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.
While preparing to go, Joy sought out extensive training and research on the topic. She was blessed to discover retired Penn State Nutrition Professor Dorothy Blair who had conducted extensive fieldwork in Eastern Africa with soy and developed essential tools for addressing malnutrition. During several phone conversations, Dr. Blair encouraged Joy to think big and disseminate broadly.
Once in Uganda, in partnership with Robert Lubega (an Agricultural Extension agent for the cooperative) and Steven Mugabi (a Soya Entrepreneur who volunteered with the team), we conducted hands-on nutrition and cooking classes, featuring soy and vegetables and 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 a 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. Joy knew the change could save lives!
Robert was particularly thrilled with the fact that, except for information that was practical and immediately applicable, we were bringing in nothing from outside the village. He and Steven captured the hearts of the people. 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.
We became convinced that we needed 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 Kawesa, 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.
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, Phiona 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 financed FARM STEW from her wages, earned by managing a USDA grant to her local health department where she worked with small farmers promoting their locally grown crops and whole foods and a plant-based diet in rural Illinois.
With God's help, this original team of five Ugandans, (pictured above with two additional staff hired in 2017) in partnership with Joy, has been working together ever since.
In March 2016 FARM STEW launched in Zimbabwe when Joy to teach at the Foundations for Farming annual conference and to be a health evangelist with the It Is Written campaign. There she met Dr. Arlene Vigilia who became a founding board member a few months later when FARM STEW International grew into an independent, nonprofit registered with the IRS as a 501(c)3, charitable organization. FARM STEW Uganda and FARM STEW Zimbabwe are both registered legal entities in their respective countries.
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.
FARM STEW Uganda and FARM STEW Zimbabwe are both registered legal entities in their respective countries.
To God be the glory as we seek wisdom and discernment from Him for the future of FARM STEW!