FARM STEW launched in Uganda in the fall of 2015. Joy Kauffman, MPH, a Nutritionist with a Masters in Public Health from Johns Hopkins, and Master Gardener from the University of Illinois was serving with the USAID Farmer to Farmer program in Uganda. Joy's official assignment was to work with a farming cooperative whose 60,000 members had decided they wanted assistance learning to process the soybeans they grow.
Once in Uganda, in partnership with local volunteers, Joy conducted hands-on nutrition and cooking classes, featuring soy and vegetables, using the Bible as our primary text. Over the course of a two-day training, we taught both the basics of a whole-foods, plant-based diet (which is critical as most participants are vegetarians by economic necessity), child nutrition, and the importance of soaking grains and legumes to increase the bioavailability of nutrients. We also conducted a hands-on cooking class: making soya milk, using the residual, protein-rich "okara" as flour to add to porridge (busera and posho), eating green soya (edamame), and the rainbow pot of vegetables with whole cooked soya beans.
The community response was tremendously positive.
The Ugandan volunteers were particularly thrilled with the fact that, except for information that was practical and immediately applicable, we were bringing in nothing from outside the village. As time progressed, it was wonderful to see the interaction and the skilled facilitation that happened naturally when these leaders conducted classes in their local language. They captured the attention and the heart of class participants.
It was then that Joy realized that this training could save the lives of countless children yet she needed to return home to her daughters. She wrestled with the fact that in Africa 5 children under the age of five die every minute! She asked God what to do and in prayer, she felt a still, small voice say, "hire them."
Joy how to go about it but set about to create the possibility without telling anyone what she felt convicted to do.
Together with the locals, they began to produce high-quality, simple instructional materials that we could give as a gift to the communities in which we trained. This way, from the beginning we would be training trainers and multiply the work. Edward Kaweesa, a local computer store owner, came to the rescue. He transformed Joy's ideas into graphics that spoke clearly, communicating health and nutritional information, in a culturally appropriate way. (Edward now serves as the FARM STEW Uganda Country Director.)
The idea for the team began to take shape and catalyzed when Joy preached at a church on her last Sabbath and met Betty Mwesigwa, a local woman who had significant knowledge of processing soya that she had learned while at college studying for her Nutrition, Catering and Hotel Management degree at Bugema University. That same afternoon a young woman, Phionah Bogere, approached Joy during a cooking class saying, "I want to be part of your team." This was before Joy had mentioned to anyone that the Holy Spirit had already laid on her heart that a team should be formed to continue the work.
For the first ten months, Joy self-financed FARM STEW by sending her own wages to employ the Ugandan team of five trainers. She was managing a USDA grant for her local health department that allowed her to work with small farmers promoting their locally grown crops at farmers markets and a plant-based diet in rural Illinois. The similar goals made it easy to combine the work with FARM STEW.
In March 2016 FARM STEW explored possibilities in Zimbabwe where she met Dr. Arlene Vigilia who became a founding board member a few months later when FARM STEW International grew into an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3, charitable organization. Sadly Dr. Vigilia passed away in May 2017 and will forever be missed. Her passion for Jesus and his method of reaching people through ministering to their needs still inspires all those involved today.
In March of 2017 launched a second team of trainers in Jinja, Uganda, the source of the Nile River. In March of 2018, FARM STEW launched in Zimbabwe and in the refugee camps of Northern Uganda. Most recently in December 2018, we launched a team in South Sudan itself.
FARM STEW Uganda, Zimbabwe, and South Sudan are all registered, legal entities in their respective countries. We are blessed with a diverse board and small staff that are tremendously committed to the work.
To God be the glory as we seek wisdom and discernment from Him for the future of FARM STEW!