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Heifer International is operating a three-year project in Eastern Uganda to provide 215 original families in Eastern Uganda’s Budaka, Butaleja, Bududa, Jinja and Pallisa districts dairy cattle, dairy goats and meat goats. An additional 93 families will benefit from similar inputs through Heifer’s Passing on the Gift model.
All project participants will be trained in Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, gender equity, HIV/AIDS, organizational development, values-based planning, sustainable agriculture and agroecology. Lessons on diversification, enterprise development, and instructions for cooperative bulking and marketing surplus produce will teach project members how to improve their incomes.
More than 70 percent of rural families in Eastern Uganda rely on subsistence farming of staple crops like maize and sweet potatoes for survival. They turn to plants, specifically beans, for protein. With an average of eight members each, families typically eat one unbalanced meal a day. Malnutrition and under-nutrition among children, lactating mothers and the elderly is prevalent.
To earn money, residents commonly sell maize and work on sugar cane plantations owned by wealthy farmers. Plantation work is particularly typical for youth. With few opportunities to emerge from these poor conditions, most people in this area struggle to live on less than USD$1 a day. This is simply not enough to cover food, medication and school costs.
In the past six months, project members have enjoyed improved access to milk, which has increased their nutrition and food security. In addition to consuming cow and goat milk, families sell their surplus cow milk for USD$1.50 per gallon and goat milk for 19 cents per pint. Several families have started growing citrus trees to complement their vegetable crops, while others have diversified their livestock raising with poultry. Using animal manure as fertilizer has become a common practice, resulting in better crop yields.
Up to 70 percent of the project families now have kitchen gardens, making green vegetables available to them 24 hours a day. As a result, they eat more nutritious food more often. Extra produce is sold at market, giving families money to afford school fees, additional nutrition sources, health care and shelter.
Farmer exchange events strengthen community cohesiveness and allow original farmers to teach pass-on farmers valuable integrated livestock and environmental conservation practices. Mulching, planting trees, harvesting rain water and setting up contour barriers are just a few practices that contribute to improving and conserving the environment. Some 20 families have built energy efficient stoves, eliminating the need to cut firewood and improving air quality in the home.