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Mentors in life and agriculture

In April 2018, the Gay Lea Foundation granted $33,512.93 to the Salama SHIELD Foundation (SSF) to support an innovative development program in Uganda that promised to link up to 50 bright young individuals with female mentors who were already demonstrating success in agri-business through SSF’s micro-credit revolving loan (MCRL) program. By providing each of the participants with a $100 agricultural start-up loan, giving them access to a newly established SSF Information Centre, and combining the ethical role of mentors with a revitalized economic role, SSF’s goal is to create and nurture income-generating opportunities for the youth, thereby bringing them out of poverty.

We checked-in with SSF Founding Director and CEO, Dennis G. Willms, Ph.D., in October 2018 to tell us a little bit more about the program and how it’s helping equip youth in Uganda with the skills and resources they need to start a small, income-generating agri-business under the watchful eyes of their mentors and the SSF microfinance program team. Here’s what he told us:

“The Gay Lea Foundation project was formally introduced to community leaders in Lyantonde District, south-western Uganda, in May 2018. The project was enthusiastically welcomed by government officials and stakeholders, who praised the development of the Information Centre and promised ongoing technical support from veterinary and agricultural extension workers in the form of field-based education, training, and marketing.

Shortly thereafter, SSF embarked on an extensive development phase, carefully evaluating more than 70 successful female entrepreneurs who had accepted to act as mentors in their villages and eventually selecting 31. At the same time, 45 hard-working and optimistic, but out of school and impoverished youth were chosen to participate in the program (20 females and 25 males), meaning some mentors are working with more than one youth participant.

To date, each youth has been given a loan of CAD $100.00 and received training in savings practices, agricultural practices, HIV/AIDS prevention, poverty reduction strategies, and accountabilities (to ensure repayment of loans). The mentors, along with SSF field staff, are also working to encourage “individual awakening” as a poverty reduction strategy, urging participants to see their hidden capacity and self-worth as individuals, as well as the value of the leadership potential that emerges through social entrepreneurship.

Each of the youths trained is managing their own agri-business-related project: a piggery, poultry, goat rearing, tomato and cabbage growing, beans and/or maize. We look forward to providing the Gay Lea Foundation with case examples of success—both in terms of the economic well-being of the youth, and in their development as community leaders, role models, and entrepreneurs!”

The Salama SHIELD Foundation’s development model is innovative in that it provides incentives for progressively-minded youth to be ethically linked to committed mentors in their community, delivering more than a simple “hand-out” to satisfy a momentary critical need. Outcomes will be measured empirically against a qualitative and quantitative baseline survey conducted by SSF at the outset of the project using the organization’s participatory development methods.

“The Gay Lea Foundation and its supporters can be applauded for supporting a truly sustainable development project that is both income-generating and ethically cemented in Ugandan communities,” says Dr. Willms.


About Salama SHIELD

The Salama SHIELD Foundation (SSF) is an international non-government organization (NGO) registered as a not-for-profit charity in Canada, Malawi, and Uganda. Since 1992, they have been working to address development concerns in Sub-Saharan Africa (Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe) by partnering with communities in rural, resource-limited settings to co-develop strategies for HIV/AIDS prevention, food and water security, poverty relief, and technical training for youth. With a vision to create communities enable and empowered to care, nurture, and support their members collectively and sustainably, SSF draws on scientific evidence, indigenous wisdom, and spiritual values to address and accomplish African communities’ development priorities. Salama is the Kiswhahili word for peace, safety, and security, while SHIELD is an acronym for Sustaining Health Initiatives, Enabling Local Development.


About the Gay Lea Foundation

The Gay Lea Foundation is the official registered charity and collaborative forum for Gay Lea Foods and its members, directors and employees to support families and communities in need. Since receiving charitable status in 2014, the Foundation has provided more than $685,000 in funding support for education, poverty relief and community well-being projects in Canada and around the world. The primary source of funding for the Foundation is an annual $150,000 contribution from Gay Lea Foods, which is supplemented by personal contributions from across the Gay Lea Foods family. Funding applications are assessed twice a year by the Foundation’s Board of Directors, which is comprised of Gay Lea Foods Directors, delegates, dairy producer members and employees.

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