Bethany Land Institute provides Uganda's rural poor with an integrated education program in sustainable land use, economic entrepreneurship, and spiritual formation.
“We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” - Laudato Si', #49
The Heart of Our Work: The Caretaker Program
BLI's Caretaker Program is an intensive two-year residential program where students, called Caretaker Trainees, train in farming, agroforestry, agribusiness, and personal formation. The three branches of BLI – Mary's School, Martha's Market, and Lazarus' Trees – are the Trainees' learning arenas. Caretaker Trainees learn by doing with the bulk of training happening in the field. This hands-on approach leads to questions, problem solving, and discoveries that couldn’t happen in the classroom alone.
What happens after the Caretaker Trainees graduate (into official Caretakers) is what makes BLI’s programming transformative. As a prerequisite to joining the program, each Caretaker Trainee commits to starting their own farm, often in their home village, and training those around them in Integral Ecology and regenerative agriculture. In this way, the Caretakers become an ever expanding network of thoughtful, creative farmers across Uganda.
Mary's School is a sustainable teaching farm which forms Caretakers in the practices, lifestyle, and spirituality of sustainable land care and food production. From the start, Trainees work and learn in the demonstration farm, rotating through various sections, including the livestock, soil health, herbal garden, and seed multiplication sections. Trainees also are provided with their own individual 10 meter x 10 meter farming plot to practice and produce what they please. There is also a in-classroom component.
Martha's Market serves as the business hub of BLI and enables the Trainees to develop and practice entrepreneurship skills. It currently consists of a savings and credit cooperative organization (SACCO) for Caretaker Trainees to invest and borrow money to help their farms. As it continues to develop, it will also consist of roadside stands, restaurants, and festivals that allow BLI Caretakers and Caretaker Trainees to sell their harvests.
Lazarus's Trees is a forest that serves as a catalyst for major community outreach in reforestation and community-based ecological education. Our tree nursery provides free saplings to the local community. Caretaker Trainees are regularly planting more trees in the forest (with the goal of reaching one million trees planted by 2050) and will continue to conduct outreach regarding Lazarus' Trees, in order to turn it into a major, regional ecotourism hub.
Meet Our Caretaker Trainees
In the early months of 2021, BLI welcomed its first cohort of Caretaker Trainees to campus. Those trainees have since graduated, and BLI has welcome new cohorts, one each year, to campus. We will welcome our fourth cohort to campus in early 2024. Click the link below to meet the current Caretaker Trainees residing on campus.
Caretaker Trainees in Action!
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