Feb 9, 2021

Grains for Growth building resilience during COVID

Act4Africa female community mentor and leaders
Act4Africa female community mentor and leaders

Our Grains for Growth programme aims to educate and equip women in the rural district of Mayuge, Eastern Uganda, to safely store grain for their family’s needs, or for selling at an appropriate time to bring in much needed income.   Desperately poor women are empowered and enabled to make decisions and take action to improve the food security and economic prospects for their families.  Their status within the home increases and they begin to grow and make positive changes within their community.

What’s the background to this project?

I have spoken to dozens of individuals whose lives are blighted due to an inability to produce sufficient crops from their meagre parcel of land.  To make matters worse, most subsistence farmers then lose around 30% of their grain crops after harvesting, primarily due to insect infestation and mould development during storage. 

What is this project and how does it work?

Through workshops delivered by Act4Africa, people learn how to dry and store their grain effectively and learn simple methods to ensure the grain has reached an optimum level of moisture. These workshops are backed up with simple instruction manuals in the local language.   Dry grain is then stored in airtight plastic containers, manufactured by WFP’s approved suppliers.  Containers are sealed securely and left sealed for at least one month.  This ensures that any insects present in the grain are killed off rather than multiplying and destroying the grain.  

Following this training programme, grain losses have been reduced to virtually zero by these simple interventions.  

The containers are very sturdy and have the potential to be used for around twenty years. 

Each container holds enough grain for 1000 meals. 

What are the implications?

Firstly, people can feed their family for a prolonged period with grain in good condition. Drying grain in the correct manner also prevents fungal growth and the development of high levels of carcinogens know as aflatoxins. 

The World Health Organisation reports that “long-term or chronic exposure to aflatoxins has several health consequences including causing liver cancer and has “the potential to cause birth defects in children.”  The WHO also reports that “aflatoxins cause immunosuppression, therefore may decrease resistance to infectious agents (e.g. HIV, tuberculosis)’  Sadly, the situation gets even worse. In areas where the poorest quality grain is used for animal feed, aflatoxins can be found in milk. Subsequently these may be passed to infants though breast milk. 

In short, storing grains in poor condition has long term health implications, reduced life opportunities and causes death.  I  have spoken to individuals who are forced to eat grain which has gone off when there is no other alternative. 

Properly stored grain can be held back by householders and sold later in the season when prices have risen. Within a few months, grain can double and even treble in price. 

Some children are expected to take a bag of grain to school in order to enrol each term.  A simple thing like having a few kilos of grain available can help keep a child in education.  Our team in Uganda have met individuals who know that grain in their silos will secure their children’s next term at school.  In a world where so much can go wrong this is hope.

During the Covid pandemic, those who have previously benefited from the WFP training rolled out by Act4Africa have shown greater resilience. They have been able to pull on their grain, properly dried and stored in their silos.  In short, these people have better food security which is helping them get through this unprecedented crisis. 

So simple, so effective.    What next? 

WFP have rolled out this programme in several African countries in the last 5 years and it’s been stunningly effective.   We have seen for ourselves the effectiveness in this our first pilot programme in Mayuge.  

We are now seeking funding for containers, and the money to support personnel to deliver training and training materials.

Equipping, training and supporting a group of 35 families costs approximately $10,500. This cost also includes significant follow up work to ensure the training is properly embedded for the long term. The World Food Programme and our own experience has shown this effective training and the follow up work changes people’s lives for ever.  It provides skills which will bear fruit year after year, long after the trainers have left. 

If you wish to support this programme please donate via the GIVE NOW button below.  A donation of just $10 covers the cost on two airtight bags to store grain safely to provide 250 meals. 

Links:

Jan 6, 2021

Teachers' home visits keep children's learning on track

You will know from previous reports that, in line with government guidelines and COVID-19 lockdown, Kathy's Kindergarten was sadly closed for most of 2020.  However, thanks to your donations, our teachers have continued to support the children at home: initially providing them with home learning packs and regular visitto check on their health and wellbeing, providing food aid when necessary to keep up with their nutrition. More latterly, the children's home learning has been boosted through 1:1 tutorial visits from our dedicated kindergarten teachers. 

Act4Africa’s Ugandan Lead Teacher, Jenifer Akullu tells us: 

The program of food distribution started in May where children would be given eggs, sugar, flour and milk directly taken at home for them to share with their families and during these out reaches of food distribution teachers realized that the pupils were missing a lot as most parents did not have the time or skills to help the children.  Their early achievements in class would easily get to zero since next year is far and this prompted the school to adapt the home learning program for pupils of Kathy’s Kindergarten.  The teachers organized learning program in pupils’ homes, after consent with their parents and this was supported by both parents, Act4Africa and teachers making the exercise easy to roll it out. 

