Dear Friends of Organic Perspectives,
We are again delighted to bring you the latest updates from our work with rural smallholder farmers in Uganda.
Over the last few months—stretching from January 2014—our team has made some really good strides in developing strategic project partnerships, as you will learn below, and we have also moved a step closer to a goal we have held closely from early 2013: creating a means of self-sustainability for our interventions (on community forestry, alternative household energy and organic gardening).
For exactly 12 months going back from now, you realize that the frequency with which we have shared with you news updates and photos from Organic Perspectives’ community activities has been typically sporadic.
In retrospect, what might appear to be a minor setback to a social change-maker on the other side of the world may prove to be the toughest challenge for a small African nonprofit like ours. In one instance—during our early days (2008 – 2011), we had a good digital camera of our own, and that’s the only time we were able to take the best photos from our community training activities ever—as you can see on this page (under “Photos”).
Then, somewhere in early 2013, the sole computer we had ceased working, and a second digital camera that had been donated to us by our colleague—Uganda’s Program Coordinator for “Trees for the Future”—also malfunctioned shortly thereafter. We have since then been without any means of documenting our work, in a part of Uganda where accessibility is really constrained.
Well, all the above is NOT the central point of this news update, but in many ways has a lot to do with our current resolve to pursue a means of self-sustainability for our work—as highlighted below.
2. From the Field: more tree planting, new biogas digesters and an organic farming venture
TREES: this season, we provided a lot of fodder tree seed to two of the community tree nurseries that we have worked with since 2013, and also to more than 10 individual farmers who intend to set up their own woodlots.
From around 2009, we realized that engaging individual farmers on tree planting is even as effective as the community approach—and in some cases even more effective—as there are individual farmers who commit to planting tens of thousands of trees (each single farmer). Willy (NOT the one in the above photo) is one good example. We began with him in mid 2012, but since then planted over 75,000 trees, including more than 30,000 trees in 2014 alone.
BIOGAS: our activity pace on fuel-efficient woodstoves and household biogas digesters has generally slowed, particularly due to decreased subsidy—assistance to beneficiary households—in the case of the latter. In the whole of 2014, we have been able to install only 3 new biogas digesters, and are yet to install the fourth digester at an orphanage in Northern Uganda at the end of May, 2014.
ORGANIC FARMING: Please learn about our newest community venture on organic farming: the Uganda Community Farm.
3. Impact Investor for our Community Organic Farm
From 2013, we have had plans for an organic horticulture social venture: the Uganda Community Farm. The initiative, a project of Organic Perspectives, both aims to build self-sustainability for our nonprofit’s community work with local communities in Uganda, and to equip our target rural farmers with hands-on skills on organic horticulture systems to lift them out of extreme poverty.
We are delighted to share with you that the concept, conceived only in November last year (2013), has now gotten its first US Impact Investor; she visited us in Uganda and was here for 3 weeks last April. If you visit the Uganda Community Farm’s website and find our vision inspiring, we can put you in touch with this young lady (our first Impact Investor) to see how you might work together with her to help. Every little helps.
Thank you and we look forward to sharing with you more updates in the near future.
Dear Project Supporter,
Organic Perspectives would like to bring you a few updates from our work with rural farmers in Uganda.
For the biggest time of the year, an almost-continuous part of our work is taking visitors to several local households where we have either installed a household biogas plant or supplied a fuel-efficient woodstove—besides the farmers’ groups that we provide with tree seed and agroforestry training.
With a relatively meager source of funding, our nonprofit is generally not scaling our activities to new communities for much of the year, but the work we have done in the last 7 years is itself often much to keep us in the field most of the time. And we are ultimately sure to build continuity, ideally in a self sufficient manner—if our goal for the “Uganda Community Farm” finally holds. Read on.
We have particularly found our innovations in the area of sustainable household energy to be just as appealing to local farmers and our project visitors—as do our reforestation and organic agriculture part of it.
Our latest 2 visitors from the US (see photo) therefore weren’t held back by the Christmas holiday. They were already having their sleeves rolled up and their hands dirty in the mud—sharing experiences and providing practical training to our farmers in Kamuli—as early as Jan 2, 2014 (after leaving their home country on new year’s eve) . We had no way of sharing more of our field photos via this report, but we shall be sure to upload many of them in the gallery on this page, and on our website.
Strategizing for the Sustainability of our Work:
We would like to focus briefly on the theme for this report.
Towards the end of 2013—as you might have learned about—we pushed ahead an establishment campaign for our newest project: the Uganda Community Farm. This, unfortunately, wasn’t successful.
You will realize from the above link that our purpose for the farm was, and still is, twofold:
With the failure of the farm’s previous establishment campaign, we haven’t given up on the future. Presently, we have generally scaled down on the farm’s establishment needs, and we are contemplating making the most modest start we can with our own hands—then seek expansion support later.
