Let’s kindly get back to our normal pace and tone.
Life has always been intractable for people like me. But today, things are taking an even more grim turn.
The more polarized the world has gotten in the age of Brexit, Trumpism, and an unforgiving inclination to populist nationalism, the harder it has become for those of us who live at the bottom of the pyramid to find anyone who is willing to lend a hand on poverty, in any small way. It’s always been hard. Now, it’s harder.
And because we are all only human, even the global antipoverty movement itself has inevitably been infiltrated. That’s, beyond twitter hashtags, even the people behind the sleakiest global antipoverty and/or SDG-themed campaigns have become a little more unforthcoming, more unresponsive, and many shun any kind of direct collaboration with the world’s poor.
After all, nothing else explains why progress on the Global Goals has stagnated, even if a few people like Trump alone choose to be apathetic towards the poor.
But history has shown that the plight of humans in one part of the world will always impact the whole world, invited or uninvited. It is why Central Americans have mostly flocked the US border during the Trump regime. It is why people like me are daring the high seas into Europe. It is why we really need to get back an empathetic heart, a normal pace and tone.
I am writing to implore you to help me create only ONE lasting solution to the cycle of poverty in our region. I am particularly appealing to all the Hollywood media personalities/celebrities who are passionate about global poverty; all the socially-conscious CEOs who are part of the UN Global Compact, and every supporter of the Global Goals who is reading this.
Help me leverage the power of collaboration to broker a lasting, self-sustainable end to the scourge of poverty in our region, at a time when our waning sense of shared humanity makes this unlikely.
My name is Anthony, a small farmer in a remote part of eastern Uganda. I have lived in extreme poverty my whole life, but my goal is to change the bigger picture.
I am very humbly looking for collaborators, everyone out there who supports the SDGs, and everyone who believes in ending poverty, to help me create only one lasting solution to the cycle of poverty in our region.
Collaborations like these are the true essence of Goal 17, and are the only way we can end poverty for good.
Please see “How You Can Help” at the very bottom.
And be sure to learn about my project, the UCF, here.
You might even want to see what 2 recent American visitors had to say about me, on their own blog, here.
Let’s Do Something:
In our region, everyone is a smallholder farmer, and clearly every smallholder farmer here lives in extreme poverty. But, in practice, the only thing that keeps us in poverty, is the absence of reliable markets for our produce, and the fact that rural poor farmers in our region aren’t part of any agricultural value chains.
Farmers have no market linkages beyond village level, yet everyone is very poor, and no local demand exists. For example, farmers have a lot of cassava today, but there are no buyers. It is the same with all other crops.
So much so that, in Aug 2019, my project (the UCF) is giving out free sorghum seed to any interested fellow poor farmers across two districts, but the majority of farmers have declined that seed, fearing this sorghum will have no market like every other crop, and we are going to close 2019 with most of that seed not used.
In retrospect, no crop from farmers in our region goes to any mainstream agricultural market, e.g. the agri-food industry, or any other established agri-food value chain. Yet no local demand is in place at village level.
This not only guarantees incomes below the poverty line, but also means, an already impoverished farmer can’t produce beyond a certain point, and can’t scale.
If we had access to markets, and a way of minimizing the food losses that arise from the absence of reliable markets for our produce, it would indeed be possible for us to turn into more productive citizens — who are capable of ending poverty in a self-sustaining manner.
If you are willing to help, my team would like to work together with you, to create a lasting solution to this.
Help us become more productive, so we can then use our own hands to break the yoke of poverty by 2030.
Again, plz see “How You Can Help” at the very bottom.
The Intended Solution:
We would like to work with you to create a solution that will 1) get us included in agri-food value chains, and 2) build reliable market linkages for our produce.
That solution is: a fully fledged agro-processing plant that shall reverse poverty & create jobs in our region, by minimizing post-harvest food losses, creating new market linkages, and linking our produce with new value chains, e.g. in the food and beverage industry.
