An update from Seeds for Development founder Alison Hall
Six years ago this month Seeds for Development was registered as a charity with the UK Charity Commission and since then we have come a long way.
In the last six years we have provided over 5 ½ tons of seeds to more than 1,600 farmers! Lives, communities and even a town have been transformed because of your generosity – thank you.
There are many things to celebrate and shout about. Our first “pilot” group, in the south of Uganda, are now producing more than 5 tons of seeds themselves and their local town, Kanoni, is thriving with farmers opening shops, building houses and one farmer has even bought a car. Up in the north where most of the farmers live the difference is astonishing. We are particularly proud and moved by the child mothers, who, when we met them in March 2011, were a group of scraggly girls with no hope and lots of babies. Today, when you meet them you find a group of dignified and proud young women all determined, and able, to send their children to school.
Our most ambitious project of all is the coffee enterprise… 30,000 coffee seeds, 280 farmers and 140 acres of land… and a coffee business.
In the last six years I have made 16 trips to Uganda visiting as many farmers and their projects as possible.
It is truly fantastic to see how the farmers are constantly improving their lives, sending their children to school and even setting up businesses. BUT and it is a big but - the contrast with those who have benefitted from Seeds for Development and those who have not is huge and something we won’t ignore.
Another troubling thing is that children do not eat during the day. I’ve visited many schools on my trips and now at each one I ask the children if they have eaten today. In every primary school in the north the result is the same. None of the children eat. Another thing we can’t ignore.
So as we enter our 7th year, a few things are changing. We are expanding our focus from just “seeds” to include “development” (still does what it says on the tin!).
With over 1,600 farmers it is impossible to have relationships with them all, so we have decided that instead of scaling up the number of farmers who receive our support we are going to build on, and develop further, the relationship we have with the core groups that we met at the beginning of our journey and work with them to continue their amazing journey from subsistence farmers living in abject poverty to commercial farmers helping others! I can’t tell you how much I love saying that! Do you mind if I say it again? “… continue their amazing journey from subsistence farmers living in abject poverty to commercial farmers helping others! “
Of course we shall stay with the child mothers and continue to watch and learn from the first pilot group and apply those lessons to the groups in the north.
To address the challenge of the haves and have nots, we are working with the farmers so they can support their neighbours and friends. The farmers are setting up beneficiary groups who will be trained on the skills they learned from Send a Cow Uganda. We will support these new groups with seeds.
To address children not eating, we are started to work with 6 primary schools educating the children with skills and knowledge to take home and share with their families, but also to grow enough maize and beans to feed the entire school.
To continue our support of the farmers groups and keep building on their economic empowerment, we have embarked on our most ambitious project ever! We have set up a coffee company – selling coffee in the UK (and elsewhere!) to support the farmers as they take our coffee pilot into the next phase of creating the first commercial coffee-producing organisation in northern Uganda. We are so excited about this that we have created a website: www.happycoffeebean.com. Please have a look – you will find beautiful photos and learn so much about growing coffee!
We can’t do this without your ongoing support, guidance and advice. So don’t stop! We set out on our journey in 2008 to help farmers kick poverty out of their lives through farming. It’s working - the farmers are kicking poverty out of their lives and now we need to make sure that we continue our efforts and build strong, vibrant communities where not so long ago, there was war and misery.
One thing we have not done is to bring our lovely Seeds for Development website fully up to date with our changes. It was kindly built by a designer and is written in code… which I can’t decipher and am terrified of breaking the whole lot! But it is work in progress… and not a reason to update you on the things that we have been doing!