Uganda: How a teenage sugar cane farmer lifted her family out of poverty.

Mary Knox Merrill
Sanyu Provia cuts sugar cane in her farm in Kabuga, Uganda. A student at URDT (Uganda Rural Development & Training), Provia has acquired an extensive agricultural education that has enabled her family to expand their farm and make a profit. Before she attended URDT, Provia's family lived below the poverty line.

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

KAGADI, UGANDA – In five years, 19-year-old Sanyu Provia has transformed her family’s farm from minimal subsistence to profitmaking and improved the welfare of her neighbors, all with the help of an education from the Uganda Rural Development & Training (URDT) Girls School here.

Between machete chops, as she harvests sugar cane, Ms. Provia tells how she has lifted her family out of poverty. “Planting sugar canes have helped us generate our income and have [a] stable family. We’ve managed to buy a motorcycle and send fellow students to school. From there, we cannot suffer a lot. We have enough money to sustain our family.”

Her progress is remarkable in a country where jobs are scarce and most people live on less than $1 per day. The URDT is a nonprofit that has been helping rural communities improve their lives since 1987. Provia began studying with URDT in 2004.

Uganda has the world’s highest youth unemployment (83 percent) and the youngest population (the median age is 15), according to the World Bank. Intense competition for resources perpetually places Uganda on the brink of civil war.

Provia, meanwhile, plans to be cultivating crops and studying to become a doctor. The petite teenager says URDT taught her that she is the key to her own survival. And she is sharing that message with others. “I’ve now encouraged the fellow village men to come and take the sugar cane and plant in their garden. Not to [buy] all the time, which is not [always] helpful, but so they can have income in their families.”

Along with an entrepreneurial spirit to help improve the lives of others, education obviously has given Provia confidence to hold her own in this patriarchal society.

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