Setting up this plant will address SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), while the collaborative process that we are seeking to help us establish this plant is SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). And, as food loss in a poor region like ours means both a missed income and food insecurity, this plant will also contribute toward SDG 2 (Zero Hunger).
Through job creation, the plant will directly contribute towards SDG 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth). Lastly, by creating markets for more than one type of crop, this plant shall enable rural farmers to diversify and earn supplemental incomes from various crops.
We will develop this plant at once, or we will phase it in small incremental steps, depending on the support we are able to raise. And so, every little support that we can raise will make a small incremental beginning.
For instance, once we only install a number of food dryers and a few accessories, that alone will help us work with many fellow poor farmers to produce the right quality of beer-making cassava & sorghum that we will then process & supply to regional breweries, and will create market linkages for many other crops.
The plant shall have 2 components:
Component #1: About 4 – 8 durable, greenhouse-type solar food dryers installed at the UCF. These dryers, and their accessories, will create markets for farmers in our region, by turning our produce into hygienic, quality foods that will bring us buyers from the food/beverage industry — for products like high quality cassava flour, tapioca pearls, cereals & others.
A prototype of our intended greenhouse-type solar food dryers (seen below) was installed at our project, the UCF, in August – September 2018. This prototype measures 6mx7m, but has a small capacity of 100kg.
Our final 4 – 8 dryers will be 9mx27m each, and shall be installed by Serm Janjai of SolarLabSU.com (talks finalized), with materials from Covestro. Here below are a few 9mx27m dryers Serm has installed in Asia:
Component #2: A facility that turns fresh fruits into intermediate products for the food industry, putting to use the chunks of fruits that otherwise go to waste while people are in poverty, and linking rural farmers to high value markets they couldn’t access before — while ploughing the plant’s own incomes back into the community to support our work with fellow farmers.
To get started, our project (the UCF) will designate a piece of land specifically for raising large volumes of seedlings for passion fruits; pineapples; mango and others, all year round. These seedlings shall be given out to all the participating fellow farmers at no charge, along with sufficient agronomic training at every step.
Farmers already have these fruits & only no market. But the goal of giving out even more seedlings is to increase production as we move along, disseminate varieties that have a higher juice yield or quality, and to ensure that even the poorest farmers who have no inputs can participate equally, this time with a ready market. Products will be fruit purees/concentrates.
Below is a replica of what component #2 will look like:
Doability / Relevance & Technical Assistance:
Solar dehydration has proved to be an efficient way for rural farmers to minimize food losses and produce hygienic foods that then reach high-value markets. For us, such technology isn’t used anywhere in our region. Similarly, Uganda mainly imports intermediate foods (purees & concentrates) from Kenya and South Africa, yet our fruit produce has no market. And so, this all is locally doable, and since we are ourselves the poor farmers who feel the pinch, we will do it.
For a fruit processing facility, in particular, our national government has long mulled plans for installing one in our area since the 60s, and lately in 2012, as said here, all because there is a dire need for such a facility here. But now that this will never come to pass, we have to rise to the occasion and get one in place ourselves.
Overall, technical assistance on installing the whole plant; building market linkages, and advice on crop agronomics (i.e. species selection and maintenance practices of specific crops for particular purposes) will come from TechoServe, SolarLabSU.com, Partners in Food Solutions, AfrII.org, Natural Resources Institute (UK), as well as local breweries & local agronomists.
Our project, the UCF, is already working with many fellow poor smallholder farmers. We support these farmers from the very first step, by providing them with initial inputs like seed, and the needed agronomic training. We then pool our collective produce and market it under a single umbrella, together with the produce that’s been grown by ourselves at the UCF.
Setting up this plant will create new market linkages for our produce (cutting food losses, creating jobs and stemming poverty), and will enhance our capacity to work with many fellow poor farmers across a wider geographical area (providing them with seed, training and a market) in a self-sustaining way. The plant will also help farmers earn incomes from various crops.
