The Swinga Women's Group
This report comes from Preserve International, our partner in Uganda who is working with Swinga Women’s Group and the Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement. Preserve International strives to develop garden-based nutrition, increase income, and provide access to technical vegetable production knowledge within the communities they serve. These aims help to establish food security, an increasingly important goal for 2021, as food prices are predicted to go up while availability goes down due the prolonged strain of the pandemic on food systems.
Bidi Bidi Refugee Settlement houses over 280,000 refugees, primarily from South Sudan. Many of these refugees receive the majority of their food from the World Food Program and UNHCR affiliated organizations. Since support began, rations have been reduced 30% and are projected to decrease further to 50%. This would put many families and communities in crisis.
The Swinga Women’s Group consists of refugees, primarily from Bari speaking tribes, in the southern region of Central Equatoria State in South Sudan. Most of these women fled South Sudan during the reignition of conflict and fall of Kajo Keji in 2016. Bari peoples are traditionally agrarian and the Swinga Women’s Group was particularly eager to begin work on increased vegetable production and food preservation processes. The group quickly became the primary caretakers of the demonstration farm in Yumbe. The farm, in addition to growing food, serves as a safe haven for women who come to work and train--providing beds and facilities in a secure location.
To preserve the harvest, Preserve International purchased two large Sparky Dryers (food dehydrators which run on solar power and organic waste to dry fruits and vegetables quickly) for the farm. These keep the vegetables edible for months instead of days.
“Our relationship with the Swinga Women’s group has deepened greatly [in the months after starting the demonstration farm] and we now feel that they are very much a part of the Preserve International family and will be for years to come. The women have found hope in our partnership and walk with dignity in their community. The economic opportunities have also helped some women avoid making difficult decisions, such as early marriage and dropping out of school. They have also helped us to expand our network to other women’s groups through word of mouth as we continue to build a network of local women in agriculture who support one another.”
- Betty, Operations Manager with Preserve International
Although Preserve International’s original program plan shifted with the events of 2020, the adapted programs address the current needs of the community and aid the women of Swinga in creating lasting change during uncertain times. The new programs help participants achieve food security during the pandemic by equipping them with the tools and training needed to launch farms in a post-Covid world--In Uganda, this may not be until the end of 2022.
From Seed Programs International and Persevere International, thank you. Our work together in 2021, is more important than ever!
— The SPI Team
Cutting okra for drying
Women with demonstration garden sign