by Stephanie Meakin and Alexandra Kerr
My daughter graduated from North Grenville this spring, and we headed for Uganda to work at a centre for young mothers and vulnerable women. The young women who have found their way to the CHEL Child Mothers Development Organization (https://www.facebook.com/chelmothers/) come from villages that surround Kampala and Entebbe, and from farther afield. They have been orphaned by AIDS, are from families too poor to care for them, and from situations far worse. The Centre strives to give these women a livelihood by providing basic education in math and English, and training in hairdressing, tailoring, and arts and crafts: skills that may someday support them and their children.
Over the month, between English, Math and fitness lessons, we had spent time discussing primary health care, and had moved our discussions to the need for healthy environments, clean water, healthy soil, and the role of nutritious food in health and wellness.
Uganda has an amazing agricultural community; almost every piece of land, whether in the city, along the highways, or in the villages, is used for pasture, or small crops. It is common to see a small family of goats at the ABM or gas station, or five long horn cows grazing by the highway. We learned that, recently, the rains had not come, which meant all the sweet potatoes had to be harvested at once, significantly dropping the market price. We heard of the tragic scenario being played out in South Sudan, which faces conflict and drought displacing over 1.3 million refugees from neighbouring countries in the last 12 months to northern Uganda. Bidi Bidi Refugee Camp is one of the largest refugee camps in Africa. Climate change and conflict are uncomfortable partners, but are now becoming more the reality than the exception in poor nations around the world.
An hour’s drive from the Centre into the hills we visited a three-acre piece of land that the young women cleared and planted with sweet potatoes and cassava. When we arrived, through tears, they saw that cows had trampled all the young plants and the crop was lost. We carried on to another site of virgin land the Centre hoped to lease. We discussed the loss of the other field, the needs of the surrounding rural villages’ young women, the vision to grow enough food to sustain the young women that make their home at CHEL, and the opportunity to teach agricultural practises to young women as a means to secure income and a future.
We would like to invite the North Grenville farming community to partner with CHEL and adopt this farm enterprise, which will not only provide food for the young women at CHEL, but will teach and train these women to care for the earth, feed themselves and their families, and build a sustainable future – an agricultural project we can all take pride in. We believe we can learn from the agricultural practises in Uganda and can offer much expertise to them as well. We envisage regular updates, and even visits from our Ugandan partners to Canada, and from our North Grenville supporters to Uganda, to monitor their progress and be part of this truly sustainable project.
The project requires $9,000 to purchase the land outright, so the girls will always have it, as well as to plow and fence the land, build a small structure to house up to 10 young women, and purchase the initial livestock and seedlings. The vision is that this project will become the rural CHEL Centre for agricultural education and training, a demonstration centre for sustainable agriculture, support up to 10 vulnerable young women from the nearby villages, and provide food for all the young women from both Centres.
We would welcome any interest and support, and invite you to join us in this journey that has the potential to make a difference in the lives of many people in Uganda and North Grenville.
For more information on the Nakawuka Farming Project budget please contact Stephanie Meakin at [email protected]