Today, the most vulnerable members of the Northern Ugandan population are our top priority. Assisting them to meet their needs for food security and stability is the most sustainable way to help them improve their situations without creating an endless, co-dependent cycle of aid.
The physical and emotional hardships facing this marginalized community are numerous. Their traumas and the general disarray of post-war Northern Uganda can make returning to manual labour extremely difficult. Some are women living with HIV/AIDS, many of whom were forced into combat and sexual slavery by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) during the war. Some returned as child mothers, orphans or widows. Others have injuries and disabilities or are elderly and lack the social support needed to rebuild a household. Many were born captive and either never attended or dropped out of school. Life during war is all they knew. Adjusting to the challenges of day to day life during peace-time introduces an entirely new hurdle to overcome.
This community is plagued by chronic poverty which ensures that basic needs like food, shelter, education, and clothing aren’t being met. High illiteracy rates keep them reliant on manual labour as their sole source of income. The issues affecting Uganda at large under the 30-year-rule of Yoweri Museveni, such as extreme censorship of the media, gender inequality, social injustice and poor health care service and availability, only push the vulnerable rural communities further to the periphery.
Agriculture forms the backbone of the Ugandan economy. Most farmers still engage in traditional methods of subsistence agriculture. The Ugandan government has acknowledged an urgent need to modernize and accelerate the means of production with programs such as PAF (Poverty Action Fund) and PEAP (Poverty Eradication Action Plan). In spite of their goals to reach and improve the situations of marginalized communities by 2017, little has been accomplished by these programs in Northern Uganda. The level of food security in the region continues to be abysmal, especially in the districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Pader, and Amuru.
Before the war, farming and rearing livestock were Atiak’s primary economic activities. Healthy trade took place with the neighbouring Adjumani district and across the border with South Sudan. The 23-year-conflict that followed destroyed the livestock, separated farmers from their land and confined them to IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons Camps), impeding the swift implementation of renewed agricultural development after the war and all but killing vital, income generating trade.
Rather than waiting for government aid to reach them, the citizens of Northern Uganda are keen to take matters into their own hands. We are committed to help them.
Battling poverty with limited resources, rural farmers in Northern Uganda don’t have the luxury of planning and foresight required for successful, sustainable farming practices. Unforeseen circumstances such as prolonged drought, pestilence, disease or sudden family emergencies, while common and problematic, aren’t factored into long-term planning strategies.
Ideally, excess produce would feed the family, be sold at a profit, or bolster stored provisions. Unfortunately, in order to cover pressing medical costs, school fees, rent and other basic needs, the crops are all too often sold off at prices so low they yield zero net profit or less. Farmers also fall victim to middlemen, who exploit their known need for quick cash by buying low and selling high in markets, reaping the rewards of the farmers’ hard labour and desperation.
The long term effect is a cycle of subsistence yield, hand-to-mouth living and the destruction of natural resources. Many who have taken to farming have done so out of necessity and have little or no experience. Without profits, they are unable to invest in gaining the skills and knowledge to develop successful farming practices or to purchase the tools to make it efficient. Without proper farming education and guidance, the community suffers from reduced household incomes, poor nutrition and preventable illnesses caused by improper hygiene practices.
Deforestation is an additional problem. With few resources or electricity, precious shea and fruit trees are indiscriminately felled to provide firewood for cooking and warmth. This not only deprives the community of nutrition and additional sale crops, but over time will lead to soil erosion and depletion, making farming even more difficult in the near future.
The primary goal of our Organic Agriculture Program is to end this self-defeating cycle of poverty by providing support and education for rural farmers. By promoting the modernization of the Northern Ugandan agricultural sector, we hope to see a sharp rise in crop yields, leading to increased household incomes and self-sufficiency, as well as improved food security and nutrition.
Environmental responsibility and stewardship
Farming as business
Savings and credit
Food preparation and nutrition
Household hygiene and sanitation
Animal welfare, as outlined in UDAW (Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare)
Integrated Organic Farming: Inexpensive and Environmentally Sound
In order to address the need for cost effective crop growth and environmentally responsible livestock rearing, we promote the use of integrated organic farming methods. Integrated organic farming adopts cheap and innovative approaches to produce diversified yields of both plants and animals, while minimizing or entirely eliminating the need for harmful pesticides and expensive feed.
Contrasted with the expensive, highly industrialized and problematic monoculture made infamous by companies like Monsanto, integrated organic farming requires few inputs and yields exponential, beneficial outputs. This approach is experiencing a resurgence in popularity around the world, not only in rural communities, but in cities as well. Its power to address the growing demand for diverse and healthy organic produce and environmentally responsible farming practices puts it at the fore of agricultural research and innovation.
In heavily industrialized monoculture, farming by-products become a dangerous hazard and need to be disposed of. With integrated farming systems, the opposite is true: by-products are an integral part of the process. Animal manure, monoculture’s foremost toxic hazard, becomes worth its weight in gold in an integrated farming system. Along with kitchen waste and weeds, it can be turned into organic fertilizer with the power to increase crop yields. With the help of a low-cost anaerobic digester, manure can also be converted into biogas, replacing the burning of wood and fossil fuels, immediately addressing the problem of deforestation and the lack of electricity. The side effect of these benefits is the complete elimination of the costly and time-consuming need for waste disposal and removal. For subsistence farmers, this is money in the bank and food on the table.
Instead of requiring diversion and treatment, run-off water is used to safely irrigate crops. Even the urine from livestock in this system is beneficial. With antiseptic and mild anti-fungal properties it can be used in lieu of harsh and expensive chemical pest control, preventing plant diseases caused by virus, fungus, and bacterium.
Increasing Income: Switching from Subsistence to Medium Scale Farming
In order to increase crop yields and overall productivity, it is necessary to move from subsistence farming to cost-effective, medium-scale farming. Simply put, this means trading hand-operated equipment and intensive manual labour for ethical and innovative animal traction.
Using domesticated animals to assist in tasks such as irrigation, transport, weeding, and tillage is both cost-effective and low-maintenance. Unlike heavy, engine-operated farming equipment, animals don’t require repair specialists or the ever-rising expense of fuel. By promoting the ethical treatment of these animals, such as permitting frequent rest, assuring they are well-housed and well-fed, their productivity and vitality increases, directly benefiting the farmers.
The integrated organic farming method relies on the animal’s waste and feeding habits to create a productive ecosystem. What looks like cutting-edge innovation is actually the application of common sense to harness the animal’s natural behaviour. For example, a pig’s natural tendency to dig for roots can be used to ‘plow’ a field prior to planting. After harvest, free roaming poultry will weed and fertilize soil, as well as eat any rotten fruit or vegetables unfit for human consumption. Teaching farmers to capitalize on this natural behaviour saves them time, labour and animal feed costs. It also promotes the health and happiness of the animals.