunity for entrepreneurship stemming from the tomato crop.
Jeremiah said, “Mr. Onenchan Raphael set up a small vegetable garden of tomatoes for practical purposes and I realized that we harvested much from it, also given that the market price was very competitive. I learnt how to plant and manage the vegetable gardens since we were doing it practically in the field.”
Motivated by his teacher’s lesson, Jeremiah developed a plan to begin his own entrepreneurial venture through agriculture production.
“When I went back for [winter break], I asked my Dad for a capital of 20,000 Ugx that I used to buy seeds for tomatoes and ornamentals. I planted them at home and later sold them raising 800,000 Ugx from the proceeds. This money helped me pay my fees for the first term of 2020,” Jeremiah said. Jeremiah was able to build upon this triumph by learning more about piggeries from a Field of Hope grant at his high school. Dokolo Progressive Secondary School benefited from the FOH grants and set up a piggery project, offering students an opportunity to learn about pig management. Jeremiah decided to use his agriculture knowledge about pig rearing in his next agriculture venture by using the remaining 400,000 Ugx raised from the sale of vegetables and ornamentals to buy 7 piglets of 45,000 Ugx each. He has spread the wave of entrepreneurship and experience through his family, as now his brothers are keeping the pigs while Jeremiah completes his schooling.
Jeremiah developed a strong passion for agriculture and wants to study agriculture at bachelor’s degree level. He is currently advising his parents on identification of viable enterprises for their 7 acres of land, proper crop management, and production economics–something he learned from school due to the teaching approaches used by teachers like Raphael. The existence of a school agriculture project that helped shape his mind and appreciate that agriculture is a decent source of income.
Jeremiah said, “I want to thank Field of Hope for making agriculture enjoyable and practical-had it not been because of the very resourceful guide that makes students more engaged and so participative, I would not be in position to raise money for my school fees for this term and also start up other enterprises.”