In 2005, the eight founders of KRMA’s village savings group survived the rampage of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army by discovering that if they worked together and shared resources, they could avoid starvation and care for their children. Now these women and others who joined them are moving from lives of subsistence to a cooperative approach to commercial farming.
With the twin goals of economic empowerment and education, the first joint project between KRMA and krma-US Partners was the establishment of a cassava farm. The women have each expanded their previously uncultivated land allotment (uncultivated due to lack of resources) by two acres, for a total of 40 acres in a staggered production cycle of 20 acres newly planted while 20 acres are ready for harvest, a medium-to-large-size single-crop farm for that region. They now raise a high quality, reliable supply of cassava that has an established market in a key geographic area. Kobulubulu borders an area that has little commercial farming and food supplies can be sporadic.
Since the project began in 2013, krma-US Partners has worked with KRMA to develop a five-year budget, a business plan and a contractual agreement. The project’s goals include re-investing a portion of revenues over and above funds needed for the children’s school fees into the project.
This reinvestment enables KRMA to move steadily towards self-sufficiency and full responsibility for their Cassava Project with each subsequent harvest cycle. Also, this will decrease the amount of money needed from krma-US Partners each harvest cycle so that within five harvest cycles the Cassava Project will be self-sufficient. krma-US Partners will continue to raise funds, so that after five harvest cycles there will be sufficient resources to begin another project with another rural group.
krma-US Partners believes this is an innovative program design that counters the dangers of dependency on foreign aid. Clearly, it is not aid or micro-lending, nor is it a loan. Instead, this is a re-investment model. While the women don’t pay back the funds provided by krma-US Partners, they are required to re-invest their profits into their own self-sufficiency. This is a contractual agreement between parties that will enable the women to help themselves and then help others in their region. Working as a group rather than as individuals will raise the income of 20 families with over 100 children at the same time. The size of the farm will require additional workers and create jobs, as will the plan of taking the cassava from seed to harvest to market. We expect the Cassava Project to take five to seven years to reach its objective of self-sustainability.