See our 2014 Business Plan for the Uganda Community Farm here.
How You Can Help:
Thank you very much for your continued support!
We are grateful as always to share with you the latest updates from Organic Perspectives’ community work with rural smallholder farmers in Kamuli and Buyende—Eastern Uganda.
First, as a quick reminder, our overall project activities are in 3 main categories: agroforestry, alternative household energy and organic agriculture.
Of the three components, tree planting is the easiest we are usually able to sustain—even during times when our capacity is essentially limited.
The third component (i.e. organic farming), for its part, has literally never been undertaken as a separate project, certainly due to limited resources. Instead, what we do is train farmers on how they can use various nitrogen fixing tree species as green manure for soil enhancement (under agroforestry); make organic pesticides using residual bioslurry from biodigesters (under our alternative household energy work) etc.
Looking back, however, there is generally a lot of knowledge and skills we have passed onto local farmers on organic farming (though never undertaken it exclusively as an independent project). In particular, our colleague ‘Moses Baleese’ has participated in several capacity building training workshops by Heifer International Uganda on the use of the digester bioslurry and other waste materials in organic farming systems, as well as livestock and poultry feeds—and he has been quite keen to share his experiences with farmers during our outreaches, at times through one-on-one guidance in their gardens!
On the alternative household energy component (which presently includes the installation of fixed dome household biogas digesters and dissemination of improved woodstoves), our work has generally slowed over the last 10 months. This is mainly because our key partner Heifer International Uganda that helps cover most of the (biodigester) plant installation costs is ending the first phase of their national biogas program (funded by SNV/HIVOS) this year. So subsidies had to fade towards the end.
They are definitely going to have a second phase, however, and that’s perhaps when we will regain our pace. The more outreaches we do on signing up biogas households are also what concurrently catalyze the dissemination of our improved (fuel-efficient woodstoves), as this often comes up as an alternative for households that don’t have cattle or can’t afford the cost for a biogas plant.
Our latest project updates are in 2 areas: our alternative household energy work and the agroforestry project.
1) ALTERNATIVE HOUSEHOLD ENERGY: though we have mentioned above that our activities in this area have literally slowed down, we have also steadily explored numerous partnerships over the last couple of months to extend/expand our work.
Organic Perspectives has been a Partner (see here) of the UN Foundation’s Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) since 2010—a network via which we are in touch with all latest developments in the global clean cooking industry—as well as organizations doing the same work locally and internationally.
The GACC initiated its Ugandan National Chapter (called UNACC) last year, after a Regional Stakeholder Consultation Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya which was attended by Anthony Kalulu from Organic Perspectives (though sponsorship by the GACC).
To date, a series of country-level actions plans have been laid down, and this is one of the key partnerships we anticipate enabling us to further our work on alternative household energy in general. The latest UNACC meeting in Entebbe, Uganda has been running this week (22 – 23, Oct 2013) and our team was represented by Moses Baleese.
2) AGROFORESTRY: In the last 5 months, three of our newest community agroforestry centers established this year have had the best work at their sites; a nursery by students and local women at Kamuli Vocational College (although their seedlings haven’t been transplanted yet); a site in Kanagage (that we usually call the District Forestry Officer’s community nursery—as it is in his village and partly supported by him) and a community nursery where the picture shown here was taken 4 months ago.
We have not been able to capture new photos lately (due to a faulty camera that was provided to us by our colleagues at Trees for the Future), but the community site where the above photo was taken has probably been the most successful; very many farmers from their village planted over 45,000 trees altogether and a huge volume of seedlings is still available. The District Forestry Officer’s nursery has also given out at least 30,000 saplings to local people.
Besides, our team (with Mathius of Trees for the Future - Uganda) has also directly provided large quantities of tree seed itself (for those who want to raise seedlings themselves) to many individuals and groups in the last few months.
We are grateful for sharing our latest news with you--and greatly appreciate your support for Organic Perspectives!
Organic Perspectives is pleased to bring you more news from our projects in Uganda.
In the last three months, we have made some really good progress with all our work.
But first off, a look back at our original goal.
When we first conceived the idea for the project “Social Forestry in Uganda: Setting a Precedent” a year ago, our goal was 40 community reforestation centers (nurseries) so we could be able to plant 2,000,000 trees per year.
It is still difficult to assess our overall progress against the “40 nurseries /2M trees a year” ambition, as this literally would require of us the ability to provide ongoing support and monitoring for all the community reforestation centers we have established so far—to get a summative overview of our progress.
