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Nov 01 2015

From violence to peace: Land advocacy project brings fundamental change

The communities in northern Uganda’s Kole and Dokolo Districts have been deeply disturbed by decades of war and resettlement. The high demand for land has become so contentious that people have been killed in land disputes. And past attempts to resolve the issues have often failed as the underlying poor community relations have not been addressed.

Thanks to generous funding from the Baring and Ellerman Foundations we have been able work through partners TAO-Uganda and FAPAD (Facilitation for Peace and Development) to bring about the needed fundamental change. So much so that one male household head said:

“I have learnt a lot about women’s land rights from my wife. Now my entire family recognises and respects women’s land rights.”

Land advocacy project

A clan leader asks a question in training

Our three year project, running until 2016, has taken a multi-phased approach to changing attitudes, as outlined in the TAO Annual Report 2014. We have worked with a wide range of community and cultural leaders, empowered women advocates, trained Community Legal Aid Providers (CLAPs) and conducted extensive awareness raising. Opio John, a clan leader from Lwala village Tetugo Parish testified to the change:

“We now recognise and work to promote land rights not only in the cultural context but also the statutory context. I also initiate individual visits to families that do not recognise women’s land rights and sensitise them.”

In addition, the project mediates individual land disputes:

240 cases resolved through mediation between project start in 2013 and late 2015, with 29 pending and 23 referred.

Although not yet finished, the project’s success in increasing understanding of women’s land rights, across the community, has already achieved much.

Increased access to land, for sustainable farming and other income-generation:

Thanks to greater community awareness of land rights, around 1,625 widows have already gained access to their rightful land. Through the simple act of planting along land boundaries, land ownership is much better respected. By having written agreements, women are now making income from renting out their land. Many are now acquiring land titles – which allows them to access loans and so start up businesses.

Less gender-based violence:

Gender-based violence has been a major problem in this area. Alga Ekwan, one of the 60 women advocates trained by this project says:

“TAO-Uganda has been the best project in handling not only land matters but also empowering our capacities on gender issues, so cases of gender-based violence have reduced….

“We help them to appreciate the value of staying peacefully without violence. Also, we help those whose rights have been violated to access justice through mediation. And if this fails, we use the referral arrangements. We also help them to form social groups within their communities because [if you go to the police your husband will come back the next day and the violence will continue].”

Bribery for case hearings reduced:

There had been a high incidence of local council officials being bribed to achieve the desired case outcome. Thanks to the project’s tailored training of a range of community leaders, they have much better leadership skills for handling cases and appreciate the effectness of mediation.

Greater leadership roles for women:

To enable women to secure their land rights this project has built women’s skills and confidence to participate in decision-making. As a result, the project’s benefits go beyond land rights. For example, women are being equipped with the skills and courage to take on leadership roles in groups, such as Village Savings and Loan Associations and even local councils.

Orphans and vulnerable children benefit:

Improved gender relations, greater income, raised awareness of rights and an environment of unity and cooperation have combined to have highly beneficial impacts on the orphans and other vulnerable children in these communities. More are going to school, food security and health have improved, children learn how to relate well to each other and they can grow up in an environment of security and well-being.

The project is due to be completed in 2016.

Sep 18 2015

TAO’s 2014 Annual Report celebrates 21 projects in 21 years

2014 Annual Report

2014 Annual Report celebrates 21 years and 21 great projects (click on image to see it in more detail)

2014 brought Trust for Africa’s Orphans’ 21st anniversary and our 21st project!

The TAO Annual Report 2014 focuses particularly on the two projects underway during 2014. It outlines the great achievements from our ‘Improving livelihoods and climate change resistance’ project in Pader District that was completed in January 2015, and the ongoing success of our ‘Land advocacy’ project in Kole and Dokolo Districts*.

Communities celebrate better livelihoods and climate change resistance summarises this project, and the many photos of it in our Annual Report show how engaged and delighted the communities were with the huge benefits it has brought them. Around 600 households, supporting over 2,700 orphans and vulnerable children were helped directly – with many more members of the community also trained and involved in the farmer associations.

