As an extension of our Q&A with Richard Oneka last week, we have information which he provided us with about the other organisation that he helped set up, the Charity for Rural Development (or Chaford). Read on to find out more!
Charity for Rural Development (Chaford) is a local grass-roots organization working to break the cycle of persistent poverty, and gender inequality, in rural communities in Northern Uganda. Chaford was established in 2005 by a group of young professionals, to help rural communities in Northern Uganda to rebuild, after two decades of violent conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government of Uganda. Our programs are designed to provide solutions to the underlying causes of poverty and gender inequality in the communities in the region.
How We Started
The two decades of conflict, inflicted by the government and LRA, resulted in approximately 1.6 million people in Northern Uganda living in inhumane and congested IDP camps. The LRA abducted an estimated 36,000 children, and maimed, raped and murdered many more individuals during this era of complete lawlessness. Atiak, located in the Amuru district was the most affected sub-county in Northern Uganda, because the LRA entered Uganda through Atiak, committing mass atrocities, looting and destroying property, until Atiak was destroyed. In one day, the LRA murdered about 300 people, including children. This is now referred to as the Atiak Massacre. This is just one of the many massacres that took place in Atiak. When the international community and government finally reached the region to set up IDP camps and deliver aid, they found a broken community with scorched land and destroyed infrastructure.
A group of young professionals from Atiak witnessed the aftermath of the conflict and wanted to do something to help their home villages. All of them were directly affected by the conflict: their relatives and friends were killed in the Atiak Massacre (1995), abducted by the LRA or were living in IDP camps.
They joined together to form a not-for-profit organization, that would work with community members to rebuild the villages where they grew up. They understood that the many humanitarian actors would soon leave after providing emergency relief. Their departure would leave void for a local, grassroots organization to provide community-based initiatives to improve the livelihoods of the population. Their vision led to the creation of Charity for Rural Development in 2005.
From 2005 to 2009, Chaford focused on providing emergency relief to the people living in IDP camps. In 2009, the camps were dismantled and people finally returned to the homes that they haven’t lived in for many years. They came home to find their home villages without any of the necessary infrastructure and services, such as schools, water wells, hospitals, markets, and so forth, to survive. They arrived without any money to survive in their home villages. The conflict placed them among the poorest of the poor, relying on relief from agencies for many years, and leaving them without a job or an income to support their families. The resettlement process showcased the population’s need, not only for some type of relief, but also funding to rehabilitate their home villages.
The aftermath continues to affect the villages where we work. The use of rape as a weapon of war, and the environment of IDP camps, led to a rise in HIV/AIDS in Northern Uganda, resulting in many child-headed and women-headed households. Domestic violence began to flourish in these communities as men took out their frustrations on their wives. Rebuilding will take another two decades to catch up with the other parts of the country.
The joy of returning home was characterized by conflicts over land. This was due to the fact that people were away for so long and were unsure about the land boundaries that were marked by mango and avocado trees. Unfortunately, many individuals took advantage of the chaos and stole other people’s land. This caused many to become unsure about land boundaries and ownership. Land conflicts continue to take place today.
Since 2005, Chaford continues to help the rural population that struggle to cope with the remnants of the war. In this period of rebuilding, Chaford now focuses on transforming the most vulnerable in the conflict-affected communities. We believe that individuals can act as agents of change in their communities. Women and young people are usually the poorest of the poor in the community. They often have limited access to basic needs, facilities and amenities, such as education, medical services, housing and food. The lack of access to their basic needs is compounded by the fact that women and youth can be excessively marginalized due to discrimination, social class and cultural inequalities. Our programs were created to empower this population to create changes in their communities, so that the Northern region can flourish once again.
What does Chaford do?
We work directly with community members to help them take the steps needed to transform their lives. Our livelihood program promotes agriculture, cash-management skills, economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. We don’t believe in a one size fits all approach to development; instead, we work with each of our beneficiaries to understand what they need to improve their livelihoods. The core of all of projects is capacity building to empower individuals.
We believe that development and human rights go hand and hand. Our democracy, governance and human rights program addresses the factors that cause poverty, while promoting human rights. When human rights are unfulfilled, it has a significant impact on the development process. We educate our beneficiaries on what to do when a human rights violation takes place and how to hold violators accountable for their actions.
Examples of economic or women’s empowerment?
We facilitate women’s support groups to give women a safe space to receive trainings and resources to become self-reliant and confident individuals. Our women savings and credit groups help women save their money weekly and disperse small loans. The access to cash has given our female beneficiaries financial autonomy and an opportunity to start small businesses. One of our beneficiaries, Alice, successfully opened a butcher shop. The profits allow her to pay the school fees of her female children. Before Chaford, she could only send her boys to school. Our projects do more than change the beneficiaries into empowered individuals – they are improving the lives of the next generation of women!
How has promoting agriculture improved the communities’ livelihoods?
We promote modern agriculture techniques in the communities where we work to increase farmers’ crop production. We educate the farmers on the benefits of using improved tools and seedlings. The surplus profits from their crops results in more food for families, payment of school fees, and business expansion, along with other positive effects. We understand that agriculture is the main source of income for families; therefore, we work with farmers to give them the skills and tools needed to enhance their livelihoods.
What are the benefits of HIV/AIDs awareness?
We witness the benefits of HIV/AIDS awareness in the communities where we work. For example, the prevalence of the infection among the youth is lower than the adult population. Community sensitization about how to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS has the ability to diminish the spread of the disease. There is still a dire need for HIV/AIDS awareness in Northern Uganda. There is still a stigma attached to the use of contraceptives and other protective measures to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission.
(HIV/AIDS is more widespread in the North than any other region in Uganda. For more information, click here.)
What improvements have there been in the region?
The presence of non-governmental organizations has had a tremendous impact on the development process of the rural communities. Despite the positive developments, due to the hard work and generosity of NGOS that provided emergency services and resources to the community, more must be done to rebuild the communities that were destroyed due to the two decades of conflict.
With the return of peace to Northern Uganda, the focus of civil society organizations shifted from emergency relief to rebuilding the communities. Some of the developments that we have seen include; improvement in infrastructures, such as schools, health centers and roads. Building infrastructures is one step that can recover the communities, but other programs such as sustainable development, livelihood enhancement and promotion of human rights, and good governance, is needed to truly transform these communities into stronger and self-sufficient societies.
How can people help?
There are many ways that people can help us with our work. We are always seeking individuals who can donate their time to our cause. People can also fund raise on our behalf through bake sales, parties and other events. Please visit our website to learn the many ways that you can help the communities where Chaford works.
Recently, we have been very busy designing our two new programs: environmental sustainability, and promotion of girls’ education. Our livelihood program provides farmers with improved technology to generate more crops. We are working within our already established agriculture framework to implement more sustainable development measures in the community.
Many of our female beneficiaries have voiced their concerns about young girls in their communities dropping out of school. We are now working on setting up a new program to promote girl’s education through advocacy and girl’s sponsorships. Last, we are launching our new environmental sustainability program in the upcoming month, with youth taking the lead in fundraising and promoting environmental protection, including promoting tree planting campaigns in schools in the region.