In 2022, we began to replicate our Child Protection Team Model in the Karamoja region of Uganda, where children are at risk of neglect, abuse, hunger and trafficking. These new volunteer teams are already making an incredible difference, most recently in combating malnutrition by supporting communities to grow food.
Six Child Protection Teams in Karamoja receive training and support from Children on the Edge Africa on a range of issues, including child protection, hygiene and sanitation, positive parenting, child labour and child rights. They work closely with their communities to change mindsets and ensure children are better protected.
The Child Protection Teams are working with many local people who have become familiar with aid agencies that simply distribute goods or implement short-term projects before moving on.
Whilst giving a brief form of alleviation, this kind of work rarely achieves long-term change, and perpetuates what our partners describe as ‘dependency syndrome’.
One area where the Teams are addressing this and beginning to make a difference, is supporting communities to grow food to help combat hunger.
GARDENS TO COMBAT HUNGER
Malnutrition is a huge problem in Karamoja. Many of the remote villages in Lokopo are located in the ‘dry belt’ of Uganda, a hot, desert-like area where rain is scarce and the soil is relatively infertile, so crops either fail or are negatively affected by a lack of nutrients in the soil. Much of the land has been given over to cattle and what land is suitable for agriculture is left idle.
People rely mainly on wild cucumber, vegetables, sorghum and sunflower seeds, but have little to go around. Many people leave the area to beg, or eat scraps from bins, and there are instances of children running away from home because they are hungry. The small number of people who do manage to grow food, also find that it is stolen or destroyed by raiders.
Sadly, whilst famine conditions are lessening in severity, they are still causing deaths.
To help tackle this, every community we support has been provided with vegetable seeds this year.
The Child Protection Teams have constructed nursery beds where seedlings can grow before being distributed to homes as sack gardens, which are safer from theft as they can be moved.
In one village, which has better soil, 20 bags of sweet potato vines were distributed to eight villages to help offer a sustainable source of food.
In every area we work in Lokopo, gardens are now planted thanks to the efforts of the Child Protection Team members. In some areas, an amazing 70 - 90% of residents are growing food including sorghum (a nutrient-packed grain), maize, mung beans, aubergines, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and ‘sukama’ (collard greens).
At least four new gardens have already produced a harvest to be distributed in the community.
Whilst there is a long way to go, the Child Protection Teams have made an incredible difference so far. This work to support sustainable food growth within communities in Karamoja is the first step of many, in a long-term investment to transform the safety and wellbeing of children living in this extremely challenging environment.