Access to safe water and training in organic agricultural techniques in rural communities are the main ways that QSA supports its partners in Uganda. Situated between Kenya and Rwanda, Uganda has never been far from violent conflict and poverty. Yet the people there are positive about the future.

St Jude Family Projects.

Project expenditure: $74,546 using funds from both DFAT and QSA

Project title ‘Climate Change Mitigation and Livelihood Improvement for Women, Youth and School Children’

St Jude Family Projects is an agricultural training centre with a focus on promoting organic and sustainable farming practices for food security, climate change mitigation and improved livelihoods. In doing so, the training centre has developed a useful and appropriate range of demonstration gardens and small scale animal projects that Ugandan families learn from in order to apply the techniques to their own gardens.

Project Results

As a result of many years’ experience working with community groups in sustainable agriculture, St. Jude Family Projects has developed a 2-year project cycle which has proved an effective model for teaching the women and youth to break the cycle of poverty. During the first year the training addresses agricultural skills and livelihoods, followed in the second year by a focus on increased economic opportunities and business skills.

This project, the first year for the 443 participants, has taken place in Rakai, Masaka and Lwengo Districts. The participants came from four women’s groups, two youth groups and pupils and their class teachers in five classes in separate schools.  At the end of the project year, they have all demonstrated skills in organic farming practices and climate change techniques to ensure food biodiversity and increased livelihoods. Participants now practice soil and water conservation improvements, and grow an increased variety of crops and fruits for home consumption.  Restoring soil fertility while increasing amounts of water stored in soil for food crops has been important.  Low cost techniques have included applications of manure and compost to increase soil fertility, water harvesting practices such as use of contour ridges and water pits, use of cover crops and agro-forestry.

Photo credit - QSA

120 women have formed four groups and meet regularly for training and peer support. In addition they have planted at least 20 fruit trees each potentially adding to their nutritional intake, as well as preventing soil erosion and preserving local natural habitats. Four communities have established tree nurseries. The improved agricultural methods has also resulted in 98% of the women’s group members and 78% of the youth group members growing enough organic food crops to provide for their family’s nutritional requirements of three meals a day. In conversation with Ragna Gilmour during a monitoring visit for QSA the women reported a great improvement in overall health and nutrition due to the increased quantity and variety of vegetables in the diet. Their children no longer present as being malnourished, and they do not have to spend so much time and money at the hospital being treated for various illnesses.

A component to the training has been supporting women and youth with economic empowerment and entrepreneurship skills. The women and youth have successfully formed savings groups and adopted alternative income generating activities. 85% of the group members have started at least three alternative income generating enterprises in agriculture, poultry rearing, baking, handicrafts, etc. Their income now averages an additional US$30 per month, benefiting more than 1,000 family members.

In addition, children in five schools have received lessons in agricultural and environmental practices, and they have all established food gardens. The schoolchildren are for the first time eating vegetables at school, with 20% of their midday meal produced by themselves in their new school gardens. The children and teachers are participating fully in food production, and the children are also bringing knowledge home to their families and communities. There has been an increase in enrolment and attendance of classes and a reduction in absenteeism as a direct result of a meal at schools. Some students and their families have started to replicate what they are learning in their home gardens.

As a result of donations made via the Living Gifts catalogue, a further $3440 has been sent to St Jude Family Projects to augment the work being conducted in primary schools, in particular the school breakfast program, by providing food ingredients prior to school food garden harvests being made available to use.

Project challenges

The major barrier to food security projects and agricultural activities is the susceptibility to climate variations, and changes to predictability of rainfall patterns. During this project year a lack of sufficient water to ensure consistent food production had an obvious impact on production. The best mitigation strategy against climate change, drought and loss in soil fertility is to practice sustainable organic farming methods focusing on water and soil conservation, and it is expected that project participants will be less affected by weather changes as they learn to conserve water, save seeds, control pests, and produce diverse and drought resistant food crops in the second year of the project.

Photo credit – St Jude Family Projects.

Presidential elections were held in February 2016, and for the project to be seen as non-political, project activities were put on hold for several weeks due to uncertainty of any political upheavals, and to reduce the risk of any misunderstanding as political parties also organise events to gain voter support.

In addition, maintaining school gardens during holidays is also a challenge as staff and students are rarely around to look after and keep the vegetables safe from freely roaming animals and ensure they are watered.  The major constraint for participating schools however is the lack of sufficient water access generally, resulting in people, often the students such as those from Bisanje School, walking up to four kilometres twice a day to supply water for the crops.  The amount of land available for school food gardens is often insufficient for all of their needs such that two schools are borrowing some land from neighbours in order to grow sizable quantities of food crops.

