Here’s a short account of my experience with Eco-Agric Uganda, a local NGO operating on several fronts to empower disadvantaged people in the country, and how you can support the organization.
Eco-Agric Uganda is run by a couple, Josephine and Robert, with an inspiring story to tell. They both came from poverty, became veterinarians with their own strengths, and did well with their lives: they managed to have a nice house and raise their children the way they envisioned.
But the place where they came from never left their hearts. Once they realized they achieved what they wanted, they started to slowly look into the lives of people in need in the country. They knew what to do and how to do it, and they knew their knowledge and experience could be useful to many other people. Eco-Agric Uganda was born.
Uganda is poor, this is no secret. It is ranked among the 20/30 poorest countries in the world by many indexes and international organizations.
Jobs are difficult to come by. There are a lot of under-educated and unskilled people that just need an opportunity. There are a lot of children (one-third of the entire population!) often orphans and unschooled, left to themselves. When you travel around, you just see all these children everywhere along the roads. There are huge problems with some health issues such as HIV. Farmers are in need of training and guidance, and contracts to secure their sales on markets they don’t fully understand.
Josephine and Robert started to act. In Wakiso they established the main office of the organization and their vocational training centre. Here, for a period of six months and several times per week, young women and mothers with no other opportunity can train and learn how to sew or become hairdressers, or how to make small handicraft objects that can be sold at the markets in the capital.
The principle applied isn’t to just hand over materials or spoon feed them in any way. Eco-Agric tries to drive these women to think about feasible economic activities, which can become a real source of income and support for their families. I have assisted to some training myself, and one day we all went together to Kampala, the capital of the country, to check out handicraft markets and understand what are the needed products.
It was one of the best days so far in Uganda for me, and together with other volunteers we also took advantage to visit around, including the big Gaddafi National Mosque on the top of the hill, from where you can see the whole city.
After that, we moved to Hoima, in the North-West part of the country. This is a rural province where Eco-Agric has built, with the help of previous volunteers, Wamu Eco-Cottages Hoima. The place can be booked by tourists, and all the money for (the very affordable) rooms, will go into helping the activities of the NGO. Hoima is a very good location to go visit the famous Murchinson Falls National Park or to continue your travels somewhere else in the country.
Hoima is the place where most of the activities take place. I personally visited some farming communities for their regular meetings (featured image). The work here is to economically empower families by training them on sustainable agriculture techniques. There is also work going towards training and educating people on the protection of their environment, and on contract farming, which is essential to give some certainty of income for these families in rural Uganda. Without collective contracts, their production would be too small to even be able to sell.
While I was there, other volunteers helped with projects supporting orphaned children in schools, or with HIV prevention and control, or at refugee camps. I could not see it all, but considering the small size of the organization and the limited resources available, Eco-Agric really does a lot.
Volunteers are welcomed as part of the family by Josephine and Robert, and there is always some useful skills that can be shared and can be good for the organization. As for my work, I just supported by creating or organizing some communication tools, for donors and fund-raising.
The experience was definitely positive, Eco-Agric does important work. If you feel like supporting them through volunteering, with some donations, or simply by staying at the Eco-Lodge in Hoima, please do so. All the information are in the links provided in this article. For more stories and to follow their work, here is the Instagram account.