Three hundred children died in the eastern Ugandan town of Namutumba in one month last year - not from war, earthquake, or disease; these children died from simple malnutrition. Week of Compassion is responding to this insecurity in East Africa by partnering with FARM STEW International, an organization dedicated to ending hunger by achieving food security and improved nutrition through sustainable agriculture and other public health initiatives. FARM STEW collaborates with these communities to help them transition to a sustainable whole foods plant-based diet that is rich in a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and legumes - a much more colorful palette than the starchy bananas and corn meal mush many families rely.
One initiative implemented by FARM STEW is Soya (soybean) Nutrition. Ugandans are already familiar with this protein rich crop. Unfortunately, the soybeans are usually roasted, making them too tough to be chewed and digested by children under five and the elderly - the two most nutritionally deficient demographic groups. FARM STEW founder Joy Kauffman, a public health nutritionist, was asked to assist a local farmers' cooperative with 60,000 members, through USAID's Farmer to Farmer program, to help their communities develop ways to transform soya. Out of that work, she hired five Ugandans to lead a training program she developed, that encourages families to soak, boil, and smash the beans to create soy milk and other nutritionally maximized foods that can be enjoyed by all.
Just two months ago, in July, the FARM STEW Uganda team visited Green Field High School in Iganga, Uganda, to teach students how to make the most of the soybeans harvested from their gardens. They learned how to make soy milk, egg substitute, and soy bread. A few weeks later during the school's community open house, students confidently trained their parents on what they had learned from FARM STEW. The parents were proud of their children and astonished that soybeans could be prepared in so many different ways.
"These trainings have contributed a lot in reducing poverty and improving the health of the attendants," mentioned Alex Balamu, an alumnus of FARM STEW. Alex even used the knowledge he gained to start his own small business selling soy milk. Florence Byogero is also taking advantage of what she learned from FARM STEW: "My family is looking healthy as we use soya products and eat fruits and vegetables that are grown at home or in our village." Raising a healthy family is quite a feat for Florence, as she has nine children.
FARM STEW's preliminary goal is to train 7,000 people and plant at least 50 new family gardens. Special care is being made to partner with women, girls, the elderly, and those infected with HIV/AIDS. Although the project has just begun, an independent evaluation team has visited communities that have received training. They were very impressed that they could already notice the knowledge being applied and the children's health improving. This effort to end hunger in eastern Uganda is made possible by your support to Week of Compassion.