Trust for Africa's Orphans

T: +44 (0)1932 269877


Donate now

Our history describes how two Ugandan women were instrumental in creating TAO and its focus on Uganda.  Our Directors’ experience of working in Uganda has also driven the development of Our Successful Approach for addressing the needs faced in Uganda, especially conflict-torn northern Uganda.  Unfortunately, many of these needs are shared by the people of neighbouring and other countries, so our approach is well suited to be applied outside Uganda.

Around 86% of Uganda’s population of 33.8 million people (UN, 2010) live in rural areas and earn their living from subsistence agriculture.

One in six children in Uganda is an orphan.  As in much of Africa, the main cause is HIV/AIDS.  The rate of spread of HIV in Uganda has been brought under control more than in much of the continent.  Nevertheless, HIV remains prevalent and food insecurity can, itself, increase the spread of HIV as individuals adopt risky survival strategies, such as exchanging sex for food or money or involvement in crime, drug abuse, or child labour.

More particular to Uganda, the large number of orphans – and widespread poverty – has resulted from the devastating conflicts which have wrecked much of the country since the 1970s.

20 years of conflict

Uganda was notorious for its state-sponsored violence which killed up to half a million people during the 1970s and 1980s, firstly under the military dictatorship of Idi Amin (1971-79) and then under Milton Obote. These abuses were finally largely ended in 1986, when Yoweri Museveni became President.

Since then, however, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has rampaged northern Uganda, moving in recent years into neighbouring countries.  This conflict only began to end in Uganda in 2006 – and continues in Congo and the Central African Republic.

During these 20 years large numbers of northern Ugandans were driven off their land by the rebel LRA.  The government also needed to move almost a million people off their land and into camps for their own protection.  The result was 1.8 million displaced people, many living in camps with rampant disease and high mortality [UN Disarmament, Demobilisation & Reintegration Resource Centre].

One of the worst actions of the LRA was to abduct children, forcing them to join the LRA or become sex slaves. To stop their victims returning home, the LRA often forced children to kill their parents or commit other atrocities, such as cutting off lips or noses.

The LRA leaders were driven out of Uganda by 2008.  The Amnesty Commission established in 2001 has resettled many thousands of ex-fighters, but has lacked the funding to undertake full reintegration back into society.

The people forced into displacement camps have now returned to their old homes.  But these homes had, in many instances, collapsed or been taken over by squatters; farms wrecked. Although the land in northern Uganda is largely fertile, there are numerous disputes over ownership.  The people have been given no material assistance and many areas have no healthcare or schools.  Few returnees have received tools or seeds, and fewer still have the skills to re-establish self-sustaining farming, particularly after living off charity hand-outs in the camps for so long.

Two million+ orphans

Ugandan orphans

TAO's projects give thousands of Uganda's two million orphans the chance of a healthy childhood and future prospects.

According to UNICEF, there were already 2 million orphans known in Uganda in 2003.  Most orphaned children are taken into their extended families and looked after by relatives such as a grandmother, aunt or elder sister (sometimes only a child herself).  Almost all these families were already very poor, and often had several children of their own.  Although most families do everything they can to support the children, in some cases family members try to dispossess the orphans of their rightful land.

The large number of widow and other female-headed households are also very vulnerable.  Like orphans, they are often dispossessed of their land.  They are also in a weak position to make sufficient money from farming.  Produce sold in major centres is regulated by middlemen, with whom women have limited influence. There is no information available to them about on opportunities, little access to micro-finance, and – after years of war – few have entrepreneurial skills.

It is to address this set of problems that TAO and our local partners focus our work on (i) building long-term skills for self-sufficiency and improved productivity and, where required, (ii) removing the key barriers to successful small scale farming, such as land disputes in the north.