In 2016, we set out to establish the types of interventions that improve the livelihoods of girls and women from rural villages in Itojo Sub-County, where Ruhanga parish is located and this programme is part of that broader strategy.
We worked in collaboration with the NGO Joy Goat Development to introduce a new breed of dairy goats into Ruhanga parish. A limited number of participants, in this instance widows who were struggling to get an income, received a 50% cross breed female dairy goat as a loan. The women had to care for the goat until it produced the first kid.
Once the first births were weaned, the offsprings were returned to LTHT and the women at that point were given sole ownership over the initial goat.
This goat then became an asset that the woman could use to;
generate income, support herself and her family through the continuous sale of the goat’s offspring,
the sale of goat’s milk or improve the nutritional intake of their family if they opt for personal consumption.
Female kids returned to LTHT, went to the next widow on the waiting list whilst the male goats were sold and the money was put back into the project.
We have distributed 18 offsprings and the adult female goats have had a second round of pregnancies. Goat milk was a new concept to this community, but children were open to trying it. We hope that adults will start drinking it too as it becomes part of the diet in this area.
The whole community benefited from the program by crossing breeding their local female goat with dairy male goats. The aim of this aspect of the project was to increase the genetic pool for future generations.
Two years on, the people of Itojo Sub-county have a clear understanding of the benefits of crossbreeding, the importance of good record keeping, identifying when a goat was on heat, the benefits of timely deworming treatments, etc. Each of the three bucks has had 75 offsprings and the number continues to grow.
We have been running a Skills Development Initiative in Itojo Sub-county since May 2016. Our aim is to enable girls aged between 15-25 that are not in Employment, Education or Training (NEETs) acquire skills that they can use to create their own employment or seek employment elsewhere.
The first phase of this initiative focused on sewing machine operation, fabric construction, fashion design and at the end of the year last we carried out a survey amongst the youth in the community to find out what skills they were interested in. The girls that were surveyed voted for hairdressing overwhelmingly.
We visited various beauty salons to try and understand what is required to set up a hairdressing workshop and in February this year, we opened the doors to the first cohort of girls aged between 15-25.
Uniforms were ordered
And the hard work started
The course is offered on a one-year basis after which the girls will seek employment elsewhere or create their own employment and the easiest way to do this is if the girls become mobile hairdressers.
Workshops such as this are a lifeline for Uganda’s rural youth especially girls. This is because most drop out of school due to a lack of schools fees. These girls are unemployable due to a lack of skills or proper education and most work the land whilst they wait to be married off.
Why does this matter?
Uganda’s National Bureau of statics (UBOS) reports that amongst 18-30-year-olds 57% are self-employed, 24% work for someone, of those in employment 63% work in agriculture, 29% in the service industry whilst 8% are in manufacturing.
In addition that unemployment amongst the youth in Kampala, Uganda’s capital stands at 15% and is three times higher than the national average. Underemployment is high, at least 14.1 Million young people in rural areas are unemployed due to a lack of skills.
The situation in Ntungamo district where Itojo Sub County is located is that 85% of the population is aged between 15-30 years and the incidence of unemployment amongst this age group is 90%. In addition, there are no skills training colleges locally and as such, we are overwhelmed with requests for this type of training.
Our first campaigns to improve menstrual hygiene in Ntungamo district focused on secondary schools in the district. We were subsequently informed that we ought to focus on primary schools as the need is greater amongst that age group.
Our menstrual hygiene ambassadors, therefore, visited one Itojo Central Primary school and heard directly from year seven girls and their teacher. The situation here was indeed as bad as we had been told.
Most girls did not have access to hygienic absorbents during their periods and amongst the things they used were, old clothes, rags, banana fibres, leaves, cotton, feathers etc. some amongst the girls, missed school during their periods whilst those who had access to disposal sanitary pads didn’t change them often.
Disposal sanitary towels are expensive to buy and as such most parents encourage their daughters to ensure that one towel lasts 7-9 hours. Inevitability this leads to infections and several of the girls in year seven that use disposal sanitary towels, reported various infections.
