Growing Futures Uganda – School Food Program
This program is empowering primary school children to grow, cook and eat food at their school with a secondary objective of equipping the school to be the central hub of a community agricultural resource, including seeds stock and knowledge.
About the community we are helping
A standard Universal Primary Education (UPE) school in Uganda has 700 students, 7 teachers, 7 classrooms, little or no furniture, no food and no water. A school day for the average student starts at 5 or 6am when they wake and dress for school. They walk sometimes many kilometres to school which starts at 7am. Some students may bring a small amount of water (<500mls) but very few bring food as there is no power to refrigerate food, no containers or storage for food, and usually no left overs in any case. School finishes at 5pm. Most children go all day without any food or water. Some boys will leave the school at lunch break and steal fruit from the surrounding farms. Young girls engage in sex with older males in exchange for food, often conceiving a child, HIV or both before completing primary school. When school finishes the children (especially girls) must walk up to 5km or more to collect water from possibly polluted or diseased sources before the evening meal preparation can begin. It may be 10pm before the meal is ready by which time some children may have fallen asleep. This is the daily routine six days per week for most children in rural Uganda.
Benefits to the community
Thanks to the program, children are now growing and eating food at the school. Their focus is now on learning instead of starving. They are also receiving training in organic gardening as an extension of their traditional farming skills. The surrounding community has been involved in the training and there have been opportunities for children to establish vegetable gardens at home with seed stock available from the school-based seed bank and tools lent where this is necessary. People in the surrounding community are actively growing food for themselves.
How our volunteers are helping
There are opportunities for volunteers to become involved and no special skills are required. Local volunteer trainers provide the required technical skills. Manual labour and just being there is enough to generate a significant enthusiasm in the local children. The impact a foreigner has on the children of Uganda is remarkable. Often your approach is heralded with a chorus of “muzungu ... muzungu ... Muzungu. MUZUNGU!” with increasing volume and intensity and as the excitement builds, a crowd gathers and children literally jump for joy. Specialist permaculture, organic agriculture or appropriate technology knowledge is welcome and would be appreciated to assist with evaluating the existing program and expanding the opportunity into new and exciting areas but is not necessary.
Locals speak their traditional languages (many different languages in Uganda) with English being taught at school. Most rural Ugandan people will find English difficult, however, most of the volunteer university students will appreciate the opportunity to interpret and practise their English skills.
Living with rural Ugandan people does not come without its discomforts. The people in Africa live tough and go hungry seemingly oblivious to their aching stomachs. Most volunteers will find a stay longer than one month difficult due to their body’s physiological changes (starvation mode). Longer stays could be broken with some tourist travel which will provide an opportunity to buy more extensive meals, enjoy hot showers and sleep in comfortable beds all of which are missing from the average Ugandan daily life. However there is no getting away from the insect and parasite risks associated with living in Africa and volunteers need to be prepared for exposure to common and also rare or mysterious diseases.