Even more practically, crops like passion fruits, which mature only in months, and whose seedlings will be provided by the UCF to all interested farmers free of charge, along with a ready market at harvest, will be a guaranteed way of fast-tracking an exit from extreme poverty even for the poorest smallholder farmers.
Below are a few photos of local farmers the UCF works with. The first 3 were taken 2016 by Tracy, an American from RandomActs.org. The last two were taken 2018 by visitors Emily & Taylor from Northfield Mount Hermon School, Massachusetts. Photo #5 in the sequence, also taken by Emily & Taylor, is of the crops that are being grown by ourselves at the UCF.
A few international visitors who have physically been at the UCF and seen our work firsthand are: Taylor, Northfield Mount Hermon School, MA (visited 2018); Emily, Northfield Mount Hermon School, Cambridge MA (visited 2018); Neil, Fullwell Mill UK (visited 2018); Ken, Greater Impact Foundation (visited 2016); John, Anya, Claire, Josie, Poppy, Joanna & Alex — Edinburgh University (2016); Tracy, RandomActs.org (2016).
What Makes Our Plant Unique?
This isn’t a traditional capitalist idea. Rather, it is the kind of work that SDG 9 calls for, not to mention it will be the very first such plant in our region, and is being led by people who have lived in extreme poverty for long. Our only goal is to catalyze self-sustainability.
Unlike traditional capitalist ventures, our plant will create markets for poor small farmers, and will use its own resources to stem poverty in the remotest areas where nothing else is in place to end poverty. And it’s only natural that way. This will only be a furtherance of the work that we are already doing with many fellow poor farmers in our region, on practically a $0 budget.
P.S. – for a few photos from our previous work with fellow poor smallholder farmers in our region, please see a presentation that we made before the UNDP Uganda Country Director, Ms. Almaz Gebru — and the entire UNDP Uganda team — back in 2017, in regard to the same plant that we are striving to establish.
Ownership & Legal Structure:
Our project, the UCF, is itself a nonprofit social enterprise, and we are working with many fellow poor farmers who can’t get started on their own. As such, all the support that we provide to the farmers we work with (be it seed, fertilizers or training) is free.
To run our plant in a flexible and creative way, and without subjecting our work to bureaucratic practices that have stalemated similar ventures here today, our plant shall be directly managed by the UCF, with any incomes thereof being used to support our work with fellow poor farmers, and to maintain the plant itself.
If not, we are really open to any other ideas on this.
The UCF is located on 12 acres in a remote part of Kamuli, eastern Uganda. But, using incomes from the crops we are growing here ourselves, we were able to acquire (in 2017) another 3 acres approximately six kilometers from Kamuli Municipality. Component #2 above shall be installed on these 3 acres. The solar dryers, meanwhile, will be on our 12-acre premises.
Alongside the fruit seedlings that our plant will raise and provide to all the participating farmers free of charge, we will raise several species of multipurpose, fast-growing leguminous trees (like albizia, grilicidia & calliandra) that farmers will integrate in their gardens through alley-cropping, as well as native, hardwood trees that farmers will grow as separate woodlots.
These trees will help enhance soils through nitrogen fixation, provide animal fodder, firewood, timber, and above all, offset all the co2 emissions from our plant.
How You Can Help:
1). donate a tweet or two to share this website with other people, so we can recruit more collaborators.
2). team up with us on a crowdfundraiser, to help us raise support. You may even be able to help us raise a fraction of the needed support via your own means.
As we will very likely have only one chance of raising support, and because we want to align our plant with the food standards of reputable consumers, we would like to raise $15m, to put our work on a solid footing.
From this, $0.3m provides farmer support; $0.7m will cover solar processing, and the $14m will erect a fruit processing facility (see full budget breakdown here).
Still, as mentioned earlier, every little support that we could raise will make a small incremental beginning.
3). if you are able to provide any hands-on skills on a volunteering basis (e.g. as an industrial designer; food technologist, mechanical engineer etc), work with us in person to install this plant on the ground in Uganda.
To learn about how the UCF started, see Anthony’s personal story here, or learn more on our website.