In the heartland of Uganda, the FARM STEW story began when Joy Kauffman, a passionate Public Health Nutritionist and Master Gardener, was on a mission with the USAID Farmer to Farmer program. She was there to support a farming cooperative of 60,000 members eager to learn about processing their soybeans in a country where 1 in 3 children are severely malnourished.
As she immersed herself in the Ugandan community, Joy partnered with local volunteers to lead hands-on nutrition and cooking classes. Using the Bible as a guide, they taught the fundamentals of a whole-foods, plant-based diet, child nutrition, and the importance of soaking grains and legumes for enhanced nutrient absorption. They pounded soaked beans into soya milk, created protein-rich flour from the leftovers called "okara," savored green soya (edamame), and cooked up a vibrant pot of vegetables with whole soya beans.
The community's response was overwhelmingly positive. The Ugandan volunteers were especially touched by the fact that all Joy brought was practical knowledge that could be applied immediately, using only resources found within their village. As Joy witnessed the volunteers' interaction and their skilled facilitation in local languages, she was truly inspired.
And thus, the vision for FARM STEW was born. Joy saw the potential of this training to save countless lives. However, she faced a dilemma—she needed to return home to her daughters, yet knew that every minute in Africa, five children under the age of five lose their lives. In a heartfelt prayer, she sought guidance and received a simple, powerful answer: "Hire the locals."
And so, she did.
Unsure of her path but believing God brought her to Uganda for such a time as this, Joy began by creating straightforward, high-quality educational materials with the help of locals. These resources were meant to serve as gifts to the communities she trained, enabling her to train trainers and multiply her efforts. Edward Kaweesa, a local computer store owner, surprised Joy with his skills that transformed her drawing ideas into clear, culturally appropriate graphics. He now serves as FARM STEW Uganda's IT and Evaluation Manager.
The vision for the first team began to crystallize when Joy met Betty Mwesigwa at a local church. Betty, a graduate in Nutrition and Hotel Management from Bugema University, had extensive knowledge about processing soya. On the same day, a young woman named Phionah Bogere approached Joy during a cooking class and expressed her desire to be part of the team.
Joy hadn't shared with anyone that God had instructed her to form a team, yet here it was, unfolding before her eyes. Returning home, Joy self-financed FARM STEW for the next year using funds from her county health department contract to employ the first Ugandan team of five trainers. (All five are still wotking ith FARM STEW eight years later, including Edward, Betty, and Phionah!)
In 2016, Joy explored opportunities in Zimbabwe, where she met Dr. Arlene Vigilia, who later became a founding board member of FARM STEW International, an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable organization. Cherri Olin, along with a Kenyan-born Civil engineer and an American Accountant, were also founding board members. Dr. Vigilia's passion for serving people continues to inspire us even after her untimely death in 2017.
FARM STEW expanded further with new teams in Uganda, and Zimbabwe, and an invitation to launch came in South Sudan in 2018. In late 2019, we ventured into a closed country, just in time to share the recipe there before COVID-19 shut down the country and the world. Thankfully the closed borders did not stop the work. Elizabeth Kreidler de Santa Cruz, a FARM STEW staff member, ingeniously taught the entire FARM STEW curriculum online to our eager learners.
By 2021, FARM STEW had reached Malawi, partnering with Malawi Adventist University and launching an orchard project. By the end of 2022, we had made our mark in the Philippines, Brazil, Zambia, Sudan, and Rwanda, where FARM STEW training became a mandatory course at the Adventist School of Medicine for East Central Africa (ASOME). In 2023, we extended our reach to Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Bolivia.
As we continue to flourish, we find strength in our diverse board, a small dedicated USA-based staff, exceptional local trainers, and a growing network of ministry partners. All glory to God! We continually seek His wisdom and discernment for the future of FARM STEW. Join us as we write the next chapter of this inspiring journey, spreading the recipe for abundant life far and wide!