Today was Day 1 of visiting our Honey Farmers Cooperative. Northern Uganda is HOT, but incredibly beautiful. The villages where our farmers live are so peaceful and picturesque, although they were once the sites of horrific violence with the Lord’s Resistance Army and then deserted, left to become forest again.
In the past several years people have been returning to build their lives again from scratch and continue to return even now. In this project, we work with people affected by the LRA. This includes those abducted and forced to be child soldiers, those children born to the girl soldiers, “soldier wives”, those orphaned by the LRA and some women who lost spouses or children or were abducted themselves. The goal is to help them increase their incomes in a sustainable way through bee farming and selling honey. Some of them are also members of Village Savings and Loans groups we have organized and can further increase their incomes by taking loans and using them to grow their business, buy livestock, farm supplies, etc.
We spent the day visiting cooperative members. Three young men, who are honey farmers and also trained to have more expertise in beekeeping, guided us from place to place. They also assist other cooperative members in learning the skills. Denis was kind enough to share his story with us. He is 22 years old. At 14, he was abducted by the LRA for a year until he escaped. He is now married and has two children. He has used the money he earned from harvesting honey to buy a goat. That goat birthed three more goats. From the sale of some of the goats, he bought piglets and seeds to grow sunflowers (food for the bees). He told us that this has transformed his life. His income has significantly increased and will continue to increase as he produces more honey, in time, plus the added income from his livestock.
On the way back to town, we stopped to eat Uganda’s version of fast food, the Rolex. This is egg made into a thin omelet with onions and sometimes other vegetables and rolled up in a chapatti (a flatbread from India). This is always a much welcomed treat after a long day in the field.
The strength of the human spirit is alive and well here.