Kyadondo Support initiative for People Living with Disabilities (KYASIPED)
Project expenditure: $ $63,074 using funds from both DFAT and QSA
This project partner works with 35 people with varying disabilities.
Project title – ‘Livelihood Improvement for People with Disabilities’

Project Results

This project was a continuation of the previous year’s work, seeking to strengthen people living with disabilities (PWD) small holder farmers’ skills in sustainable farming practices through training in integrated organic agriculture and water conservation measures, improving water and food security and increasing income through livelihood initiatives. They have also received training in climate change adaptation to ensure food biodiversity, in water management practices, sanitation and hygiene. Within the group, two savings groups have been formed, and 20 project participants have been able to sell small amount of excess produce during the project.  This is a huge improvement in their circumstances and is helping to raise their self-esteem, and enthusiasm to learn more. At the end of the project year 85% of the project participants were so successful that they were able to provide two nutritious meals a day for their households.

KYASIPED project members, one family proudly showing off their new gardening 
equipment from the project.

KYASIPED project members, one family proudly showing off their new gardening
equipment from the project. Photo credit QSA

The project worked with different group members with individualised plans to accommodate their differences and particular disability, with some participants choosing to focus their energies on livelihood activities like poultry farming, and other members growing a range of high value crops for sale at local markets alongside staple food crops. For some of the frailer group members a communal gardening approach was developed providing both social support for these members alongside the sharing of labour. Through regular visits, mentoring, access to extension and community based training, and visits to demonstration sites, these farmers are able to learn new practices and approaches over time.

Project challenges

Working with some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, sometimes with additional challenges like multiple disabilities, illness or old age, has for some resulted in slow progress to achieve results. Overall they do not have robust health and cannot work extensively in their home food gardens. This is further compounded by attitudes towards their ability to learn and contribute to their families and communities.

Project activities were halted during the elections, not only to avoid being mistaken for a political rally, but also because with so many people on the streets and taking part in rallies and discussions, many of the members with disabilities felt unsafe and reluctant to travel far.

Environmental Conservation for Agriculture Uganda (Eco-Agric)
Project expenditure $10,868 to June 2016, using funds from QSA only; DFAT and QSA funds, project expenditure from July 2016 $8,607
Project title ‘Sustainable Agriculture for Food Security Livelihoods and Environmental Conservation among Vulnerable Female Headed Smallholder Farmers.’

Project Results

Since the start of 2015, Eco-Agric has received funding from QSA as a pilot project to promote organic agriculture for improved food security, livelihoods and environmental conservation. Thirty participants of the pilot project received training on more productive farming practices, and established their own savings group. As part of the project, the women received a range of seeds and seedlings to establish their food gardens, as well as water buckets, watering cans, and some vaccinated chickens. They have established farmer field schools and demonstration plots where women gain hands-on learning experience, and have set up a small plant nursery. These women and their families are now able to eat three meals a day as a result of implementing the new ideas and training. Each member is earning varying amounts a day from selling excess vegetables, and in addition, loans financed from the savings pool of the savings group has enabled the start-up of eight small businesses. These micro loans are not possible from banks as they have no collateral to offer, and the peer support from group members gives added incentives.

Eco Agric staff

Eco Agric staff. Photo credit QSA.

The pilot project was assessed as being a success in terms of the project participants and their achievements, and there was a demonstrated capacity of the project partner to manage a larger project.  An extension and upgrade of this project utilising additional financial support from DFAT from July 2016 has enabled 90 women to be involved in the training program. Forming project participants into groups enables sharing of knowledge and experience amongst themselves, making implementation easier in their own home food gardens, and the peer support can quickly answer questions in between training workshops. A total of three savings groups are being established, and along with training in sustainable conservation farming techniques and business management skills, it is hoped all of the participants will achieve year-round food security, improved health and wellbeing, and income to support their families.

Project challenges

Women, who carry a large load of responsibilities in looking after their children, in addition to managing their onerous tasks in the household, can at times find it challenging to find time to attend group meetings etc. A good strategy for encouraging participation has been to allow the women to plan for their project activities to fit in with other chores.

Climate change has led to prolonged drought in the region, affecting all agricultural activities especially crop production.

During the year there were elections at national and local levels. In the weeks leading up to the elections, all project activities cease so that there is no confusion between project activities and political ones. This affected the timing of some of the training courses and project activities but overall did not prevent everything that had been planned from taking place.

School students exploring their environment, Tamil Nadu

School students exploring their environment, Tamil Nadu. Photo credit Pitchandikulam Bio Resource Centre