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What the people of northern Uganda need now

Uganda is an eye opener. In Kampala, the capital city, the noise, traffic and general sense of chaos is disorientating. It is a city full of smiles; a hectic, vibrant and heaving hub of life.

Up north, far away from the traffic jams and fumes, long after the roads have turned from tarmac to dust, life is slower. Northern Uganda could be a different planet to Kampala, but it is here where your eyes are truly opened to the realities facing people in this country.

In Barlonyo in northern Uganda, people told me their stories. Stories of courage; stories of survival. These are people born into a land ripped apart by conflict, a conflict which did not discriminate between civilian and soldier.  This was a conflict that affected everyone – man, woman and child.

People of Northern Uganda
Photo: Joel and Milton outside Joel’s house Barlonyo, Uganda. Photo: Alan Whelan.

I met with Joel and his neighbour Milton. Joel is Daniel’s father, the boy on this year’s Trócaire box. They explained that they had a huge struggle at first when they returned home from the refugee camp, after the war. Their farms were completely destroyed. Their livestock stolen. They had nothing. How would they feed their children tomorrow, next week, next year? After surviving so much now they had to begin again. I could sense the pressure they were under, particularly Milton. His children were relying on him since his wife was killed during the war. His own trauma and loss would have to wait; his children needed food and to go to school and he was working desperately hard so that they will have a better future. But his pain was etched across his face.

Men from Northern Uganda
Photos: Jeannie O’Brien.

I felt angry  for these men – farmers who account for the majority of the Ugandan population and yet the country’s resources are not being used to benefit them. I was very impressed and inspired by the work of Trócaire’s partner FAPAD, who is supporting people to campaign locally and nationally on issues of rural investment- but this issue is bigger than just Uganda.

Milton and Joel are just two men, but their stories represent over 700 million small farmers who are struggling to feed their families. Over 70 per cent of the world’s poorest people rely on small farms for their survival. Today, as you read this, almost 1 billion people are hungry and have no means to feed themselves. If small-scale, subsistence farmers in developing countries are not supported, we haven’t a hope of ever truly tackling this shocking fact.  

The UN is developing a plan to address this astonishing number and Ireland and the UK as member states have a say in what that plan looks like.  We need you to contact your local politician and make the government understand that they have the power to end world hunger, they just need to commit.

You can  take our online action here and watch our campaign video featuring Joel and Milton below.

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