Chairman of TAO, Iain Knapman, noted that:

“Our bespoke monitoring and evaluation system has played a major role in evaluating the impact of this exciting project and in providing information to both guide the farmers in their planting and sales decisions, and enable extension workers to tailor their training and support to the specific needs of individual communities and farmers.”

The Annual Report was approved at our Annual General Meeting on 17 September 2015. The Chairman also announced the retirement of Trustee and Director Nick Hetherington, who has provided invaluable agricultural expertise since his appointment in July 2002. He will be greatly missed. We are, however, delighted to announce the appointment in his place of Hugh Bagnall-Oakley, a Senior Hunger Policy and Research Adviser at Save the Children UK.

The Chairman thanked the staff and all the Directors for their ongoing, tremendous work to create new futures for the orphans and children of Africa.

* Further information about this project is now available on From violence to peace: Land advocacy project brings fundamental change

Sep 13 2014

TAO’s 2013 Annual Report celebrates 20 great years

Trust for Africa’s Orphans’ TAO Annual Report 2013 demonstrates the great success of the approach TAO has developed over its 20 years of working in Uganda.

African orphans

TAO’s work keeps orphans and vulnerable children in their communities – well fed, healthy and able to attend school.

Approved at TAO’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), held at Uganda House on 10 September, the Annual Report celebrates TAO’s work in Lira, Apac and Oyam Districts, which independent evaluations described as a ‘“Hugely innovative” market-access project [and] a “great success”’, generating excellent return on donors’ investment (May 2014 announcement).

Particularly exciting, says Chairman Iain Knapman, is TAO’s current project in the Pader District of northern Uganda, funded by Comic Relief and due to be completed in early 2015.

“Our Pader project applies the innovative and highly effective approach we developed in Lira to assist smallholder farmers to gain access to commercial markets. As this is our first project in Pader, we are also working intensively to build the farmers’ agricultural skills, especially in addressing the impacts of climate change and the environmental degradation caused by the decades of conflict in the area.”

TAO’s Annual Report also provides details about its most recently begun project, which is in Kole and Dokolo Districts. Funded by The Baring/Ellerman Foundations, this project involves an in-depth process to build communities’ respect for the land rights and other rights of women, children and other groups of vulnerable people. It is due to be completed in mid-2016.

The Kole and Dokolo project involves very sensitive work with communities still suffering a great deal from the impact of the conflict in northern Uganda. TAO is working in partnership with FAPAD, which is highly skilled in mediation and building community relations. TAO is also drawing on its experience in the Lira project, where setting up farmer groups had the great benefit of creating much-needed improvement in gender and community relations.

Iain Knapman said:

“We are very excited about both our current projects. We would, however, very much like to extend our work and are seeking further funding to do so. Word has spread of the success of our projects in Lira and Pader, and many communities have asked us to train them in agriculture and environmental management skills and help them set up farmer cooperatives.

“With our partner organisations – TAO-Uganda and Kulika Uganda – both now experienced in running such projects, we are particularly keen to build on our land rights work in Kole and Dokolo Districts. We would welcome interest from potential donors!”

At the AGM, Iain thanked all TAO’s donor, staff and Trustees. As always, Coordinator Joy Mugisha has very effectively managed all the day to day challenges, supported this year by TAO’s new Finance Officer & Projects Assistant, Merium Khan. Iain expressed his appreciation to all his fellow Trustees and announced the sad retirement of Nick Hetherington after 12 years with TAO.

Iain also thanked the current fundraising challenges, including Joy Mugisha’s fun-run, Trustee Robyn Cox’s 21x21mile walk and 11 and 10 year old sisters’ busking – kids doing it for kids.

Download the TAO Annual Report 2013.


Joy Mugisha completes her first ever competitive run; Robyn Cox sets off on her 21×21 mile walk for TAO’s 21st; and 11 year old Darcey and 10 year old Erin Snape busk in Oxford for TAO.

Sep 16 2013

TAO’s AGM reports excellent return on donors’ funds

Trust for Africa’s Orphans’ (TAO) Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held at Uganda House on Wednesday 11 September. Chairman, Iain Knapman, summarised the huge change in TAO’s operations in Uganda over the last two years, concluding with the excellent returns on donors’ investment that have been measured by our new Monitoring and Evaluation system.

As set out in our 2012 and 2011 Annual Reports, TAO has faced some considerable challenges over the last two years, during which time we have delivered two projects in Northern Uganda. The two year project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) has just been completed, while a three year project funded predominantly by Comic Relief is over half-way through. During the two years we had two major changes in partners, including supporting the creation of TAO-Uganda, a Ugandan NGO legally independent of TAO in the UK. TAO has been particularly appreciative of the willingness of our donors to accept the changes part-way through the projects and the work of the Boards of Kulika and TAO-Uganda in ensuring strong delivery of the projects.

The Chairman thanked all the TAO Directors’ substantial input to the running of TAO, recognising that it is provided on an entirely voluntary basis. He particularly thanked those able to visit Uganda to review project progress and the recent success of Director Pete Burnham in raising much-needed unrestricted funding through his challenging sponsored bike-ride.

Iain Knapman expressed the whole Board’s extremely heartfelt appreciation to the outgoing Finance Officer, Brenda Green, saying:

“Brenda has been with TAO for an incredible 15 years, working tirelessly to maintain our accounts and produce all our financial reports. She does a great job, from a distance, to oversee our partners’ financial management, and has been invaluable support in our project management.  Brenda ensures all our paperwork is accurate and compliant with legal needs, and has kept all of us properly organised.

“We are delighted to welcome Merium Khan, who started at the beginning of September ago as Brenda’s replacement. She has hard shoes to fill!  We are also hugely appreciative that Brenda will continue to provide support to Merium and TAO until Christmas, when we will finally farewell her after 15 years.”

DFID-funded project in Lira, Apac and Oyam almost wound-up, Patrons, Directors, staff and members were all highly delighted to learn that the value of total farmers’ harvest, less their cost of seeds and fertilizers etc, exceeded £250,000 in each of the first year’s two seasons.  This represents an average annual ‘profit’ to each farmer of over £250 – a significant sum in the local market. From the donor’s point of view, the project generated farmer profits in just one half-year season that exceeded the whole of the £230,000 funding by DFID provided for the two year project – and these returns are expected to continue each year into the future.

DFID proj success

The goat may not have been entirely happy, but the farmer – mother and carer of orphans – was delighted with the returns from the farming funded by the DFID project, which enabled her to purchase the goat.

We have been able to demonstrate these results thanks to our investment in a comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system. This process has involved training local people to collect and input the information, and training of head office staff to analyse the results and apply the lessons.

A more detailed report on this project will be available over the coming months. We are confident that the outstanding returns from this project demonstrated by this M&E system will form an excellent basis for further fundraising to expand our much needed work to help the orphans and their families in northern Uganda.

TAO would like to thank everyone who attended the AGM on 11 September.

Nov 16 2012

TAO’s Annual Report announces new projects, new partner & new off-shoot – TAO-Uganda

Trust for Africa’s Orphans’ (TAO) 2011 Annual Report is very pleased to welcome the creation of TAO-Uganda, a fully-independent Ugandan charity that will take forward projects using TAO’s well tried and proven approach.  TAO-Uganda has a well-qualified Ugandan Board of Trustees and is already delivering our Comic Relief-funded project ‘Establishing commercial sunflower businesses in Pader’.

TAO-Uganda was formally registered on 24 November 2011 and the details of its operations were finalised during early 2012.  TAO-Uganda is entirely independent from TAO in the UK, but the Board and staff of TAO are delighted to aid the development of capacity within Uganda to apply our proven approach.

TAO’s Annual Report also announces the formalising of a partnership with Kulika Uganda to deliver our DFID-funded project, ‘Women’s commercial farming: Lira, Apac and Oyam sub-counties’.

The two projects are, between them, expected to support around 15,000 orphans and other vulnerable children in northern Uganda by enabling previously internally-displaced women – mostly widows – to farm commercially.

TAO Chairman, Iain Knapman, said:

“We are very happy with the progress to date on both projects.  They are our first projects supporting our beneficiaries by improving their access to commercial markets, as well as applying our proven approach in increasing agricultural productivity. Accessing markets is in many ways a much more challenging task and we are working closely with our delivery partners to develop effective and sustainable ways to connect small farmers with larger markets.”