“My relationship with the ex-combatants has improved because of farming together, when you go in the field and you laugh, you get to know how to talk to others and resolve disputes.”
GRG supports groups in developing a range of livelihood projects to improve their household income and food security and promote reconciliation and reintegration by providing the training and the start-up materials for the groups to succeed. In order for groups to become economic drivers in their community, GRG links them to agro-business companies, enabling individuals within the community to become role models and build sustainable market access.
As groups work together, they establish new patterns of interaction while rebuilding trust and partnering for community prosperity. Instead of seeing other members as the rebel who helped to abduct my child or the former camp neighbor who quarreled over relief supplies, members are able to build new relationships and see these as my brother or my sister who helps in planting and weeding, or as my neighbor with whom we save our money so we can both send our children to school.
In Uganda, livestock are an important source of wealth for communities. GRG-sponsored groups received animal husbandry training to support them to raise and care for livestock in 2013 and 2014. Each group was given 7-8 animals to start their herd and trained on how to care for them. By the end of 2014, 54 new baby animals had already been born!
GRG provides extensive training to our groups in planting techniques, organic fertilizer and pest control and post-harvest handling. Forgiveness and reconciliation occur when people work together hand in hand. Working in the garden they come to see each other as colleagues rather than returnees or other stigmatized categories.
In 2014, 13 groups were trained in pomology (fruit and tree farming). Not only have members learned new farming skills, but tree-planting gives groups activities where they are working together for years to come. This encourages them to resolve disputes within the group and also creates a financial asset for the group.
Brick making is one of the first activities GRG supported to equip communities with skills seen as valuable within communities, and providing former combatants with a chance to work together with their communities. Burned bricks are made from mud in a labor intensive process, and can be sold to generate revenue, or to build a community centre or school house to benefit the members and their neighbors.
Nearly a decade after many child soldiers escaped home and the LRA was pushed outside Ugandan’s borders, the northern region remains the most economically underdeveloped area and has some of the highest rates of unemployment and alcohol abuse. By engaging the returned soldiers and those who spent years in IDP (internally displaced person) camps dependent on food hand-outs we are re-awakening the north’s rich potential – in its people and in its soils. Our groups become role models in their communities on how to use farming as a business and how many hands joined together make the physical task of farming easier.