T-C Rotary has recently completed the final component of its 3 year International Services’ project to help Elgon Ngoma Troupe (ENT) – a non-profit providing housing, food, mentoring and education to street kids in Mbale Uganda – to become self-sustaining. The Mbale area is one of the poorest in the country and is believed to have the highest number of street kids. The latest work consists of:
  • The installation of a solar system with battery storage to bring electricity to their farmhouse in nearby Mawululu village. Now there are lights inside and outside and enough power to charge small appliances and tools.
  • The purchase and set up of beds and bedding for 12 youth. Now the farmhouse can finally house additional Troupe members.
Having a habitable farmhouse with clean water and solar power means ENT members can now live there permanently, work the crops, learn farming skills and provide much needed security for the farm’s operation. While also relieving overcrowding at their home in Mbale, their presence on the farm makes successful crops more assured and virtually guarantees food security year-round for all Troupe members.
T-C Rotary is grateful for the opportunity to make such a difference in the lives of homeless youth in the Mbale area of Uganda and thrilled that ENT is finding ways to leverage our efforts to create even more much needed benefits in Mawululu. We are also very grateful for the support of our Blue Mountains community members who have donated to this cause and for the steadfast support and hard work of the Metropolitan Mbale Rotary (MMR) Club who has ensured the successful implementation of the project.
The Full Project
Working with the Metropolitan Mbale Rotary (MMR) Club T-C Rotary has completed:
  • The rebuild of an abandoned farmhouse in the village of Mawululu about 45 minutes outside of Mbale – to relieve overcrowding in ENT’s Mbale house.
  • Funding for seed and equipment for the initial crops on the 2-acre farm that the farmhouse sits on.
  • The building of showers and new latrines (male and female) at the farmhouse.
  • The building of a 10,000 litre rainwater storage system to provide clean water all year-round, and especially during dry season when the village well often goes dry.
  • All the structural work and interior renovation of the farmhouse, including the furnishing of the bedrooms and the installation of a solar system to provide for their basic electricity needs so that 12 youth may now live in the farmhouse.
Covid related lockdowns made everything very challenging. They impaired project execution, the ability for the youth to get to the village to work the farm, and they eliminated ENT’s ability to raise money through their traditional African dance and music performances until last June. Despite the 2 years of severe restrictions, with the perseverance of the MMR Club and ENT, these projects are now paying off!
So, what are the results?
  • The water tank was completed just in time for dry season in 2021. It has been a true gift for the farm and nearby villagers who have access to it. They have had much needed clean water throughout, and the women and girls no longer have to walk kilometres to fetch water. 
  • During the covid travel restrictions, ENT obtained help from struggling villagers (mainly women and youth) to tend to the crops. So, they shared crops with them, including some of the seeds harvested. These villagers were able to start their own gardens.
  • Since early 2021, ENT has had two bean and cabbage crops, a crop of tomatoes and other vegetables, and most recently beans and maize. The earliest crops were split between selling and use by ENT.
  • The last crop of beans and maize was harvested, prepared and all stored for ENT’s own use. ENT members were trained to do this and completed it themselves. This crop was plentiful enough to sustain them through a second planting season during which it was decided to leave their fields fallow. ENT has just now planted another crop of beans and maize as they have determined that is the best approach from a food sustainability perspective.
  • One hundred banana trees of various kinds planted on the farm are finally productive. ENT now has a reliable source of plantain and green bananas which are key staples in this part of the world.
  • With the significant world-wide increase in the price of food, their farm crops have been of tremendous value as ENT has had adequate food since mid 2021. Prior to this, they experienced at least one week per month when they had only one meager meal of porridge per day. This means food security has been achieved.
  • The ENT members have been learning valuable skills in farming and processing of various crops. This means some have a brighter future with transferable skills.
  • ENT can now double its capacity to house and mentor homeless youth. Already 6 new youth, all from Mawululu village, have been accepted and are living in the farmhouse – 2 girls and 4 boys, ages 12 to 17 who are orphans and had been living with their in crowded conditions with their grandparents.
