Madeleine Cuckson Nola embraces StepUp and becomes the administrator of her local programme #StepUpSuccessStories Nola lives in the village of Nyogo Anzupi in Uganda. Nola has lived alone for many years due to her husband Robert’s pursuits of casual work outside of the community, in order to support their family financially. This has left Nola […]
Nola embraces StepUp and becomes the administrator of her local programme #StepUpSuccessStories
Nola lives in the village of Nyogo Anzupi in Uganda. Nola has lived alone for many years due to her husband Robert’s pursuits of casual work outside of the community, in order to support their family financially. This has left Nola with a large amount of responsibility both in the home and on their land.
Robert’s decision to migrate is not uncommon, many men in
Nola’s community leave due to farming challenges. The difficulties of trying to
earn a sufficient wage in the community include the small sizes of land plots
available, these plots often have poor soil quality due to decades of tobacco
growth, using inorganic methods which leads to scarce harvests. Many households
in Nola’s community live off the equivalent of 1$ a day. The village is often
set back by the following: regular food shortages which cause malnutrition,
regular occurrences of preventable diseases due to sanitation issues, high
rates of substance abuse and many dropping out of school, which has led to a
high rate of illiteracy.
With the help of the Step Up Programme, implemented by OCA,
communities like Nola’s are provided with crucial practical training to help
increase their incomes, improve health and general wellbeing. Nola has been a
great asset to the programme, upon joining she has successfully implemented the
skills acquired from training and has become the secretary to the programme in
her village. Nola now grows many different fruits and vegetables and has
improved the quality of her soil with organic farming techniques, additionally
Nola has made significant changes to the infrastructure of her household – with
the building of a dish drying rack, a fence to surround her home, a latrine
with a bath shelter attached and has prepared burnt bricks to build a more
permanent house. Nola has also planted over 250 agroforestry and timber trees
to help the environment.
The Step Up Programme not only improves individuals’ lives
but has the capacity to bring people together, as Nola has found that through
engagement with the programme she has gained leadership skills and is a
respected, powerful figure in her village with authority to make decisions –
therefore, the goal is for the whole community to prosper. Nola and Robert now
have high hopes for the future, they intend to send their children to better
schools, Robert plans to return home and join Nola to help harvest even more
produce, start a small livestock business and construct a permanent house.
IRT needs donors to be able to continue our valuable work.
If you would like to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable farmers in northern Uganda, please consider donating today. You can do this through our website at https://www.irt.org.uk/donate/ or by calling our office on 020 8994 9120. Thank you!
StepUp: Education During Lockdown
November 17, 2020
Olivia Garner IRT explores how children in StepUp communities have been coping with lockdown and the closure of schools. International Refugee Trust is passionate about the importance of education as a way out of poverty. Through IRT’s StepUp programme in rural northern Uganda, families are taught the importance of sending children to school and the […]
IRT explores how children in StepUp communities have been coping with lockdown and the closure of schools.
International Refugee Trust is passionate about the
importance of education as a way out of poverty. Through IRT’s StepUp programme
in rural northern Uganda, families are taught the importance of sending
children to school and the enormous benefits and opportunities an education
provides. As another component of the programme, the Organisation for Community
Action (OCA), IRT’s partner, has established a scholarship scheme which pays
school fees for girls in StepUp communities. In northern Uganda, national
lockdown and the closing of schools has had a significant impact on children’s
studies. Students from rural areas, without internet access, are unable to
benefit from the remote online teaching embraced in other parts of the world.
At first, when schools closed it was a difficult adjustment for a lot of families. Many students were given holiday packages by their schools to complete whilst in lockdown, but the lockdown lasted a lot longer than anticipated. The students made other efforts to keep up with their studies by listening to remote education through the radio and having group discussions with classmates within their villages.
StepUp participant Martine told OCA’s trained experts on the ground that “as a result of schools being closed, some irresponsible men are taking advantage of this situation to marry off the girls in the village by telling them that COVID-19 will not end and that school will not open again. However, parents that received StepUp training are talking to their children on the dangers of early marriage and engaging them on agricultural activities to keep them busy.” Martine said the children have really helped with domestic work. They have been of great help in growing cabbages which were harvested this season, with part of the profits to be kept for school fees when school reopens.
