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Household mentoring in Uganda

©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

When it comes to bringing about change in the most disadvantaged households, development projects are often at a loss. Extreme poverty, illiteracy and lack of self-esteem isolate people and make them difficult to reach through the usual channels.

But a new tool is helping make a difference for these households. In Uganda household mentoring has been piloted in 18 districts across the country as part of the IFAD-supported District Livelihoods Support Programme (2007-2014). Mentors volunteer to work with vulnerable households selected from their village or parish. They share knowledge and skills in order to foster the personal, social and economic growth of household members. In doing so, they promote better gender relations and a spirit of collaboration in the household as members move towards their shared goals.

The aim of mentoring is to improve living conditions and livelihoods by developing household capacity to discuss, plan and prioritize for themselves, and also to participate in interest groups and community development initiatives.

The benefits have been considerable and quick to manifest. In fact the results have been so successful that both IFAD and the Government of Uganda have committed to scaling up this tool in the country.

Mentor and mentees belong to the same community. They meet regularly to discuss progress at the household level and plan the next steps to be taken towards realizing household goals. The mentor advises on ways to improve health and hygiene in the home, and recommends new farming practices for enhanced productivity. ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

The visioning technique adapted from the Gender Action Learning System is used to help illiterate households represent their current challenges and the actions they will take to reach their goals. An action plan is represented in the form of a diagram using symbols chosen by household members. This becomes a planning tool for the household and also helps them track the progress they make. ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

 

One of the characteristics of the poorest households is the low rate of school attendance. Mentors highlight the importance of sending children to school and encourage parents to generate sufficient cash to cover school expenses. ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

As a result of household mentoring, Arcangelo Turinawe and Scovia Awimane, who live in Kamwenge district in western Uganda, have been able to improve farming practices, increase their income and start saving and borrowing. They have built a new brick home with a tin roof and moved out of their thatched mud hut. "Before the mentoring we had no food security," says Turinawe.

"The mentor taught us to cultivate for more income and work hard towards our goals. I want to continue investing in our farm. I now see myself on a level with other members of the community." ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

Household members are encouraged to join groups to acquire more skills and knowledge, and to participate in group saving and borrowing. "We have built trust, and share what we have to share among us," say the members of the Kyetekerra cluster group from Namarere in Mayuge district. "The other members of the community admire us and what we have achieved." ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

Household mentoring promotes more equitable relations between husband and wife by encouraging the sharing of resources and household tasks, and joint planning and investing. Jamada Matende and his wife Safiyati Nabilumba from Babaari village in Mayuge district, have moved from a relationship that was characterized by conflict and resentment, to one of greater harmony and collaboration. ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

David and Vanice Bahumata of Kebisingo parish in Kamwenge district, were unable to send their five children to school, and in the dry season ate just one meal a day. Gradually, with the help and encouragement of their mentor, and by borrowing through a village savings group, they progressed from trading chickens, to goats, and then cattle. They use their own oxen to plough their land and productivity has soared as a result. They also hire out the oxen to neighbours. The family is planning to invest further in dairy cattle and would like to buy a shop in the local trading centre. ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan