The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people around the globe, in ways that many could not even have imagined. For most people it is a time of survival, of reflection, and of recognising the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us, as well as our strengths and limitations.

At Amigos, we work with some of the poorest and most marginalised and vulnerable people within Ugandan society. The keystone to our model is community-led sustainability; if we can’t exit discreetly, leaving communities flourishing for the long term, our programmes are not a success.

Quick to Act

No strangers to epidemics, when faced with a global pandemic, the Ugandan government acted quickly and decisively. On 18th March, all public gatherings, including pubs, wedding venues, cultural meetings, churches, schools, universities and vocational training establishments were closed for an initial period of 32 days. A mandatory 14-day quarantine was imposed for all people arriving to the country, regardless of their nationality.

The Ugandan trustees had to follow the government directive, which led to the difficult decision of sending all Kira Farm trainees back to their villages. Travel home was funded by Amigos and the trainees have regular contact with Joshua and Mary, who run Kira Farm. Most have continued to learn with their local Amigos Farming Group; some have been taken under the wings of former Kira trainees, continuing to learn building, carpentry, hairdressing and tailoring skills. All will be invited to return as soon as it is safe and practical to do so.

Just days after the trainees had left, a ban on public transport was imposed; four days later, on 30th March, a curfew was enforced from 7 p.m. to 6.30 a.m.

The Current Situation

As at 11th July, there had been 1,013 Covid-positive cases, 951 of whom have now recovered, and no recorded deaths. However, President Museveni is still being cautious, and schools, training facilities and other places where larger groups of people may gather, are yet to reopen.

In the short term, we are having regular contact with Kira Trainees, who are all at home, well and safe but keen to continue their studies at Kira Farm Development Centre!
Our Community Farming Groups are the least affected of our programmes; as they have been carefully designed to be self-sufficient and community led, training has been able to continue throughout the restrictions under the skilled guidance of local extension workers (Kira Farm graduates who now support others in their community through their three-year Conservation Farming training programme).
There are limits on the size of gatherings, which means that tasks that would typically take 1-2 days with 30 farmers will take 6 days with groups of only five. However, steady progress is being made and, perhaps most significantly, the robustness of the programme is clearly evident by its ability to continue through such trying times.

With schools still closed, our child sponsorship programmes are the most affected by the pandemic. Most of our sponsored children are now supported through community sponsorship; the fact that each child has their caregiver in a Farming Group means that we are confident that they have good food security, they are safe, and we can monitor them easily.  We have been waiting for a definitive plan of action from the government and for some of the restrictions on movement to be lifted. This happened at the beginning of July and we have contacted our child and community sponsors to let them know that, until life returns to “normal”, regular child sponsorship donations will be used to buy food and any academic resources needed for children to take part in the government’s current home-learning curriculum, which is broadcast on the radio.

Our Farming Group communities benefit from clean water via borehole installation and training in soap making, sanitation and hygiene and community led total sanitation (CLTS – to prevent open defecation). At a time when hygiene is all-important, this is undoubtedly helping to keep our communities safe. As restrictions are easing, we will continue to install boreholes, with installation and WASH training for a further seven communities planned in the coming months.

Nobody knows what the future holds

We never thought our model would be challenged in the way that the closures and restrictions of the pandemic have done. And we are incredibly proud of the strength and diversity of our teams, both here in the UK and in Uganda. Every member of the team has pulled together to ensure that those most vulnerable receive the help that they need. However, we know that there are even bigger challenges yet to come.

Nobody knows how long Covid-19 will continue to affect every part of our lives, from restricted movement to education, procuring resources to selling crops at the market. But we know that our generous donors – trusts, corporations and individuals whose funding transforms lives – are experiencing increasing financial pressures, which could have a significant impact on the work that we do.
We don’t know the long-term impact of the global pandemic on the people that we serve in Uganda. But we do know from experience that it tends to be the poor and vulnerable who suffer most in times of crisis. We also know that our support will be needed more than ever in the coming years in order to help Ugandans recover from the impact on their livelihoods, educations, and financial security.

We don’t know the extent of the impact on future funding, and operations, but we do know that our model can withstand even the toughest challenges. We know that we will double and redouble our efforts to secure funding from a range of sources to protect our income as much as possible. And we know that we have the most incredible community of supporters who will continue to support us in whatever way they can through the most adverse situations until we emerge stronger and more resilient.

We are committed to supporting our partners in Uganda through this crisis, and will continue to offer to support to build support networks that will help to maintain the social structures that are currently at risk, and which help to protect the most vulnerable in society: the sick, the young and people with disabilities. We will continue to do everything in our power to fill tummies, hearts and minds, so that one day, poverty in Uganda will be a thing of the past.

Thank you for continuing to stand by our side, and by the side of those most in need,

Phil and Team

**Update** - 04.08.2020

This week, we did something that we never thought would happen: we have contacted our Kira Farm Trainee sponsors to inform them that Kira Farm Development Centre will remain closed until 2021, when this year's trainees will be invited to return and recommence their training.

This was a tough decision for Josh and the team. However, with every passing day, the window of opportunity for Kira staff to deliver the standard of training and nurturing that sees such incredible transformation was becoming smaller. Our trainees, as ever, remain our priority and as the year progresses without any sign of training centres and schools reopening, we had to consider the impact on the quality of the training that could be offered on a shorter timescale. Rather than continually preparing worst and best case scenarios, Josh and his team made the decision to be proactive; to focus on developing their own training, reflect, and make sure that Kira Farm will be better than ever for the trainees when they return in 2021!

As travel restrictions have been lifted slightly, Josh and Yule are preparing for their epic adventure across Uganda, where they will meet with the graduates of 2019. Our valued sponsors of 2019 trainees will receive a full update in the autumn. On their travels, the pair will also make contact with the 2020 trainees and bring them messages of hope and support along with the assurance that they will be welcomed back to Kira Farm as soon as it is possible to do so in 2021.

In the meantime, trainees will continue to train with their local Amigos Farming Groups, Kira Farm is predicted to have a bumper crop this year, and Josh, Mary and the team have learnt an array of new farming skills!

Once, again we have been immensely proud of the incredible resilience and versatility of our fantastic team and the precious people that we serve.