Bethany Land Institute represents a new model: an integrated approach to fight poverty, restore dignity and care for creation. Our goal is to inspire similar models that can revitalize rural livelihoods in Uganda.
Bethany Land Institute’s vision is flourishing rural communities setting a new standard for sustainable creation care, food production and economic well being in Africa.
Our Mission is an education program (Institute) that trains leaders for rural transformation through an integrated approach that combats poverty, protects nature and restores human dignity in Africa.
The mission is realized through 3 key programs of the Bethany Land Institute:
Mary’s Farm: A sustainable farm that conducts educational and mentorship programs in sustainable practices of land use and food production.
Lazarus’ Trees: A forest, which serves as a catalyst for a major countrywide reforestation effort and an education base for a new ecological consciousness.
Martha’s Market: A Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO), which serves as the business hub of the BLI and the engine for ongoing economic entrepreneurship of the BLI caretakers. Among others, Martha’s market will set up, manage and operate a retreat center and a roadside market (to provide a market for the produce, a rest stop for travelers, and publicity for the BLI vision and programs).
Addressing Three Challenges
The Bethany Land Institute in Uganda is a response to three major challenges associated with land in rural Africa:
Deforestation & Environment Degradation: Africa’s growing population, coupled with inadequate, and in some places non existing government energy and ecological policies has led to mass and rapid deforestation as trees are cleared for firewood and for farming purposes. But deforestation is just one aspect of a large ecological crisis facing Africa, where the effect on weather patterns and land depletion is already obvious, and will only get worse. To stop this trend requires not only a massive reforestation campaign, but sustained education efforts in ecological consciousness, creation care and the protection of mother earth.
Food insecurity: The rapidly growing population, coupled with global warming (reduced and irregular rainfall), depleted topsoil cover, have already created a crisis of reduced food production. As the land becomes more arid and less productive, families seek bigger plots of land to grow food. Land issues are increasingly becoming a major source and site of conflict in Africa in the next decade. The need to transition from old farming patterns that required big plots of land towards smaller, highly productive land holdings, and which do not depend on chemical products that are environmentally hazardous is urgent. This calls for demonstration models and practical experiments of sustainable food production in a manner that is able to sustain both communities and the land, while at the same time serving as viable economic enterprise.
Poverty: The lack of viable economic activities in rural Africa is a major challenge especially for the youth. Those who are somehow educated feel there is nothing for them to do in the villages – and often end up in slums on the city edges. Those who remain in the village engage in ecologically disastrous tasks like charcoal and brick making, which involves the cutting of trees and digging out of marshes. Thus the lack of viable economic options not only contributes to the ecological crisis, it undermines the dignity of millions of African young people, who increasingly feel unwanted, excluded and a failure. The long time security and sustainability of African communities is at stake in the face of over 133 million (over 50% of African youth) young Africans who are illiterate and unemployed.