Maria Teko and her group clean their bean harvest. Copyright: WFP/Lydia Wamala
A combination of droughts, extreme poverty, environmental destruction and violence has undermined food and nutrition security in the Karamoja region. But while WFP will continue to provide relief food in crisis times, it has come up with an innovative complementary thing – an asset-creation initiative.
On the slopes of Mt. Moroto, in the Karamoja region, it is another morning in the mud. Women from Singila village dig up the soft earth and remove the weeds from the community's plots. A few months ago, this group planted spinach and eggplant. Tomatoes will soon be added.
“We've saved about US$22 from selling spinach,” says 38-year-old a mother-of-seven, Christine Teko. “We decide collectively what to do with the money. Members sometimes borrow to start small businesses such as selling salt or tomatoes.”
Some distance away, in Nawanatau village, Maria Teko takes charge of another busy group. As the men mill around and half-naked children run about, the women gather on plastic mats. Under the blazing sun, they set about beating piles of dry beans with clubs to remove the husks. Then they start sorting red beans for the next planting season.
“In the past, we were often short of seeds,” says Maria. “But the Government gave us some when we enrolled in WFP’s new programme. Now we have something to plant next year and eventually we'll be able to eat our own food.”
Througout the region, people are now growing vegetables, fruits, beans, maize, groundnuts, sim sim and sunflower under the Karamoja Productive Assets Programme. Besides farming, communities are involved in making dams and low-energy cooking stoves, even rearing animals, all in a bid to boost their livelihoods.
Why it was started and how it works
Realizing that continuous, long-term aid could not on its own provide a sustainable solution to hunger in Karamoja, WFP recently launched the Assets Programme.
Led by the Government and implemented together with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and various NGOs, the initiative aims to strengthen and diversify livelihoods among those who are moderatetly food-insecure.
WFP provides food or cash during the lean season to encourage communities to acquire skills and construct physical assets that will protect and regenerate the environment. Ultimately, these assets can enhance food production and ensure water-harvesting for crops and animals.
“This programme is strengthening assets and, at the same time, changing mindsets,” says Country Director, Stanlake Samkange.
While some people in Karamoja have migrated in search of better opportunities and more food, Maria Teko’s community remains in place, singing songs about hope and survival. As they work at cleaning their beans, the women repeatedly chant:
“Let us stay on our land. With the help of WFP, this soil will not leave us orphaned".