Angella, a Senior Two student with a StepUp scholarship at Wisdom High School, testified that she has been able to complete her school work in addition to helping out with domestic work. When interviewed, she said, “My parents are giving me and my siblings enough time to revise our books which we do in the afternoon, late evening and very early in the morning at around 5:00am since we have lamps. At my school we were given a holiday package which I have completed.” She added, “I want to thank my parents for being so supportive towards our education by giving us enough time for holiday studies. And I also want to thank OCA too for sponsoring my studies.” Angella’s grandmother Faustina was pleased to see her sons helping Angella and her other grandchildren with school work. She said, “Seeing all this makes me so happy because even though the children are not at school, they are showing a positive attitude towards education that shall make a better future for them.”
Despite the lockdown adding another barrier to education,
especially for girls, it is rewarding to see that families in the StepUp
programme remain committed to the future generation having an education.
It is so inspiring to see the long-lasting impact that StepUp training has, and
it is hoped that the students are able to continue their education throughout
the duration of the pandemic and beyond.
StepUp Success Stories: Hope for Widow Gotiliva
November 10, 2020
Madeleine Cuckson IRT volunteer Madeleine Cuckson writes about how Gotiliva transformed her life with StepUp as part of our #StepUpSuccessStories series. Gotiliva is one of many beneficiaries whose life has been turned around with the help of IRT’s Step Up programme in Uganda. After losing her husband, Gotiliva was left devastated with little hope for […]
IRT volunteer Madeleine Cuckson writes about how Gotiliva transformed her life with StepUp as part of our #StepUpSuccessStories series.
Gotiliva is one of many beneficiaries whose life has been turned around with the help of IRT’s Step Up programme in Uganda. After losing her husband, Gotiliva was left devastated with little hope for the future. She had no financial support and lived within very basic means, describing how she had ‘no dish drying rack, no latrine, no refuse pit for dumping rubbish’. Gotiliva used traditional farming methods to cultivate her land but this incurred large amounts of time, excursion and didn’t achieve a good harvest, leaving Gotiliva with close to nothing to survive off.
The StepUp programme provided Gotiliva with the building
and agricultural training necessary to live a full life again, earn a good wage
and harvest crops using more effective farming practices. Gotiliva has now
constructed a high-quality latrine with a washing facility attached, a dish
drying rack and a better kitchen with a larger variety of vegetables on raised
beds. Not only does Gotiliva feel happier with her home and livelihood, she is
a self-sufficient member of her community – “I dress better and eat well…I
am so much respected in the community”.
The real impact of StepUp’s life-changing work is always
shown through our programme beneficiaries’ stories. For Gotiliva, the programme
has provided her with a new lease of life and a powerful future:
“I have followed my dreams to achieve a permanent house,
serious savings to acquire those household items that I do not have now, such
as better bedding, utensils, plant more fruit, agroforestry and timber trees. My
dream is to live a better life and die a happy woman, a woman of value and
substance who will always leave a legacy in the community for other women to
As Step Up continues to expand, we aim to bring our
training and support programme to even more communities, with the help of our
dedicated partners at OCA who implement this programme in communities across
IRT needs donors to be able to continue our valuable work.
If you would like to make a difference to the
lives of vulnerable farmers in northern Uganda, please consider donating today. You can do this
through our website at
https://www.irt.org.uk/donate/ or by calling our office on 020 8994 9120.
Progress in Grain Processing for StepUp Farmers
October 6, 2020
The Apala Farmers’ Collective has gone from strength to strength following the installation of a maize mill. During 2018, IRT were able to fund a grain store and drying area for nine communities in Okwangole Parish in Lira, northern Uganda. The communities taking part were rural returnee farmers who had participated in our StepUp scheme […]
The Apala Farmers’ Collective has gone from strength to strength following the installation of a maize mill.
During 2018, IRT were able to fund a grain store and drying
area for nine communities in Okwangole Parish in Lira, northern Uganda. The communities taking part were rural
returnee farmers who had participated in our StepUp scheme
following returning to their villages after the brutal devastation of The Lord’s
These farmers had transformed their lives, from surviving on one meal a day to running successful farms, all through participating in StepUp. When the grain store was built in 2018, the farmers in the Okwangole region formed The Apala Collective, with the intention of working together to store and sell produce in bulk to buyers, which they have been doing ever since.
The Apala Collective were thrilled with the grain store, but knew they could increase their profits even further through the installation of a maize mill. IRT were able to fund this during 2020, and the maize mill was built and installed in just under a month, with StepUp participants contributing their time and labour to help.