But we are still limited on operational capacity (such as fuel), yet the farmers groups we work with (particularly on household biogas installation and agroforestry) in the most deforested remote areas of Kamuli and Buyende are scattered across a vast area.
So, with tree planting, what we do currently is that we are only able to follow up with each farmers group for about one planting season (the first time we make contact) and then move on to train/orientate another group (PEG). But overall, we have trained and enabled about 11 farmers groups to initiate community reforestation centers (which also act as project extension hubs for orientating neighborhoods on all our 3 focus areas—agroforestry, sustainable household energy and organic gardening) since 2012.
Some of these sites are only able to produce 25,000 – 30,000 trees per planting season, but some have more integrated partnerships, such as one new local farmers’ group (whose patron is the Kamuli District Forestry Officer) which produces a high volume of tree seedlings that are then given out the local community. Check out photos of our team engaging the Kamuli District Forestry Officer in the field here!
So what are we now up to?
OK. We have trained and provided agroforestry supplies (seed, some nursery equipment and agroforestry manuals from Trees for the Future) to four more farmers groups in the last three months since May. Again, see more of these pictures in our gallery!
Then, in the week of July 8, 2013, we immersed a group of 14 conservation volunteers from FDF Denmark in all our community projects in Kamuli and Buyende. You may remember early this year reading about a sustainable tourism initiative that our team started up as a way of involving more stakeholders in our activities of environmental conservation—and as a means of creating an internal source of support for our work.
The visitors, led by Line Maria Bram Pedersen of Green Insight, toured a large number of households where we have installed household biogas digesters and explored our community reforestation sites; interacted extensively with local people; got their hands muddy through hands-on involvement with our farmers and virtually went to every place where we are working across the two vast districts. Our colleague Mathius (Trees for the Future’s Uganda Coordinator) also joined us and gave the visitors a recap of Organic Perspectives’ inspiring work. More photos will soon be uploaded to our photo gallery.
Organic Perspectives would like to bring you the latest news stories from our reforestation project in Kamuli and Buyende districts, Uganda. We are happy to share with you on:
** Please accept our apologies: we just lost a huge volume of ALL the photos taken in the latest weeks from our work with rural farmers—we fell prey to a computer malware. Please look out for another stream of photos in the next report**
Farmers groups of 2012
We are really happy to follow up with the progress of the farmers groups (or Project Extension Groups) we trained for our very first four Community Tree Nurseries in the last half of 2012. All the groups have been able to reach out to other fellow farmers in their communities—providing them with seedlings and cascading our agroforestry training. The farmers are also confident that they can produce at least 30,000 trees per season at each site.
Some of the most interesting photos (we just lost) are those of farmers that have really set good examples of agroforestry systems especially alley cropping and live fencing. Their crop fields are doing extremely well!
New Community Reforestation Centers
This rainy season, we continue to reach out to new communities, establishing more Community Trees Nurseries. We are excited to come up with another goal of setting up a community reforestation centre in every place where we have already installed a household biogas digester—so that each such site works as an orientation centre for the local community on our overall work. Three of our newest community reforestation centers are operating on this kind of arrangement.
Bringing travelers into environmental action
Like any other small nonprofit in the developing world, we have limited partnerships and project support. In light of these challenges, Organic Perspectives recently launched its own offshoot ‘EcoTours & Travel Uganda’ specifically for the purpose of involving travelers in our ongoing environmental initiatives. See our story.
The travel industry is one of those social sectors literally accountable for the degradation of the environment—particularly through Greenhouse Gas Emissions associated with flights and transportation. Also, the tourism industry is directly dependent on our planet’s natural resources—and, as such, travelers are key stakeholders in the sustainability of the environment.
EcoTours & Travel Uganda wants to draw travelers into conservation, both directly and indirectly.
Direct Involvement: taking the opportunity of our direct contact with travelers, EcoTours & Travel Uganda is developing a ‘Travel CO2 Offsets’ initiative designed to create personal, real-life connections between travelers and environmental causes in the local destinations they are visiting. This will both build environmental awareness in the tourism industry and challenge travelers for practical forms of environmental responsibility.
Indirect Involvement: EcoTours & Travel Uganda’s core goal is to leverage resources from our own green tourism activities to build our capacity for scaling the activities of Organic Perspectives. One of the landmark products we are strategically using as source of our own internal funding is our ‘Green Travel Service’—through which we raise funds to scale our projects.
Our very promotional package dubbed the “Sustainability Travelers’ Trip” has directly been arranged to translate into tree planting. In this, a new community reforestation center (called a Project Extension Group - PEG) shall be set up for every traveler that participates in the safari. Each PEG will produce 25,000 trees per season (50,000 trees per year) and will act as the local extension hub for our activities in sustainable household energy and organic gardening. Learn about how we set up new PEGs here.
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