Denny Elliott, the newly appointed Head of NI for Self Help Africa, has just returned from visiting projects in Uganda to see firsthand how Self Help Africa is making its vision of a rural Africa, free from hunger and poverty, a reality on the ground.
Formerly War On Want NI, Self Help Africa has welcomed its first Northern Ireland Ambassador, Ulster Rugby player, Rob Herring, to help promote the charity and he travelled to the east African country with Denny where the most striking thing they witnessed was the gratefulness and enthusiasm of the women who farm the land.
A staggering 80% of farming is being carried out by women and one of the main reasons is due to a joint venture with TruTrade, a subsidiary of Self Help Africa. The social enterprise links small scale producers with buyers in a secure and transparent way and empowered women find this a safe, quick and efficient way of doing business. Trading includes sorghum, cassava, maize, fruit and vegetables.
Denny said: “Self Help Africa provides local farmers in Uganda with start up assistance and the farming groups and community collectives we met on our visit were just incredible.
“ I was overwhelmed to meet women who are happy and satisfied to be managing their farming businesses with thanks to the help they’re receiving from Self Help Africa. They are able to farm their land efficiently and negotiate good prices for their crops quickly.”
In Sub-Saharan Africa, investment in agriculture is up to 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than investment in any other sector. Denny said that working with target groups in Uganda has been beneficial for families to be able to provide high-carb and high-protein meals for their children.
“There has been an increase of 245% in disposable income for some in the last five years, making a lasting and sustainable difference to people who have experienced war and suffering in the conflicted country,” he added.
“We are working to improve the livelihoods of the population and to build resilient communities with skills and means required to survive without our assistance in the longer term.
“Some women have been able to purchase a small plot of land with our help and are growing food and earning an income from this.
“They are sharing the knowledge from the training we’ve provided with their neighbours and their children are eating more meals and therefore thriving in school.”
Denny added that visiting Uganda provided him with a tangible link to the work being done in Northern Ireland with the impact on the ground in Africa by seeing projects in Kampala benefiting communities on a daily basis.
“We have more than 200 volunteers supporting the charity here in Northern Ireland, some of whom have been volunteering with Self Help Africa, previously known as War On Want NI, for more than 40 years.
“The impact made by our volunteers and the general public, who donate and fundraise or purchase clothing and books at our stores, was really brought home to me when I visited our projects in Uganda and it gave me great joy to see how lives have been transformed,” he said.
In Teso, Self Help Africa provides training and practical support to more than 1,500 households to farm more productively and working with womens groups here, Self Help Africa is helping combat the challenges of poverty, climate change and high levels of HIV/AIDS.
Denny added: “I would appeal to readers of Farming Life who would like to make a difference to farmers in Uganda, and in the other eight countries where we work with our own African staff and partners to undertake a range of integrated development programmes in rural communities, to donate whatever little they can, as any donation, no matter how small, can plant a seed and make a sustainable difference to families in Africa.”