"Teachers visit pupils homes upon appointment prior to the visit. The 3 teachers would be assigned different homes with packages to guide the pupil’s learning.  This has been a routine activity for the children and teachers which has helped strengthen the teacher child relationship, keep pupils learning and improving their ability of class work execution. This program has been a great success as the children’s performance in tests and class work is so good. We believe that by next year we shall have automatic promotions to those who will have scored up to the school pass mark next year.

"These learning programs have basically been a one-on-one teaching and parents are so grateful for this initiative that has kept children busy and learning from their own teachers and at a free cost unlike other children who has been receiving such learning from other teachers from different schools at a cost. 

Peter, a father said, “Thank you so much teachers for your tireless support to our children, I love the love you have for our children and how passionate you teachers are about teaching these children of ours. 

Olivia, a motherexclaimed,  “You people are a real deal, my son is so blessed to have you people as his teachers, thank you so much Act4Africa and Kathy’s Kindergarten for being my child’s saviour during this pandemic, my child has not missed a thing about learning, thanks  to you.”  

Meanwhile we got to hear from our very own kindergarten child himself. He delighted us with his words: “My teacher is a super-hero, my school is the best in the whole world, because my teachers follow me up to home so that I can learn, I want to be like my teacher because she loves teaching me and my friends.” 

His mother also continued by saying “You people feel my heart with greater joy because everything you do for our children is wow! 

We could not achieve this without your support, so thank you for providing these children with a "WOW moment" in 2020!  We do not yet know when we can re-open the Kindergarten, but we do know that your donations will help us bring education to over 50 children at this difficult time. Please donate to give hope and education to the next generation.

Links:

Dec 9, 2020

Emergency aid for flood victims in Kasese

Elderly & pregnant women were the priority for aid
Elderly & pregnant women were the priority for aid

Kasese district, Western Uganda has been repeatedly ravaged by floods over the last 7 months, including as recently as last month.  Over 100,000 people have been left homeless. Heavy rains have caused most of the major rivers in the district to burst their banks. Notably, we had river Nyamwamba, Mubuku, and river Nyamugasani which flooded, destroying lives and many properties, including a government hospital, several schools, and people’s homes. The floods unfortunately swept away gardens of crops that left many people with no shelter, food or clean water.

As a result of the gross effects of these catastrophes from May to November, the government aid was not sufficient for all of the victims and many found themselves living in camps where they had to depend entirely on relief food and other basic necessities which were mainly provided by charity organizations and well-wishers.

The camp which we visited is in the Nyamwamba division of Kasese municipality. It is divided into 3 sections. Approximately 50 families are living in each section of the camp with a total population of around 250 people living in makeshift houses made of tarpaulin, sharing 3 toilets with only 1 tap that also provides water to the surrounding community. 

Prior to the relief distribution, the local council chairperson told us about his frustrations and shared great concern for the pregnant mothers giving birth in the camp without good care. Most rely on traditional birth attendants and those who do manage to reach the health facilities have no money to get proper postnatal care. He said that since the existence of the camp, 18 mothers have given birth with many more being pregnant and expecting any time soon. The issue of increased cases of teenage pregnancy in the camp results from idleness by the youth, mostly since no economic or social activity in the camp engages them and they lack knowledge about sexual reproductive health. He said that these increased cases of pregnancies by young girls will mean most of them miss out on studying even after schools fully reopen next year.

The chairperson also talked about the challenges of attending to people suffering with mental illness in the camp who need special consideration from the government or any other organization to help them get the correct treatment. He also highlighted the need to sensitize and counsel families of those suffering from poor mental health, so that they can live without being isolated by others.

It is against this background that Act4Africa received an emergency grant from GlobalGiving to come to the rescue of people living in camps.  We were able to give food and sanitation items to help the people of Kasese, especially those living in camps to minimize the possible outbreak of diseases in these crowded camps. While giving out aid, Act4Africa mostly identified families with many children, pregnant mothers, people with disabilities, and the elderly as the most vulnerable people that required urgent assistance.

We gave out a range of foods like, maize and cassava flour, cooking oil and rice to help people improve their diet.  Relief items such as washing bar soap and liquid soap, hand washing tap and dustbins will help fight diseases like cholera and coronavirus by washing hands at the entry point of the camp and having a good garbage collection point.

This aid by Act4Africa was greatly appreciated by the camp residents who said that it will improve the diet of their families and improve the general sanitation of the camp.

“Thank you Act4Africa for this food relief that has been timely because we were having no food” said one of the mothers in the camp.

Looking at the effects of lockdown in the country resulting from Covid19, economically people are unable to work and earn money that will enable them decent lifestyles like before or construct houses that were washed by floods. They called on Act4Africa and all its partners and well-wishers to consider them and supply more food to them because government aid is always slow.

The food aid provided by Act4Africa was a great relief to the people of Kanyageya living in camps and they greatly appreciated the works of the charity and support of GlobalGiving.

Water stations to keep people safe from infection
Water stations to keep people safe from infection
Food, soap, jerrycans and bins all received
Food, soap, jerrycans and bins all received

Links:

 
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