Despite the challenges of Covid-19, the entrepreneurial farmers have hit the ground running since the installation of a maize hurler and grain processing machine at the grain store. The site is now a fully-fledged hub where farmers can store, dry, bulk and process grains such as maize, millet, sorghum and cassava. Customers can also bring their own grains and pay to process them at the mill.
Interviews were held for the position of machine operators, and the successful candidates have now completed their training and are able to operate the processing machine with ease. Apala Cooperative is now proud to own the best maize machine in the Okwangole area! The increased profits made from selling processed maize (known locally as ‘posho’) means the farmers have increased their savings, which they use towards making home and farm improvements, and, vitally, sending their children to school.
This is a fantastic example of how agricultural training, long-term investment and hard-work can come together to create sustainable, long-term solutions to poverty. IRT continue to run StepUp alongside our partners on the ground, OCA, every year due to its proven track record of increasing self-sufficiency and access to education, provision of financial stability for participants and improvement of health and sanitation for returnee farmers. All StepUp projects and programmes are designed based on a participatory approach whereby all stakeholders are involved right from problem identification, project design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
Why refugees’ self-reliance is important.
February 25, 2020
Our new volunteer Marina Munoz writes about her experiences living for a year in Nairobi. She observed the difficulties that refugees experience integrating in Kenya and addresses the benefits of Uganda’s approach to refugees and how IRT contributes to it. Uganda: A Role Model for Refugee Integration Uganda, as of February 2020, hosts around 1.4 […]
Our new volunteer Marina Munoz writes about her experiences living for a year in Nairobi. She observed the difficulties that refugees experience integrating in Kenya and addresses the benefits of Uganda’s approach to refugees and how IRT contributes to it.
Uganda: A Role Model for Refugee Integration
Uganda, as of February 2020, hosts around 1.4 m refugees that run from political instability and violence from neighbouring countries such as Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Despite the massive influx of refugees, Uganda is considered one of the most progressive refugee hosting countries in the world because of their ‘Refugee Self-Reliance Strategy’. Under this model, refugees have the right to work and move freely within the country, which is believed to have supported the national economy’s development. Moreover, Uganda’s government has been allocating plots of land for these refugees so they can grow their own food, which makes them less dependent on food aid, boosting their self-esteem and providing them with useful skills that they can use in rebuilding their communities upon return.
How is IRT working towards the achievement of this goal?
IRT acknowledges the importance of self-sufficiency for refugees by partnering with the Organisation for Community Action (OCA) which operates in Uganda, and aims to empower people to force a positive change through their StepUp Programme.
StepUp is divided in four main areas: sustainable agriculture, social ventures, savings, credit, gender and community development. In order to promote sustainable agriculture, better farming as well as crop management skills are taught. The social venture project is mainly focused on three enterprises: improving hygiene, raising awareness about solar lighting and production of sanitary pads. As a member of the community expressed: “I was very ignorant because I did not go to school. Because of OCA, I acquired a lot of knowledge. I now use a sewing machine and make reusable sanitary towels for women and young girls in the community”. Refugees were also trained to manage their own finances, explore small scale business opportunities and loan record keeping. As another member of the community indicated: “OCA taught me how to do business, and I thought about selling cooking oil, soap and onions. The business is helping me in paying school fees, that is why I thank OCA for the plan that they gave me”. Lastly, IRT aims to empower women within their own community encouraging them to take on leadership roles and offering girls basic education. As refugees, Aceng Collin and Ogwal Bruno, shared: “I thought girl-child education was useless, I never advised my children to study hard. We did not bother to check their report cards. When OCA came in, they trained us on the importance of education and encouraged us to give our girls equal treatment as the boys.”
My experience in Kenya compared to Uganda
I think that IRT’s support to the StepUp Programme is crucial to ensure the self-sufficiency of refugees to remind them of their autonomy and agency. Fleeing one’s home is a traumatic experience for many refugees, normally having terrible consequences for their mental health, self-confidence and integration in the host society. During my experience last year living in Kenya where there is an encampment law that does not allow refugees to leave the refugee camps, I understood how relevant projects like StepUp are to provide refugees with the skills to depend on themselves and integrate. IRT acknowledges this issue and needs your support to make the life of refugees in Uganda much better.