In the 1980s, Uganda was hit hard by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Shouldering this burden today are a generation of grandmothers, now solely responsible for feeding, clothing, and schooling their orphaned grandchildren.
Much of Jinja's economy is agriculture-based. Unfortunately, many grandmothers (jjajas) face challenges in the physically-demanding task of farming traditional commercial crops like matoke and coffee.
In 2010, our student team worked with St. Francis to design and build an agricultural education center. The center focused on spreading knowledge of profitable, less-labor-intensive crops (like mushrooms) that could serve as a source of income for the jjajas.
When working on a social impact project, there is often temptation to look first at deficiencies – what are the problems here? What are we lacking?
Instead, our team subscribed to a different philosophy – that of Asset Based Community Development. We instead focused on the strengths inherent in the situation – a strong, social, enthusiastic community of jjajas; a medical facility with a large plot of land.
This deliberate asset-mapping provided great returns in for the project. We realized that a vacant room in the St. Francis facility could be turned into a mushroom culture lab, and used to provide valuable mushroom spores to grandmothers at a low cost.
The IFARM project was a collaborative effort by local, grassroots stakeholders, and a sustainability-focused international development team.
This collaboration helped ensure that the assets and insights of both parties were leveraged.
The project was profiled by the Foundation for Sustainable development here.