Today, we are excited to share with you an inspiring initiative led by our esteemed partner, Hashtag Gulu. Hashtag Gulu is a grassroots community organization that has been with us since the inception of our efforts in Gulu. Their primary mission is to provide care and support to children and young individuals who find themselves living and working on the streets. Their activities focus on offering alternatives to criminal activities and violence by empowering street children to become productive members of society.
In Kampala, Uganda, more than 15,000 children currently endure life on the streets, with a staggering 16% of those aged five to fourteen being involved in various forms of child labor. The situation in Gulu differs from that in Kampala, where street children are not typically seen begging but are often involved in serious criminal activities, posing a significant threat to the community. They are commonly referred to as "Aguu," which can be loosely translated as "strays."
The Role of Agriculture
Through their previous interventions, Hashtag Gulu has observed that street children in Gulu exhibit unique behaviors. They are often in search of income-generating opportunities and yearn to reunite with their families. Unfortunately, many of them end up returning to the same life challenges that led them to the streets in the first place. The root cause of these issues consistently boils down to the need for a source of income.
Recognizing the need for a sustainable solution that doesn't let the rehabilitation efforts go to waste, Hashtag Gulu embarked on a comprehensive plan. This plan aimed to address mindset transformation, character development, community integration, and income-generating opportunities as integral components. The team noticed that a common thread in these children's lives was their access to family-owned land, which inspired the birth of this project.
The six-month residential program will support 120 participants, equipping them with essential farming and animal husbandry skills, basic business acumen, psychosocial support, and the self-confidence and self-esteem needed to reintegrate into their communities and lead dignified lives.
How It Operates
During their stay at the farm, each participant will be allocated a plot of land to cultivate vegetables that mature in just three weeks. They will then sell this produce to the local communities. Upon completing the course, all earnings from these sales will serve as seed capital for their individual home projects.
The training will also instill self-reliance by teaching participants how to utilize local materials in their environment to construct structures for their piggery and poultry initiatives in their respective communities. Furthermore, participants will depart not only with farming skills but also with the ability to provide valuable services to local farmers.
Uganda currently faces a significant shortage of extension workers, with a staggering deficit of 4,908 such workers. This results in a daunting ratio of one extension worker for every 1,800 farmers, far exceeding the recommended ratio of 1:500. This situation places immense pressure on the delivery of agricultural services.
Irean aptly notes, "Many local farmers require agricultural assistance, but the government's extension workers are insufficient to reach every farmer. We believe that through this farming program, we will equip these young participants with the fundamental skills needed to identify and address common pests and diseases in plants and animals. In doing so, they will make a meaningful contribution to community development upon their return."
Agriculture plays a vital role in the livelihoods of about 7 million Ugandan households, representing 80 percent of the country's total households (UBOS 2022). It is clear that farming provides a dignified source of income for many locals. We are genuinely excited about this project and eagerly anticipate the positive impact it will have on the countless lives of boys and girls living on the streets of Gulu.