The girls were given a reusable menstrual hygiene kit made at our workshop in Itojo sub-county. The kit has two liners and 8 napkins and if used correctly, it lasts three years. The kit comes with a backpack that enables girls to carry their pads discreetly.
Itojo Primary School is one of many schools in the sub-county that do not provide hygienic products for managing periods. The consequences of this, are that a large number of girls drop of school for something that costs as little as £5 and lasts three years.
The lack of access to menstrual hygiene management may mean that nation-states will achieve the following Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12.
In my last post about this program, I told you about my visit with the women in May. Two months after I left news of new additions to the program reached me.
In the last update the women were grappling with the impact of avian flu on the egg market and rather than sell the eggs for very little money, the women decided to keep the eggs and figure out how to hatch them.
The women have let all their hens go free range, in turn this fooled the hens into seating on their eggs.
The results have been amazing. This has meant new additions to the original number of chicks we gave the women and the start of scaling up of these micro chicken farms.
The best performer so far is Christine. She had three cocks that she sold and bought a couple of goats. This will enable her to take part in our goat cross breeding program and therefore enable her to access goat milk as part of her diet.
Christine stopped selling her eggs as she was only getting £1.90 per tray of 30 eggs. She has started selling tow month old chicks at £2.15 and she earned £17.20 from the sale of 8 chicks.
Christine had zero income at the start of the program and lived off the land and as such £17.20 is a a fortune. This is equivalent to what a teacher would earn at a local school would earn in two months.
Jadress Kabiga has new additions to her micro farm too. I was surprised to learn that she has 16 one month old chicks from the eggs of two hens.
Jadress’ chickens and some of the new additions.
This is Sylvia who we told you about earlier in the year. She is still collecting eggs as well as
hatching. She has 5 three week old chicks that she will sell at two months. Two months is the age at which a chick is deemed able to adapt to a new environment.
This was a new program for us, and we are very pleased with the impact it is having on women’s livelihoods. We are grateful to our friends and supporters who have made this possible,
A few weeks ago we added pig farming to our range of livelihood programmes for ultra poor women in Ntungamo district. Through this program, we provide women with an asset as well as training. these are women without capital to start enterprises and the asset we provide enables the women to generate income as well as build capital for reinvestment .
In the latest project, a group of 20 widows have been provided with a two-month old pig to look after until it gives birth to the first set of piglets. At that stage the Sow as well as two piglets will become the property of the woman to enable her to grow a micro pig farm from which she can generate an income as well as well as improve the diet of her family.
These are the women that are currently enrolled on the pig project.
The women were given a piglet of the Cambarough pig breed. This breed is reportedly very good at looking after its young and for littering up to 14 piglets from one pregnancy. This means that a woman can grow her micro farm quickly.
Distribution day- I am told that this was a fun day as of the piglets attempted to run away having been contained on the truck for an hour.
The women were also given commercial feed for the piglet to enable them to settle into their new homes
Some of the women were given this type of piglet, which is a cross breed of a local boar and the Landrace pig. This was a good outcome for the local man who bred them. He was given the Sow as a present by someone who had a similar objective to us- giving an asset that the recipient can use to generate an income.
This local man earned £120 by selling 9 two month old piglets into the project. This is not a great deal of money to most in the West, but for someone that had no income at all, this is a fortune.
For our part, it was a pleasure to contribute to this man’s livelihood as well as enabling these piglets to remain in the environment they are familiar with and we hope that, they will thrive as a result.
As well as working with the women on setting up these micro pig farms, we have set up a stand alone pig farm. This will enable us to provide piglets to the wider community without the need to raise more money.
This is the completed pig sty. We sourced all the materials from local suppliers and used local labour.
The pigs move in. We have started off with 4 6 and 7 month old pigs and all being well, we will have our first baby pigs in December.
In January this year, we announced the birth of our first baby goats .
I am pleased to report that 4 of those kids are now ready to leave home. The two females will be given to the next widows in the queue whilst the males will be sold on and the money will go back into the project.
For the women who were first in the queue, the goat has now become their personal asset. This means that they do not have to pass on the next round of kids.
This is Jovlet, a real star in the program. She adores goats. This is the female kid she is passing on to her neighbour.
