Bethany Land Institute provides Uganda's rural poor with an integrated education program in sustainable land use, economic entrepreneurship, and spiritual formation.
“There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm.” - Laudato Si', #111
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 future Caretaker commits to training 4 apprentices in the next 2 years on their own farms, and freely sharing their knowledge with everyone. In this way, the Caretakers become an ever expanding network of thoughtful, creative farmers.
Mary's School is a sustainable teaching farm which forms Caretakers in the practices, lifestyle, and spirituality of sustainable land care and food production. In the first year, the Caretaker Trainees work in the demonstration farm; in the second year they design, create, and tend their own individual farming plots. Once trained, Caretaker Trainees engage with the local community, sharing their knowledge with on-campus trainings. They will take these teachings back with them to their own farms.
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 16 Caretaker Trainees, the majority of them from central Uganda. In 2022, BLI welcomed its second cohort, pulling from even a wider geographic area in Uganda. Currently, both cohorts live together on campus, with Cohort 1 set to graduate into official Caretakers in 2023.
Ready to join BLI?