In northern Uganda, 80% of the population are subsistence farmers meaning they survive hand-to-mouth, growing just enough food for one meal a day. Farming is heavy work, yet over 75% of the labour is done by women who work 12-18 hour days. Child mortality in the region is around 50%. People see no other way to survive. They are trapped in a cycle of poverty-aid-dependence with seemingly no way to break out of this cycle and become self-sufficient.
StepUp tackles the key reasons people are trapped in poverty. Through an intensive training programme, StepUp teaches people:
- How to grow their own food more effectively, and sell the excess to pay for other needs.
- How to maintain a clean and safe home, preventing the spread of disease.
- How to start a business and save for the future.
- How to work together as a community, with strong women leaders.
It’s simple, but these are the crucial skills that allow people to take the first steps from poverty towards prosperity. These skills give people the understanding, belief and self-esteem to change their own circumstances, and keep it that way.
Areas of work
When you are just trying to survive day-to-day, you can’t think beyond finding your next meal. So the first step is to ensure people have a reliable source of food. StepUp teaches families how to grow and tend a kitchen garden which provides them with a regular source of nutritious food. They can also sell the excess food and thus start earning a small income. With food security and a small income, the families can now start to work on improving their living conditions.
Sanitation and Health
The second step is to learn how to maintain a clean and safe home, helping to prevent the spread of disease. Saving enough money to build a pit latrine (toilet) is a key part of this step. Once they have enough, families will need to learn how to build a pit latrine as well as where to dig rubbish pits and build drying racks for dishes. Families subsequently gain knowledge of the importance of maternal health and the risks of HIV/Aids. With the families learning, for the first time, how to save money and to budget, they can now start to think long-term and dream big, like building a house.
Finance Skills and Small Businesses
StepUp works with the families to set up savings and credit groups. Through these groups the families learn to manage their savings and can access small loans to help them start new businesses such as trading cooking oil and fish or selling crops on a commercial basis. With the ability to make money and save for the future the families are once and for all able to provide for themselves now and in the future. They are no longer dependent on others.
Community Leadership for the Future
Underlying the success of StepUp is an emphasis on working together as a community and promoting women as leaders. With a support network and strong community leaders, the families can continue to capitalise on StepUp long after they complete their last training session.
Education is crucial to a person and a community’s future success, that is why StepUp works with parents to ensure both their sons and daughters attend school and support those parents whom themselves need help with adult literacy. StepUp also provides scholarships to the best performing children so they may continue with their higher education.