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Improved Dairy and Livestock Management Grows Farmer Income and Food Security

Poverty, Poor Farming Practices Hamper Food and Dairy Production

Food insecurity has increased in many rural areas of East Africa in recent years due to poverty, subsistence farming, and climate change. Recently, dairy farmers throughout Northern Uganda have only been able to produce 2.4 billion liters of milk per year rather than the 10 billion predicted as the country’s potential for 2019.[1] In many cases, these dairy farmers are running small operations in rural areas, with little access to value-adding processing and packaging equipment. For most East African countries, at least 40% (and up to 70%) of GDP comes from the agricultural sector, meaning that the impact of increased food insecurity experienced by the dairy industry is vast.[2]

Data from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) suggests that dairy production in Uganda is mostly based in rural regions and run by small-scale farmers. As of August 2019, the IFC estimated that “only 20 percent of Uganda’s milk output is processed.”[3] This implies that much milk in the region is consumed quickly and sold interpersonally.

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Ugandans Struggle to Feed Their Families in the Time of Coronavirus

Uganda Suffering Severe Economic Disruption

Uganda like many countries has experienced severe economic disruption and instability as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the country, as of June 2020, had a relatively low number of reported coronavirus cases, the virus has most severely impacted the business environment. In particular, Uganda’s dairy industry, including companies like Nguvu Dairy, has suffered in unique ways throughout this crisis.   

According to recent statistics from Uganda’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown have caused business activity to drop by at least 50% in Uganda and throughout East Africa. Small and medium-sized businesses have suffered the brunt of the impact[1] due to restrictions on transportation and trade.   

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Face Shields Defend Against COVID-19

Takataka Workers with Face Shields Against COVID 19

Hospitals in northern Uganda are woefully under-equipped to fight COVID-19. Most personnel work on the frontlines in public hospitals without any personal protective equipment. An insufficient number of disposable medical masks are the staff’s only protection as they treat patients.

Paige Balcom and Peter Okwoko are co-founders of Takataka Plastics, a social impact enterprise that is conducting research on plastic products marketable to builders and do-it-yourself homeowners in Uganda. Takataka’s engineers are designing and testing various building materials made from Uganda’s plastic waste. The Market Project provides business mentoring as Takataka Plastics explores how to create jobs and recycle the plastic waste that is abundant in Uganda.

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The Market Project Supports Nguvu Dairy’s COVID-19 Response

Nguvu Sales Bikes with masks

The coronavirus is hitting Uganda hard. The country’s coronavirus lockdown, one of the most strict in the world, has thus far limited the spread of the virus – but at an extremely high cost. With a nightly curfew and a ban on passenger vehicles, people are unable to get to town centers or travel to their villages to buy food. Compounding the problem, middlemen are hoarding foodstuffs, and prices of food and other basics have nearly doubled.

For the urban and rural poor already living on the edge, many are more fearful they will die of hunger than from the virus. 

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THE MARKET PROJECT: TACKLING POVERTY WITH BUSINESS CREATION

Setting goals and measuring impact! When targets are set, we are able to determine if we are hitting the mark or missing it. The same is true for economic development goal setting. 

The 17 long-term “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) cast a vision for changing our world. They are a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet.”[1] The Market Project is doing its part, making headway with at least three of the SDGs.

The SDGs include the noble objectives of ending poverty by improving health and education; reducing inequality and spurring economic growth; providing access to clean water; and cultivating stable institutions to further peace and justice throughout the world. Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2015, the Member States are committed to achieving these goals by 2030. 

The Market Project has set its targets to help men and women find hope and flourish through safe, dignity-affirming and healing work. Similarly, the first SDG is to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.”[2] Through business creation, The Market Project works to create jobs in order to lift them out of chronic poverty. 

Our initial focus is in the north of Uganda, a part of the country where food insecurity and malnutrition are rampant due to 20 years of conflict and pervasive violence.[3] Nguvu Dairy Limited is The Market Project’s business based in Gulu. We are pleased that Nguvu’s workforce includes youth who represent some of the poorest among the population. Almost 60% of the workforce is under age 30, and a significant number have had only primary education. Most are survivors of multiple traumas. A decent job in a trauma-informed workplace has given about 90 men and women at Nguvu the chance to support themselves.

