URCSF – Rakai – Uganda
Sustainability is the name of the game here in Masaka’s rural villages of Rakai. The projects that Peter, the founder, runs are not just aimed at giving a poor community food, nor is it just about teaching them how to properly use what they have received. It is about teaching people how to be teachers and sustaining a way of living that can benefit a whole community.
At the first farm Peter built there are pigs, chickens, goats, ducks, guinea fowl and other such farm animals bred and raised. There are coffee plants, banana trees, and many other fruitful plants I do not recognize, nor remember the names of. Peter does not just grow things though, he makes sure all of it is connected. Very little is wasted here. Everything has a use and is put to use. Different types of waste are used for different things, to feed the animals, to be composted for fertilizer or to be turned into biogas. The water from the rain is collected and stored on a regular basis to make sure during the dry seasons the plants and animals do not go thirsty. The farm is built in a way to make this all possible.
While Peter loans out livestock and gives out plants to people in the community, he does not just give them away without asking for something back. A person must first learn from the farm already built, and work to create one of their own so that the livestock and plants they receive have a chance at providing for the family for years to come. It does not stop there. Those people must also teach and train others in the community the same way they were taught to fulfill their “loan” to Peter’s farm.
Now, the community is well on its way to having a group of smaller versions of Peter’s farm. This means more livestock to breed and to go around to share with others in the community. Once one family breeds animals, they must give one baby animal back to Peter for him to loan out to another family and so the process starts again.
The same goes for sewing machines (no they do not breed them). Women in the district come to the community center that is built next to the farm to take sewing classes over the course of 3 to 6 months. They must pass a certification test to graduate and then are loaned a sewing machine. They can pay off this loan and own the machine by training 5 other women in their community. When those 5 women have completed a certification test at the community center, the sewing machine is theirs to keep.
Men and women are learning the importance of working together in a community to make it stronger. They work together to maintain the sustainability of these various projects. It has become so important to them, that they even police each other. If someone gets a loan and is mistreating an animal, they are asked to return the animal. Most of the community understands the importance of keeping this going and are not willing to let one person be the reason it ends.