When Lawrence Patrick decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania 10 years ago he knew he wanted to use the challenge to raise money for the people there who needed it most.
Lawrence, from Bicester, Oxfordshire, decided to set up the Mehiel Foundation with his wife, with the aim of raising money and supporting projects in Tanzania – and other African countries – while cutting out unnecessary costs.
Fast forward a decade, and the Mehiel Foundation are celebrating launching their first organic farming project, having helped more than 70 families to set up their own sustainable mini farming projects in the Wakiso district of Uganda.
Lawrence, who works in finance, explained: “We are a very small organisation, and we have only recently become a registered charity, but we have big ambitions.
“The idea for setting up the farming community came after my employer launched a scheme to send some seeds to a farming project in Kenya, and I realised I could also do this myself.
“There were seeds left over from the scheme which the business donated, and we bought others. In total we sent more than 10,000 seeds to a community in Uganda and helped 70 families to start growing their own, organic vegetables to feed themselves and start up a business.”
Lawrence partnered with Celedi, a local skills and training organisation in Uganda, who brought in experts from the University of Kampala to run workshops and courses for families to learn how to effectively farm their land without using costly chemicals.
And crops of radishes, tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers and watermelon were soon produced.
Sulaiman Mayanja from Celedi said: “The project has been a big success. One of our farmers is Deo, who is 14 years old. We gave him spinach seeds which have sprouted, and he also keeps ducks and poultry.
“Deo hopes to sell the vegetables as well as using them to feed himself and his family. He now has ambitions to turn all of his family land into a farm, and to become a vet so he can care for the animals himself.”
The Mehiel Foundation are hoping to continue the farming project on a larger scale. If you have seeds to donate or you want to find out more, visit their website or follow them on Facebook.
By Jenna Sloan