ENT Activities
ENT members were very happy when they were able to start performing again in June 2022 and, though it was a slow start, business has been picking up. In September, they performed at the Cure Pediatric Neurosurgery Hospital in Mbale for the official commissioning of a new wing at which the First Lady of Uganda presided. Thanks to the farm, very little of their performance money and donations are now needed for food and there is much more money to pay for rent in Mbale, school fees, medical and other needs. For the first time ever, ENT entered a new year (2023) with all of the prior year’s school fees paid, rent only 4 months in arrears, and no one going hungry.
Julius Wolimbwa, the Executive Director of ENT had to make a tough decision a couple of years ago when extreme Covid related lockdowns caused donations and revenue to dry up. As a result, he had to refuse entry of new members into ENT. In addition, due to school closures during covid there are now many more homeless older youth who are very reluctant to return to school because they would be so far behind their age group. As such, ENT’s new farming skills option is very much needed.
Other Positive Surprises
T-C Rotary is thrilled with the outcomes to-date, especially considering the impact of covid restrictions! In addition to the planned benefits for ENT, the project has enabled other important additional steps:
  • The MMR Club built an energy efficient stove which uses much less fuel and produces much less smoke. They believe this may provide an opportunity to teach good environmental methods to the wider village.
  • ENT members recently built and are now using a biomass fuel production system at the farm that will produce gas for the stove and manure fertilizer for crops. This will, both, improve their crop yield and provide cooking fuel in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner.
  • The ENT farmhouse is already becoming a gathering place for youth in the village and Julius, the director, is exploring how it might be also used as a day-time community hub for youth where other skills such as hand skills (such as jewelry and shoe making) are taught to young women.
Remaining challenges
Schooling Costs: Raising money for the full year of 2023 school fees is challenging as there are four ENT youth in the more expensive final year of high school. And those who completed high school in the past two years continue to ask Julius if there are any sponsors for them at the college level. Recently, ENT had their first former member graduate from university with a degree in economics! This young man was specifically sponsored by a donor. We currently have some individual club members and friends of the club who are privately sponsoring three ENT students (one in elementary school and two in high school).
Water Sufficiency: The farm’s water catchment and storage system has highlighted the lack of water (and especially clean water) in the village. So many villagers are taking water from the ENT facility that the supply is at risk. The challenge is whether to restrict villagers from accessing the ENT water supply or to try to address the water needs of the village. We are currently working with the MMR Club to investigate a solution for the village water needs.
How Much Did We Spend?
Our total expenditures on ENT are set out below. The funds include money donated by T-C Rotary, Rotary International grants, and donations by individuals (members of Rotary and the public at large).
Total Donations to this multi-year initiative
Donated amount
Project description
  • Tuition support = $750
  • Covid food relief = $1500
  • Covid food relief continued = $3150 (incl $1000 district grant & $1150 specified donations)
  • Tuition support = $2800 (3 students able to graduate SS)
  • Farm Project phase 1: Farmhouse & food sustainability = $9990. Plus MMR club donated additional $1100.
Farm project phase 2
  • Water & sanitary project and kitchen roof = $8000 (incl $2480 district grant)
  • Farmhouse interior completion = $5000
  • Plus MMR club donated time and materials for the outdoor kitchen, storage room and stove.
Farm project – Bedding & Solar System
  • Beds and bedding for 12 youth $3200
  • Solar System with storage battery to power lights and small appliance/tool charging $4200
  • Relief donations total $8,200 (2019-2021)
  • Project donations aimed at achieving self-sustainability $30,490 (2020-2023)
Note: some club members and friend of the club have also been sponsoring three students’ school fees last year & this year.
This work to support ENT has been a major effort but it illustrates what a big impact our donations have where need is so great. This project is also starting to demonstrate how an effort like this can create a ripple effect that creates additional unexpected benefits beyond the original planned ones.