Clean drinking water and irrigated farmland in Northern Uganda

Uganda is a country in East Africa that gained their independence from the UK in 1962. Since then, a series of violent conflicts have caused major instability in the country with many Ugandans living below the poverty line.

When Caitlin Barrett met Olympic athletes Julius Achon and Eloise Wellings, the pair were gathering their loose change together to send to Julius’ hometown, Awake Village in northern Uganda. Julius is a former child solider who escaped the poverty of Uganda to pursue an Olympic career. Determined to change the fate of Julius’ former community and many like it in Uganda, Julius and Eloise joined forces with Caitlin. Together the trio developed the Love for Mercy Foundation.

While agriculture is an important part of the economy of northern Uganda, many families lack the resources to start farming. That’s why Love Mercy Foundation developed Cents for Seeds. It’s a loan-based program where women receive training and seeds to produce crops. At harvest, they produce 10 times more seeds than what they started with. The women put their loan back into the program for the next person in need and keep their remaining harvest for personal food security and the opportunity for economic growth.

“Northern Uganda has some of the most fertile soil on the planet… Properly cultivated, it could feed all of Africa.”

However, the Cents for Seeds program ran into one major issue. Climate change has led to significant changes in the reliability and amount of rainfall; crops have been significantly impacted. Caitlin realised that proper irrigation would have to be done, and she applied for a Reece Grant. Their grant will help create an 80 metre by 50 metre plot of irrigated land. The project includes the creation of 2 bore holes as a source of fresh water, which also benefits the surrounding community. Lyle Hunt, a qualified Australian irrigation technician, will work with the team to install drip lines, pipes, a solar powered pump and 30,000L of water tanks.

“It’s really about increasing the capacity of the locals, enabling them have a sustainable & stable pathway out of poverty.”

The local women already involved in the program will manage the plot located at Kristina Health Clinic. Workshops conducted by Love Mercy will provide participants with an understanding on how the introduction of irrigation is used as a way of achieving consistent crop yields. The plot at the Kristina Health Clinic will not only give back to the women in the program but also to those working at the clinic — varied fresh produce will provide the 20+ medical staff with nutritional diets.

As the first major irrigation project of its kind in the region, the local community has never seen these techniques before. Caitlin hopes this is the first step towards breaking the cycle of poverty in this part of northern Uganda.