This is Lydia, I caught up with Lydia in May this year and she was very eager to show off her handiwork. She kept meticulous records of her goat’s feeding, vaccinations etc. I can’t imagine how she coped with passing on the kid to someone else.
These are the recipients of the new kids and one of them has volunteered to look after one of the male kid for 6 months.
Maria’s goat is pregnant again.. she is off to a good start
This Maria with the Project Manager Osbert. Maria has been a strong advocate for this program as her daughter died right after delivering her baby girl so Maria used goat’s milk to feed her grandchild for almost a year.
Os, on the goat trail.. this means he is collecting all the kids that were board in January and are ready to leave home.
I am pleased to see the next phase of this project as this was a new project for us and we were not sure, how it would pun out.
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A year ago we set up a sewing room with a view to address the lack of skills amongst girls in Ntungamo District in SW Uganda. Our focus would be on girls aged between 17- 25 Not in Education, Employment or Training, the so called NEETS.
We set up a sewing room and invited girls from the village to come hang out with us, The results were amazing
Last month, we invited a new set of girls to join the program. It was heartening to see parents turn up with their girls. We were surprised by how young this group of girls are.
This is Abias and Catherine and they are 16 and 15. Both are being raised by single mothers and did not finish their primary school education.
This is 15 year old Olivious and 17 year old Marion. They both completed Primary school but were unable to continue in further education due to lack of school fees.
The girls have hit the ground running and their first task to to find their way around a sewing machine.
78% of Uganda’s population is under 30 years of age and sadly the incidence of unemployment amongst this age group is high. This has implications for poverty levels amongst the youth and some of the reasons for this are due to a lack of skills.
Our skills program for NEETS seeks to mitigate both poverty and unemployment amongst girls in Itojo sub-county. We currently do not have space to offer a wide range of skills and can only take in 15 girls a year on our sewing program. We would like to change this by scaling the program and you can help us by making a donation at our Virgin Page
If you are a regular here, you will recall that following the success of the first micro poultry program called Send a Chicken to African womanwe launched a second program in December of last year.
This second program has been a challenge in ways that we never expected. The first challenge was to do with very heavy rain that meant that the women found it hard to keep the chicks warm. The second challenge was avian flu.
As a result of these challenges, some of the chicks died leaving the women with roughly 8 chicks out of 15 and the price of eggs fell as nearby countries stopped buying eggs from Uganda.
Notwithstanding those challenges, the women have now started selling the eggs from the project and on average they are earning £1.66 per tray. In Uganda a tray of eggs is made up of 30 eggs and the women are collecting unto 8 eggs a day. We would ordinarily expect a tray of eggs to sell at £2.60 but for the problems mentioned above.
But we still have some good news.
For instance Dezranta Nyakato, a 59 year old woman is currently earning £3.32 a week from selling eggs. She used to earn 51p a week prior to joining this initiative.
Our initial aim for her, was to increase her income to £1.75 a week as it is the income a woman in her village needs to send three kids to school per term and feed her family. This has exceeded our expectations and for that we are truly grateful for your support.
I caught up withe women at the end of May and most reported that they were very happy to have eggs to sell as they had no income prior to taking part in this program and also as part of their diet. Whilst here in the West we are discouraged from eating too many eggs, in villages such as Rwentojo, an egg as part of one’s diet is a real luxury.
The next steps are an experiment to see if the women can hatch chicks from this breed of chickens. This is because this is not ordinarily possible without an incubator but it is apparently achievable if the hens go from a semi intensive program to a full free range feeding program. Some amongst the women already have their hens on a full free range program whilst some don’t.
The theme of this year’s International Menstrual Hygiene Day (MHD) was education. The founders of MHD argue that education on menstrual hygiene changes everything. They call for improved information and menstrual hygiene education for boys, men, teachers, health workers and other professionals so that they can break down negative social norms and provide accurate information and support.
They have argued for the inclusion of menstrual hygiene management as a critical component of reproductive health training for adolescents, building the capacity of teachers to teach about MHM with comfort, the breaking down of taboos around periods, the availability of water and sanitation facilities in schools and work places in order that women and girls have privacy and dignity as well as policies that reduce the cost of menstrual absorbents and are kind to the environment.
