From jail to a farmer

In my earlier days in Uganda, my new home for the next one year, my host organisation Advance Afrika organised a field expedition to enable me monitor how some of the ex-prison inmates have reintegrated back in the society. We met Tekkwo Brian Olanya, an ex-prison inmate who served a 14 months sentence for theft in Lugore Farm Prison had transformed a long abandoned lot behind his house into an urban farm, where a number of beds now brims with vegetables.

At the far end of Kalturu Village in Pabbo Sub-county, Acholi region, sits a compound of the Tekkwo clan. The area lies in the formerly war torn region of northern Uganda characterised by famine, high levels of illiteracy and extreme poverty in recent years. According to the chat I had with him, lack of job opportunities, poverty stricken life and bad company of friends are some of the reasons which landed him in prison for crimes such as house breaking and theft which he considered an easy way of survival back then. Tekkwo lived a reckless life of alcohol abuse which was leading him to destruction.

While serving his sentence, he underwent an entrepreneurship and life skills training organised by Advance Afrika. The program aims at empowering prison inmates with knowledge so that they can start a profitable business upon release from prison.

After he was released early this year, he embarked on farming; he grew vegetables such as eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, maize and rearing goats. His life which was once deemed as a waste suddenly looks bright and full of hope as he is now getting income from the sales of his products and able to support his family. His long term plan is to expand his business and start supplying his products (vegetable and meat) to nearby schools, hotels and butcheries. He also plans to return to school and pursue his education which was interrupted in senior two.

Even before being given start up kits which other ex-prison inmates who have gone through the same training receive, he had this to say about Advance Afrika “This initiative of empowering prison inmates with business skills has truly helped me change my mind set to focus on business and my small farm demonstrates that even formerly incarcerated people who have made mistakes and bad choices shouldn’t have their past hanging over their heads forever.”