This year twelve young people between the ages of 12 and 15 have taken the ambitious step of growing their own crops in a bid to eliminate poverty inUganda. Melon growing is one of the numerous projects run by The Butterfly Programme, and which has the potential to completely transform the lives of villagers and also create the country’s future leaders.
The Butterfly Programme was devised by social entrepreneurs inNigeria and the UK to empower young people and train them to overcome social problems, including poverty. The Butterflies come from some of the most impoverished areas in Uganda and have to pass a rigorous selection process to assess their potential to become change makers. Once on the Butterfly programme, they receive free senior school education and specialist entrepreneurial training.
This year the Butterflies have learnt how to grow water melons, which is a high value crop. They negotiated for the land in the village, prepared it and planted it. And while they have been attending the Chrysalis School for Young Social Entrepreneurs, a part of the Butterfly Programme, their family members have looked after the crops and harvested them. In future, the extra income will help the families during the dry season.
The Chrysalis School teaches many skills in addition to Uganda’s education curriculum. The young people also learn about ethics, problem-solving, international studies and activism and practical entrepreneurship. All the subjects are designed to equip students with the skills for positive action with a social conscience. During their holidays they are given support to create and implement their own social entrepreneur projects. These include theatre activities, computer training, HIV/AIDS advice for women and children, sports programmes, and entrepreneurship projects for other children more disadvantaged than themselves.
“The Butterfly Programme taps into the inherent youthful positive thinking that many young people have,” says Ben Parkinson, Director of Social Enterprise Africa, who founded the project in 2007 with Ashoka Fellow, Emmanuel Nehemiah. In 2009, Ben started extending the project in Kampala’s slum districts but he located Ssuuna Francis, then 14, in a village he visited in Western Uganda. Francis is a typical example of a “young changemaker” and has quickly become one of the stars of the programme. A feature written about him last year in a National Ugandan newspaper describes his work in developing an Athletics Club for boys in the Acholi Quarter slum in Kampala, and his achievements in taking the children to the Stanbic Bank International Fun Run in Kampala earlier this year where they scooped most of the medals. Ssuuna is passionate about change in his country and writes about his experiences and plans for the future in his blog – https://chrysalisuganda.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/change-is-coming-in-uganda. One of his plans is to set up a biogas training centre to help children learn how use animal waste to generate gas for cooking. A second project he titles “Vision for Change” will train other children how to develop a vision for their home community.
The young people are now working on a ten year Poverty Alleviation Plan devised by Social Enterprise Africa with influence from Paul Polak’s “Out of Poverty” bestselling book. The Plan will expand sustainably each year by selling watermelons to support itself. In six years the vision is to have a young person from every corner ofUgandaworking on projects that will help to eliminate poverty in their region, and thus throughout the whole country.
“A ten year plan to eliminate poverty inUganda is hugely ambitious,” said Ben, “but these young people have shown an amazing entrepreneurial capacity for projects that have creativity, flair and sustainability at their heart. They really are proving to be passionate change makers, and I’ve no doubt that they will soon become respected leaders and role models for their community. In time they will be the change their country needs.”
You can support this programme at the Social Entrepreneurship site Start Some Good.