Women Smiles Uganda
We build innovative farming technology to improve food security and empower women to develop sustainable agricultural solutions.
Women Smiles Uganda is a Ugandan based non-profit organization which started as a small project in 2018 in Katanga slum and this was out of the Lilian Nakigozi' passion and personal experience. At a young age of 8, Lilian and her family lived in Katanga slum, which is home to approximately 20,000 people. Life in the slums is usually not easy with the majority of occupants living in houses made of mud, wood, and those lucky in brick-made houses. This is worsened by environmental pollution in their surroundings that often leads to contamination of surface and groundwater, ecosystem degradation, soil pollution as well as emission of greenhouse gasses. Having been raised solely by her mother in a family of nine siblings, Nakigozi would see her mother work extra hard to feed them. Getting food on the table was a challenge and this contributed to the death of her younger sister. These experiences influenced her to have an ambition of changing the lives of urban slum dwellers when an adult.Today, Women Smiles Uganda supports women, teenage mothers and youth living in underserved communities in Uganda. Through building adaptive climate-resilient vertical farms in our communities, we aim to improve food security, nutritional status and livelihoods especially for those living in urban and peri-urban poor settlements who are landless and have limited spaces. We are also seeking to eradicate poverty in underserved communities by offering entrepreneurship opportunities to women and youth through partnering with NGOs, women empowerment groups in slums and refugee camps. Our organization model builds supportive networks that allow women to share skills. develop self-sustaining food for their families and overcome poverty through reliable urban agriculture to create resilient and sustainable communities. With increasing urban population and as a strategy to reduce gender gap in the sector, there is a need to educate women on more alternative means of farming such as hydroponics which involves growing plants without soil but in gravel or liquid with added nutrients. Women Smiles Uganda not only build vertical farms in communities but also link the beneficiaries of our sustainable agriculture training programs to markets and provide free quality seedlings to them. Women also benefit from additional training depending on their needs such as making compost manure, record keeping skills, drip irrigation amongst other good farming practices. Today, Women Smiles Uganda has expanded its market base to urban slums such as Katanga, Katwe, Makindye, Old Kampala and Bwaise which are home to almost 35% of Kampala’s population reaching 15,000 people. In the past years, we have created community gardens where women walk in to learn and practice sustainable agriculture techniques using hydroponics and aquaponics. This also involved partnering with local community groups. The community gardens now serve as hubs for educational activities, workshops and events related to sustainable agriculture. We focus on empowering women with skills because we believe women's involvement in sustainable agriculture practices has greatly contributed to a positive impact on gender equality and social development. We empower them to become leaders of change in their communities and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Another key initiative that we embarked in recent years, was to empower mothers with maternal and child nutrition education, which is essential for ensuring the health and development of both mothers and their children. Through our nutrition education programs for young teenage mothers, we reached 2000 mothers with this education and this helped to increase awareness and understanding of key nutrition concepts such as the importance of breastfeeding, the need for a balanced diet, and the value of locally produced fresh food. Mothers who participated in the program report feeling more confident in their ability to provide health nutritious meals for their families and have seen improvements in their children' health and development.
Currently, we are organizing community training programs in sustainable agriculture practices as an excellent way to promote sustainable and environmentally-friendly food production and increasing access to equal opportunities for women to improve their livelihoods in urban poor settlements. We educate community members on the best practices for growing food in impossible places, including using environmentally-friendly techniques, reducing waste and promote biodiversity. We are also training women farmers essential skills to achieve financial independence through agriculture and we launched a campaign through a documentary elevating voices of women farmers in Africa with a major aim of increasing their opportunities to access resources and support. We are also working on a web based digital training program to enable us scale our impact to other African countries.
Going forward, we will introduce the BackYard School model for schools in Uganda to promote sustainable food systems and we hope to scale to other Africa countries starting with East Africa, Kenya & Rwanda. We are currently in the process of seeking for partners leveraging on NGOs, corporate organizations and Rotary to support us on our journey towards ending hunger, poverty and creating resilient and sustainable communities across the African continent.
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