We have spent the past year looking at access menstrual hygiene in schools in Ntungamo district SW Uganda . The program focuses on the provision of information on menstrual hygiene as well as ensuring that girls can access menstrual absorbents.
In the course of the year we learned that 53% of girls we spoke to did not know what a period is before they experienced it. 42% of the girls regularly miss between 2-5 days of school each month during their period because they do not have access to sanitary products.
We also learned that some amongst the girls use unsanitary products such as old rags, mattress stuffing etc. during their periods.
Education about menstrual hygiene should concern us all. As part of this year’s MHD activities in Ntungamo, we distributed free Menstrual Hygiene kits to women in the village of Rwentojo SW Uganda. We have been working with this group of women on income generation.
This got me thinking about the role of business in the promotion of menstrual hygiene. For instance, how and where does business fit into the promotion of menstrual hygiene? Is it through their supply chains or perhaps in places of work? Is this even an issue that business concerns itself with?
Do employers for instance, provide flexible working conditions that enable women that suffer painful periods to take time off or work from home should they need to? What about access to female only washrooms?
In my opinion, that sort of statistic would have huge implications for a business’s bottom line because it would impact productivity and outputs.
Menstruation hygiene matters to business in other but perhaps subtle ways such as the availability of skilled workers. Businesses need skilled people to grow and thrive and this cannot be achieved if the education system is not producing the necessary skills or female employees miss workdays due to periods.
With respect to education, in countries such as Uganda, access to Primary School Education is free under the Universal Primary Education initiative, but gaps exist in addressing issues that prevent girls from dropping out of school and some of these reasons are to do with poor menstrual hygiene management in schools.
This includes the availability of water, toilets, washrooms and hygienic menstrual products. It is not enough to increase school registration for girls who then drop out due to a lack of menstrual hygiene management.
In the long run this has direct implications for a country’s economic development due to a large number of girls who become adults that are trapped in poverty due to a lack of skills which they can use to create their own employment or access employment elsewhere.
The founders of MHD have argued, that in order for countries to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 12, nation states must pay attention to menstrual hygiene management. This being the case; Governments, Civil Society as well as Business should take menstrual hygiene management seriously.
New Kids on the block : As you will see from the photos above, we now have 7 kids (3 females & 4 males) as the goats started delivering in December. The icing on the cake thus far, is the birth last month of female twin kids by Maria’s goat. We do need more female kids as these are the ones we pass on to widows waiting in the queue for a goat of their own. The new round of distribution will be in July when the new borns are six months old. The selected widows have started work on goat shelters.
Milk production: Most of the women whose goats have delivered have access to at least 1 pint of milk every day. But some are not milking their goats at all such as Merida whose goat gave birth during the dry season and Maria whose goat had twins.
The other part of our program is crossbreeding. Through this program, everyone in the district is able to crossbreed their local goats with the three 100% pure diary bucks. The aim of this program is to create a new breed of goats.
The bucks have been busy,
Alejandro has four offsprings (3 females and 1 male) and mated 3 new females in February. The community is super impressed with the offsprings and have started spreading the word about the program in the nearby villages of Migorora, Kakiizi and Nyamuhani.
Force has mated 2 females so far and has 2 offsprings which are males.
Ronaldo has mated 2 females so far and has 1 offspring which is a female.
A word from our program manager
The widows are extremely happy with the program and have shared this with the local leaders as well as those in the community that are not yet part of this program
The women who have milk have different opinions: Lydia is enjoying it very much, Vairot says it is ok and Jovannis says it tastes different to the one from cows but is still drinking it.
Take up of the crossbreeding loan is still low in the villages of Rwentojo and Kytinda where Force and Ronaldo live. It would appear the communities there are not aware of the program we therefore need to run a program campaign
The kids are developing well with the exception of the male from Merida’s goat – it’s a 25% male which didn’t seem to get enough milk at the beginning of its life.
It seems half of the widows take their goats with them to the gardens so they’re on a semi-free range systems. Althoughthe50% goats can live like a local goat but it’s better to keep them in a zero grazing environment if possible to maximise the amount of milk they produce.
We are all looking forward to the day when more families can readily access milk as part of their diet.