ECHOcommunity Conversations

Covid 19 and starvation

As you will probably know many SSA subsistence farmers are going hungry.
Their last harvest failed and they need suitable seeds to survive much longer.
Recently two Ugandan farmers accepted to visit Oxfam and MMC to plead for help.
Both were rejected! The reason?
They did not want to try and turn their farms into a business!
All they wanted was a few kilos of beans!

Here is what one wrote to me;
Dear Graham,
Am sorry, very sorry I don’t know why This organization dont want help hungry people.people are starving a lot even dying because no food to eat, then they tell me , they want verify this people my list then next year they help with farming tools and form groups of women for VSLAs .
that is very far many people next year will die. and mostly women all will die and children.
i don’t know what to do now and stressed am confused i dont know.
every where i pass peoples are crying.

Hi Graham,
That is very sad to hear. Are these farmers connected with an NGO? Can you tell me a bit more about them?
Donald Van Cooten
World Relief Australia

Dear Donald Van Cooten .

You can have no idea how glad I am to get your message!

I’ll give you a brief summary of the reason for my appeal and later, if you wish, explain how I came to be in contact with hundreds of SSA farmers.

I was trying to help these farmers with a new way of re-fertilizing their soil when bad weather struck. their crops followed, for many, by locust attacks.

Now they have the pandemic and lockdown!

I had been sending small amounts of money from the UK to a few small farmers via their phones so they can buy Jack Beans. Then the crisis arose!

Naturally, the news that someone was sending money spread quickly and now I get more and more requests every day! Hence my appeal.

Attempts to form a CBO are underway but, as you can imagine, it is not easy.

When I funded the two farmers to visit Oxfam and MMC I knew from previous efforts that they might well be rejected.

There is a mania for getting remote farmers to start growing crops for export!

Can you help in any way?


Graham Knight


Hi Graham,

I am an agriculturalist with many years of experience in SE Asia. Yes a legume cover crop can build the fertility of the soil as well as providing food. The low levels of ‘toxins’ in Jack beans are obviously keeping the pests away. Is there main need to get access to more seed? How far are you along in registering a CBO because having a local organisation would help to reach more people.

What do the locals think is the best way forward for the farmers?




Dr Donald Van Cooten Ph.D.
Chief Executive | World Relief Australia
T/F: 07 3036 6254


Hi Donald,

The main problem in forming a CBO is that farmers are spread across quite an area of Uganda.
I’m approaching one after the other until someone volunteers to organise this.

A list of CBOs, that are already being funded, has been sent to them today in the hope one of them will make contact and learn how this is done.



Hi Graham,

Are you able to send me the list of CBOs that are already being funded in Uganda?




Hi Donald,

The main website is at
On checking some of their information I note that there have been no new entries for 2 years.

Just like so many other charitable organisations!

The list of Ugandan CBOs is found at;

Do you know of any major charities still dealing with starvation in rural areas?


I am an agricultural missionary located in South Sudan but I have worked in Kenya and Uganda in trainings and am familiar with the situation there. It is really sad that the lockdown was so strictly enforced. South Sudan has had little lockdown and it appears that the South Sudan government has handled the Covid virus better than perhaps any government in the world in the context of having very few unhealthy older people and much more pressing disease issues here. The luck of doing little in this case–who would have known? There are a lot of potential strategies here. There are seeds in places that most people do not recognize. In the market there are seeds of all sorts in rotten vegetables that can be grown for income. Discarded onion bottoms can be replanted. If they are lacking water for irrigation sometimes a low lying area can be turned into raised beds for production with residual water. I would need to talk to all of these individuals to see what can be done to help so you can forward the emails to me and I will see what I can do. I know most of the agricultural missionaries there and can probably connect them to someone there. A lot of people lack the knowledge or discipline of doing something with what opportunities are at hand. There is even some food that can be foraged such as water lily bulbs and Canna lily bulbs (red flower spike) and most rizomous grasses (thick white underground roots) have starch content in the rizomome and that is a source of carbohydrates that is almost always overlooked. Monkeys and pigs relish these rizomes. I have tried a few and they don’t taste bad. Then there are other weeds that are edible but most don’t have carbohydrates but at least you can get some proteins from legume leaves. Here is a link to edible plants of different areas of Uganda but they are not much help unless they are carbohydrate sources: Roots are therefore best–edible greens are nearly everywhere… Also we need to connect people to churches and church pastos and lay leaders have to step up to the plate and connect people to those who are good stewards/managers of existing resources. Those people need to be trained how to help those who are in need by taking some of their leisure time to help them find more lucrative work to get out of poverty.
The lockdown is basically over so people can move and move they must.

Please get a hold of me by email at some point or copy your messages here to my email

I am a citicen from Yucatán Península in Mx. I read an articule when using a protein from lablad purpureus to prevent SARSCOV 2 and others 11 SARS.
I would appreciate some info about seed or beans.

Thank you…/pii/S2211124720310019

Dear Graham,
I’ve folllowed this thread with sad interest. I farm in north Cameroun, mostly the 4 basics that are all a person needs to live healthily - grain sorghum, black eyed peas (niebbe), peanuts and moringa leaves. I have also had a hard time with some NGO’s because they want agriculture and business. I want farming and feeding families. instead of groups that some require, in some cultures it is important to work with that one hungry farmer who has the gumptiion to try to find help.
Have the trees been destroyed entirely? In this area of Cameroun folks eat Baobab leaves, and the thorny Tanne tree leaves, These two trees often manage to survive droughts and locusts but not human firewood cutting. (baobab is NOT good firewood but it does burn).

Is SSA southern sudan or south sahara?

We pray wisdom for the senders and the receivers in desperate situations.

Marian Hungerford
Garoua, Cameroun

Dear Marian,
In Uganda farmers have shown that they can survive on just Jack beans.
Not ideal but they hacve resisted locust attacks and the leaves can be eaten.

What a pity that there is no information here on ECHO about dealing with locusts with suitable planting, chickens, etc since 1994!

Regarding Locusts…

I would also recommend the ongoing Conversations about locusts. Great notes from the Network!

Hope all is well. We world like to know how passion fruits are cared for. We have lost some of them