During his Masters of International Development studies at the University of Canberra, Australia Awards Alumnus James Asiimwe from Uganda started two development projects through his organisation, KAVC Foundation. One is a piggery project that provides one woman with one pregnant pig. When the pig breeds, she is able to sell a few pigs to generate an income and keep a few to continue growing the piggery. She also keeps one pig to pass on to another woman. That way the project impact multiplies. The second project is a children’s education centre, which provides primary education to orphans and vulnerable children who would otherwise not go to school or even have a meal or shelter.
Both projects are based in the Wabiyinja village, Wakiso District in Uganda. The projects are supported by a range of donors – including several that have come on board as a result of links James created during his stay in Australia. James tells us about the impact the two projects have made…
The piggery project
While doing my Masters, I studied two units that helped me design the piggery project for vulnerable female-headed households in Uganda: Designing and Planning International Development Projects, and Monitoring and Evaluating International Development Projects. I also successfully applied for and received funding from Opportunity 2 Do, a fundraising non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Canberra, Australia. I specifically designed the piggery project to benefit women because I felt so touched when I studied Gender and Development, and realised all the injustices women have and continue to go through. The project is designed to promote women’s economic empowerment. Once women access an income from their pig sales, they can meet most of their domestic needs. They can send their children to school and pay their medical bills, which promotes maternal health. The project contributes heavily to poverty eradication among marginalised women.
Although the funding from Opportunity 2 Do was once-off funding, the piggery project is expected to continue until conditions for all marginalised women change in our project area. Using the knowledge I acquired from my degree, I have continued to monitor and evaluate this project. So far, the project has been associated with some important results that have had far-reaching benefits for the community, including women meeting their domestic needs without begging from men, reduced cases of domestic violence and peaceful means of settling disputes due to the empowerment of women, and improved nutrition as backyard gardens have been established in conjunction with pig farms. The project has also contributed to widespread tree planting, which is encouraged to protect the piggery area. In the short term, it provides much- needed shade during hot spells, but in the long term, it will contribute to maintaining an ecological balance in the area.
The education program
The education program for vulnerable children also started in 2013, due to the influence of my Masters degree. I had an extensive discussion with my classmates who were part of the HIV/AIDS and Development Course and discovered that, indeed, the pandemic has killed many parents. Many children who are orphaned have dropped out of school and become street kids. They cannot afford to attend school because they lack scholastic requirements. It was from here that the vision of building schools for orphans came to me. I called my wife Miriam in Uganda to share my vision with her, and together we started a school for orphans and vulnerable children.
Given Miriam’s strong experience in education and also working with children in NGOs, she quickly started a school that was built and roofed with papyrus. She recruited 40 orphans and vulnerable children and I started supporting their education using my savings. Since then, we have reached 101 children who are being educated at the KAVC Foundation Children’s Centre. Our plan now is to recruit and support 30 vulnerable children every year as we continue to build schools for them. Meanwhile, we also support an additional 13 vulnerable girls at secondary school level . Although we do not have stable funding for this education project, the knowledge I acquired from my degree and the networks I made in Australia have continued to make it possible. For example, one Australian family recently supplied full sets of school uniforms to 40 children.
Local partnerships have also been integral to the success of the Foundation. We involved beneficiaries in the project design and implementation. The women and children we are assisting play a big part. Apart from our donors, we also included representatives and volunteers from community-based organisations. We also involved local government officials. For the education program, we went to district and central government officials to get their contribution and buy-in. The piggery project and education program are very important, because as they expand, they will contribute to my country achieving several sustainable development goals – reducing poverty, gender equality, quality education, and creating sustainable communities and partnerships. So, going to Australia for my studies was not only an asset to me, but also to the entire community I serve.