Quadrupling Crop Yields

It might sound too good to be true, but at Amigos’ Kira Farm Development Centre, hungry young subsistence farmers are acquiring the skills required to create an abundance of food. This is life-changing for whole families who have been surviving on one meal a day.

Over the course of a year the trainees are equipped to practise conservation farming at this residential 22 acre site on the outskirts of Kampala. They return to their communities with the ability to feed their extended family and have a surplus to sell at market – providing an income for school fees for their siblings, medicine, and household essentials such as kerosene and soap.

In Uganda the soil is fertile and as a result of being on the equator there are two harvests a year, however many go hungry because they lack basic farming skills. A 25 year civil war between the government and a rebel group, The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), saw many in the north of the country forced into camps where they had to rely on food aid. Up to 60,000 children were abducted and forced to become child soldiers.

Child soldiers turn to farming                                                               

As a result of the war and the devastation of HIV, farming skills were lost and a new generation was raised without any knowledge of how to live off the land. When the war came to an end in 2006 people emerged from the camps to an apocalyptic landscape. Many homes and trees had been burnt to the ground by the LRA.

Today, former child soldiers learn conservation farming skills at Kira Farm alongside young people who were raised in the squalor of camps. A total of 40 young people study at the centre each year, all have grown up in extreme poverty, some have been street kids, many are HIV orphans.

At Kira Farm they learn about the importance of crop rotation, spacing seeds, mulching, composting, zero tillage and planting in time for the rains. Alongside producing their own food, each student has an individual plot they are responsible for.

Thriving enterprises creating employment

The students have the opportunity to study vocational trades such as tailoring, carpentry, construction and hairdressing so they can set up small businesses back home. The holistic programme also includes training in key life skills such as health and hygiene, and conflict resolution.

Remarkably, these young people become agents of change when they return to their communities. A recent student, Nelson, was abducted by LRA rebels at the age of 9 and forced to become a child soldier. After a year of training and rehabilitation at Kira Farm Nelson is now a respected community leader providing training to large groups in conservation farming – enabling his hungry village to multiply their crop yields.

A large number of Kira Farm graduates have set up thriving carpentry workshops and created apprenticeships, others have won construction contracts and created employment for young people. Many new hairdressing enterprises and tailoring workshops have also sprung up across the north.

A long way from home

Amigos was set up in north Devon in the year 2000 by one man with a big heart, a big vision - and a spare bedroom which doubled as an office. The charity now helps train thousands of people living in extreme poverty in Uganda. Its mission is to equip Ugandans to have the hope and the means to live off their own land and set up small businesses to revolutionise their futures. The focus is firmly on a hand-up, not a hand-out.

Through training in conservation farming, education, emotional support and vocational skills the charity equips people to bring about lasting change in their lives. With Amigos’ support, whole communities are starting to feed their families, send their children to school, earn a steady income and lead happy and fulfilled lives.

Since the inception of Kira Farm, Amigos has grown and expanded its projects, in particular launching conservation farming groups in northern communities on a large scale. Today over 1000 farmers per year are receiving training and the impact is widespread - 98% report their crop yields multiplying – making it possible for their families to enjoy three meals a day. School attendance amongst their children has risen from 7% to 98%, and domestic violence has dropped from 100% to 1%. In a land of hopelessness, there is hope!

For as little as £1 a week you can support Amigos’ Kira Farm Development Centre to train up to 50 young people every year. If 800 people gave just £1 a week (plus giftaid), Kira would be fully funded year after year. 

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