Members of the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper have just returned from Uganda where they organise an agricultural microcredit scheme for groups of subsistence farmers.
Since 2007 the scheme has changed the lives of 25,000 people in the rural area of Mubende. Those who had no land now own a plot, those who had no farm animals now own a cow, those who lived in a mud house now have a permanent one. A widow with four young children who was chased from her land, received a loan to rent two acres of land to grow crops which feed the family and pay for school fees. These are examples of the changes which a combination of training and loans bring about.
Uganda's population is fast growing and many areas are becoming densely populated. Rural people still cook their meals on open fires, which need a lot of firewood. The women can spend up to five hours a day collecting a bundle of wood, so scarce has it become. It is possible to save 70% of firewood when they cook on a fuel saving stove which can be made from free local materials. In the last year alone our farmers have constructed 1700 of these stoves in their homes and in the village schools. The knowledge is spread by word of mouth and by using local radio stations. The next step is to burn bio-briquets, which again can be hand-made from the organic material left over from the harvest. If these simple and cheap techniques would be adopted all over Africa in combination with planting soil-enhancing trees like Grevillea, it would make an important effect in the battle against climate change.