A difficult beginning 

‘I come from a typically large Ugandan family. My father had three wives and 22 children: eight with my mum and a further 14 with his other two wives. We had just half an acre of land on which we grew crops for food. Despite our hard work, it was impossible to feed 26 mouths and we were always hungry. 

‘At family gatherings my father was constantly being rebuked for giving birth to so many ‘problems’, which is what the whole clan called us children. To prove that he was a good father and husband, my father did his best to send us to school. However, he could only afford to send us to the poorest schools and could rarely afford the full fees, so some of us children had to work at the school in lieu of payment. While our fellow students were in class, we would be fetching firewood or making bricks for classroom construction, so school became a place of casual labour rather than one of learning. 

‘Although we were in and out of school, there was a lot of competition between each wife’s children. We all wanted to perform better than our step siblings and the competition was particularly intense between the boys, as we all wanted to inherit what little land our father had. Tragically, things got harder for us all when our father was diagnosed with cancer and the land had to be sold to cover his medical bills. Despite the treatment that he received, he passed away, leaving us with nothing. There was no land for farming, and we could no longer go to school. With no means to grow or buy food, we were destitute and most of us resorted stealing food to survive. 

‘The situation was desperate. There was no way that we could take care of so many people and so my sisters, who were aged between 11 and 20, were married off. This is one of my deepest regrets and still haunts me today. We were looked down upon by everyone and became known as the village rats by even by the poorest people in the community. We were so hungry all of the time and were forced to become scavengers. It was around this time that we heard of the opportunity of being trained by Amigos at Kira Farm Development Centre. I came to the interview with nine of my siblings, and for some reason I was given the chance to go to Kira Farm.’ 

Learning to escape my past 

‘Life on Kira was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I couldn’t believe I was going to bed every night without worrying what I was going to eat the next day! For the first time, I knew what it was to have a full stomach and be free of worry. Getting to know the other trainees at Kira helped me a lot, too. I thought I had the hardest past but hearing what my fellow trainees had gone through helped me to stop crying about my past and focus on where I wanted my life to go in the future. My main aim was to lift my whole family out of the poverty that we had always known. I knew we didn’t have land, so I was particularly interested with the urban farming training we were given at Kira.’ 

A brighter future 

‘When I graduated from Kira, I had nowhere to go. While I was at Kira, I had been told that our mother had moved back into her parents’ home and that we weren’t welcome to live with her because our father didn’t pay a dowry for my mother’s hand in marriage. Unbelievably, after everything that we had already experienced, our grandparents had disowned us. 

‘I begged Uncle Joshua who runs Kira Farm to let me stay on for a few months until I figured out where to live and what to do. He turned me down but being a father to us all, he got me a job at a vocational school just down the road from Kira Farm in a town called Kasangati. I was given a job as a building trainer assistant. Once I started work, I made it clear that I had a passion and a talent for farming. I convinced the administration that, although most of the school’s students didn’t have land, urban farming could be the solution, if they would just let me try. 

‘The institution gave me land and I started up an urban farm training programme. To their surprise and my delight, the programme was a huge success. Students and trainers all wanted to be involved and before long, I was given an agriculture training department to lead! My salary was raised from £35 a month to £90 a month, with accommodation and meals on top. 

‘I never forgot my sisters who had to get married when things were terrible. Because of my good income, I have been able to pay for two of those little sisters to go to school, despite being married. It is my hope that an education will help to protect them from being abused by their husbands. I have also been able to rent a house for my mother so that she may move out of her parents’ home and give two of my brothers a place to call home. 

‘Because my agriculture department is going so well, I’ve been representing my vocational training college at several national agricultural shows. This have given me the opportunity to make even more connections, helping to quench my constant thirst for knowledge. 

‘With the vocational training college’s trust and support, I have set up Christian Fellowship meetings twice a week. I have shared information about the restorative approach and the college now wants me to roll restorative approach training to the whole college next year. 

‘Although I will never forget them, those days of having to steal just to survive seem in the distant past. I am saving £35 every month and my aim is to buy land and settle down with my family. I would like to buy a large piece of land so I can become a serious farmer. 

‘I’m so grateful to my sponsor for supporting me through Kira Farm. It has not only helped me, but my whole family. Thanks to you, we have come out of a desperate situation and can now look to the future and I can’t thank you enough.’