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Savings Groups Launched

Have you ever worried about money? Perhaps the more appropriate question is, “when was the last time that you worried about money?” According to a recent study by the American Psychology Association, 72% of Americans reported feeling anxious about their finances in the past month. In addition, 64% of Americans felt that money was a somewhat significant source of stress in their lives. Clearly, Americans are living with more stress than is healthy. The good news is that those with an emotional support system experienced less stress than those who lacked emotional support.

The support associated with Employee Savings Groups at Nguvu Dairy in Uganda will have that same effect, we believe. These voluntary Savings Groups are a workable alternative to a bank. Many Ugandans do not have enough money to open a traditional account. Others do not have physical access to a bank. The groups promote personal accountability and financial responsibility. There are more than four million Africans who are members of savings groups. The countries with the largest numbers include Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and Mali.

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Investing in Uganda’s Youth

 

Uganda’s recent population growth presents real opportunities as well as challenges.  Thanks to its youthful population and the decline in birth and death rates, Uganda has the possibility to accelerate economic growth and reap the associated benefits such as improving health care and education. Economists refer to this as a “demographic dividend.” Others describe it as a “youth bulge.” 

At 90 million strong, the U.S. has its own youth bulge. Millennials (age 20-39) are now the largest generation in the United States, according to the United States Census Bureau.  Generation Z (age 0-19) is not far behind, at 82.4 million, accounting for 25 percent of the US population. On a bar graph, this is quite a “youth bulge,” but it is small compared with the “bulge” in Uganda, where over 75% of the population is under 30.[1]

As countries develop, a key step that leads to flourishing is lowering infant mortality rates, allowing the population to thrive. Young people bring energy, strength and enthusiasm to a society. 

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Helping Others Find Their Place

 

“Every woman’s journey into and out of being trafficked is unique,” says Dorothy Taft, executive director of The Market Project, “However, one thing is certain — trafficking belittles, betrays, and dehumanizes.”

For survivors of human trafficking, aftercare can be a long and challenging process. Feeling safe and supported is crucial, yet many women struggle to find acceptance in their communities. Difficulty finding employment can lead to economic vulnerability or dependence and dangerously increases a survivor’s risk of poverty, being exploited, or re-trafficked. Helping Others Find Their Place” was published on Trafficking Matters, a project of The Human Trafficking Institute.

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MYANMAR DOWNGRADED TO LOWEST RANKING IN US REPORT ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING

Challenges Facing Survivors

The US Department of State in June released its annual report on Trafficking in Persons. The Myanmar government was given the State Department’s lowest ranking due to its poor record to combat trafficking. Myanmar now is ranked – along with North Korea, South Sudan, China, and Syria – among those doing the least to stop the forced exploitation of women and men.

One of the major reasons cited in the report for the worsening situation last year was military operations that forced the dislocation of many of the Rohingya minority. At least 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine State in Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries.  Both the United Nations and the US Government have judged the military operations as “ethnic cleansing”. Many of those fleeing faced horrific exploitation – raped by Burmese troops, trafficked into the sex trade in India, or forced to work in jade mines and other industries.

Aside from the violence and conflict in Rakhine State, the Myanmar government did identify more trafficking victims than the previous year.[1] However, trafficking remains a severe problem. The military still routinely coerces men, but also women and children, to act as modern-day slaves, cooking, cleaning, carrying loads, and building infrastructure projects, particularly in ethnic conflict areas.  Children are deployed to front lines as combatants by both the military and ethnic armed groups.  Myanmar police reported 289 sex and labor trafficking victims in 2017, including 54 men and 235 women and girls. Also, police reported 44 cases of trafficking within Myanmar.[2] However, the incidence of children being drafted into Burmese armed forces or ethnic armed groups as “child soldiers” remains unimproved.[3]

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“The Commerce Cure”

Philanthropy Magazine – Spring 2018

For survivors of trauma like war, natural disaster, or human trafficking, psychological healing is only one stage of the recovery process. If they lack a secure economic foothold, they may remain highly vulnerable. But few services exist to help survivors achieve long-term economic security. This is a gap that Dorothy Taft noticed over and over in her long career in overseas assistance. So she founded an organization to help people who have been victimized become stable and self-supporting.

Taft was inspired by Healing Invisible Wounds by Harvard professor Richard Mollica: “During the time of healing after violence, work is the compass that shows the survivor the direction he or she must take to get out of a psychological dead end. Work not only gives survivors an opportunity to earn money and be productive, but also a concrete time and place where they must show up, a familiar cast of friends…and an overall sense of purpose and value.”

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