Dear humanity,

   When you look at how all current events tend to    bind us all together, often involuntarily, we really need to consciously join hands and become one, now on.

   Our collective destiny is increasingly intertwined,   and our shared humanity is even more evident. Let’s put the next 10 years to use, once the COVID-19 outbreak has abated, and let’s make the period 2020 – 2030 a time for effecting lasting change.

From all that is unfolding before us, it is time we emerged as one family; saw our interconnectedness, and realized the need to work together to address the oldest and most incessant challenges we have long faced as a human family, particularly global poverty.

Coz, even when you look at it from the context of COVID-19 alone, the poorest people on this planet are set to suffer the hardest. From poor health systems to the inability to afford the most basic sanitary supplies. Yet, not only is this a global challenge that has bound us all concurrently, but also, for this to effectively end, we all ought to come out of it together as one family.

 It is one thing that best explains why, this point on,   we all need to move away from racial and/or national stereotyping; embrace narratives that positively uplift us all; mainstream marginalized voices, and above all, actively amplify those platforms that present the only opportunity for transforming the most unprivileged, which such platform, today, are the UN Global Goals.

In the darkest of times, like we are seeing now, our collective fate as a human family has more in common.

It clearly underscores why we need to get the UN Global Goals back on track, and to use the next 10 years leading up to 2030 for the good of humanity.

To the world’s extreme poor, the UN Global Goals represent the only glimmer of hope, and certainly the only newfound promise, for a world that is devoid of chronic poverty. But, long before today’s COVID-19 pandemic even hit, these goals had virtually stalled.

  For those of us at the very bottom of the pyramid, that means nothing but a future really more grim way beyond merely the current coronavirus outbreak.

It is especially so for those of us who have no networks anywhere on earth, but who had hoped to build a path from extreme poverty by tapping into the collaborative framework laid out by the Global Goals, which framework is now turning out to be elusive.

   I am calling on the world to get the Global Goals    back on track, once COVID-19 has relented. It’s true, times have changed. But there is a lot we can really do to actualize these goals even now, especially if the global community used these trying times to directly support the people living in extreme poverty.

 Besides, with little to no progress made on these goals the last 5 years, it is now essential for everyone who has the potential to instigate progress, to put it to use, even if that means going outside their traditional business model. Ultimately, the Global Goals and a poverty-free world really are for the good of us all.

Let’s become one, this point on, and let’s put the next 10 years to use, once the COVID-19 outbreak abates.

 

 


The core message here (on the Global Goals), and the personal plea that follows below, had all been online (on this same URL) for a year before the coronavirus even came, but have only been revised to put current events into context — vis-a-vis the Global Goals.

My Plea  (once COVID-19 has relented):

     I am writing to implore you to help me create       only ONE lasting solution to the cycle of poverty in our region. Let’s put the next 10 years to use. Help me leverage the power of collaboration to bring a lasting, self-sustainable end to the plight of poverty in our region. See why am counting on the Global Goals.

About Me:

My name is Anthony, a small farmer here in eastern Uganda. I have lived in poverty my whole life, but my goal is to change the underlying reasons behind this.

I am very humbly looking for collaborators who may be able to work directly with my team, or those who can only amplify our voice, to help us 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.

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Please see “How You Can Help” at the very bottom.

And be sure to learn about our project, the UCF, here.

You might even want to see what 2 recent American visitors had to say about us, on their own blog, here.

Let’s Do Something  (once COVID-19 abates):

In our region, everyone is a smallholder farmer, and nearly 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.

In retrospect, no crop from farmers in our region goes to any mainstream agricultural market, e.g. the food industry, or any other established agri-value chain. Yet everyone is very poor, and no local demand exists.

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, the UCF would like to work together with you, to create a lasting solution to this.

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 agri-value chains e.g. in the food industry, textiles etc.

Farmers here have no market for their produce.

Yet, there is an array of local industries that use intermediate foods like High Quality Cassava Flour; cassava starch/tapioca; processed cereals, or purees & concentrates that are otherwise imported. These industries include bottling companies and breweries; biscuit makers and yogurt producers; confectioneries & bakeries; paperboard industries & pharmaceuticals, adhesive industries and textiles etc. That’s the market we want to tap into, and since we are ourselves the poor farmers who feel the pinch, we will surely do it.

Development Process:

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. That is, 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 given 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:  Cassava & Cereal/Grain Processing.

We will install 2 – 5 durable, greenhouse-type solar food dryers at the UCF. These dryers, along with an assortment of complementary equipment, will create markets for rural farmers in our region, by turning our produce into foods that will bring us new buyers from across the agri-value chain — for products like high quality cassava flour, tapioca pearls, cereals etc.

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 2 – 5 dryers will be 9mx27m each, and shall be installed by Serm Janjai of SolarLabSU.com (talks finalized), with materials from Covestro. Here below is one 9mx27m solar dryer Serm installed in Thailand:

 

Component 2:   Fruit Processing.

We aim to install a facility that turns fresh fruits into intermediate products for the food industry. This will help repurpose the chunks of fruits that otherwise go to waste while people are in poverty, and will link rural poor farmers to 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:

 

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, because there is a grave need for such a facility here. But now that this will never come to pass, we have to take up the challenge and get one in place ourselves.

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Technical assistance on installing the whole plant; building market linkages, and advice on specific crop systems will come from TechoServe, SolarlabSU.com, Partners in Food Solutions, AfrII, Natural Resources Institute UK, & specialized entities like Alvan Blanch.

Impact:

a). from a Global Goals point of view:

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.

b). from a community point of view:

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. – you can find a few photos from our previous work with fellow poor farmers on the UCF website, and in a presentation that we made before the UNDP Uganda senior executive 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 afford to get started on their own. So, 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 scale 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 of our plant shall be installed on these 3 acres, while Component #1 will be situated on our 12-acre site.

CO2 Emissions?

The current climate crisis is set to hit poor people like us the hardest. Yet, at the same time, the scourge of poverty in a region like ours warrants the very kind of technological solutions that we are envisioning now.

So, alongside the fruit saplings that our plant will raise and give out to all the participating local farmers at no 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  (once COVID-19 has relented):

 1).  donate a tweet or two to share this website with the world, so we can recruit even more collaborators.

2).  team up with us on this fundraiser, to help us raise support. You may even be able to help us raise a small 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, $0.2m provides farmer support; $0.8m is for cassava & cereal/grain processing, and the $14m will erect a fruit processing facility (breakdown here).

As shown under “Funding Targets” in our fundraiser above, we will accomplish specific milestones starting at the $150k mark — i.e., once we raise this or more.

That means, every little support that you could help us raise will make a strategic 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.

Similarly, we need some MBA volunteers to orientate us on key areas of work — like management; staffing needs & roles of personnel, or even new technologies for tracking/monitoring our farmers’ fields in real time.

To learn about how the UCF started, see Anthony’s personal story here, or learn more on our website.