ECHOcommunity Conversations

Hunger Food during a Pandemic

Some while ago we helped a few subsistence farmers in Uganda to buy some Jack beans via their phones. At harvest they had so many beans that they could sell some beans and start agroecology.
But then much of their other crops were destroyed by floods and locusts and just their Jack bean plants survived!
Then to the delight of many, it was discovered that they could prevent starvation by eating the Jack beans! A few weeks after sowing they now eat some leaves and later pods.
But the news has spread and desperate farmers - like the one from a CBO below - are asking us for help so they can also grow Jack beans and survive!
But our savings are limited and no NGO has yet shown any interest. except by using JB seeds as aid food.

Please make suggestions as to how these subsistence farmers can be helped!

Graham Knight

We are so excited to write to you and show our interest in jack bean community garden farming.
We are located in Easter region of Uganda Busia district boardering Kenya. This is 4 months since we have hard of Jack bean from one farmer Mr Njoroge Elias allied to community hands against poverty from kenya.
Therefore we are requesting for support and get the seeds from uganda seed bank in kampala.
As community service providers we look forward to seeing the project as kick point to alleviate hanger during this period of pandemic.
We hope to start small and we grow big since the seeds are not rambant in the area.
*We can receive funds on mobile money number +256782748084 *
Yours faithfully


Here are a few recommendations Graham:

  1. Don’t focus on food production but on income per hour unless you don’t have a market. They need to be strongly encouraged to keep records so they can divide net income (income-costs) divided by hours for each crop at point of the season since the market fluctuates seasonally. Then on top of that they can from the consulting and advice we and other local experts give them they can chose the very best methods and compare at least two of them for each crop and keep track of the difference in income per hour invested. Involved the kids or the youth of the community since they usually excel at math. They become managers and they need to get praised at every opportunity.
  2. Worldview is extremely important. Cultures that lie to themselves and justify excessive leisure time, immorality, claim that certain tasks are women’s work, need to sit with the elders under the tree, claim the dry season is a time to relax instead of find productive investments of time, claim it is too hot to work through the middle of the day, take huge amounts of time off to attend funerals or weddings or for other celebrations, spend money quick before friends and family ask for it instead of being able to say “here is the hoe” if you have a need and want to exchange work for money, continually make excuses for not doing something that would improve their bottom line, fearing witchcraft, taking revenge, being prideful and not listening to good advice, acting on selfish ambition instead of finding fulfillment being a blessing to others, making excuses for not sacrificing (delayed gratification).
  3. Eat the edible weeds (dry and preserve them for the whole year) and take the vegetables to the market (except the #2). Eat the outer leaves of the cabbage and the unmarketable leaves of the kale and like strategy to save for a better future. Buy the staple foods unless you are completely without any means or connection to anyone you can work with to grow vegetables near where you have irrigation water. Many farmers are losing money growing maize, generally it is not very profitable.
  4. To prevent starvation nutsedges “nuts” can be included in the diet, termites also. Colored sweet potatoes can really provide good nutrition and carbohydrates also and they can be sold.
  5. Use human urine applied in the rain for fertilizer instead of compost which is time-consuming to make and manure is often costly or time consuming also. Just add charcoal fines and any type of organic matter to the planting hole except green material which can instead go on the surface as mulch and the urine will more than supply nitrogen (and other nutrients) to the decomposition microbes and the plant both.
  6. Apply your bioengineering or agroecology skills to increase the plant density and light reception utilizing relay cropping, companion compensation, differential needs for light and space.
  7. Using ripping, planting stations or zia hole/trench, sunken gardens/raised beds depending on the season, mulching or RoundUp weed control where perennial legumes intercropping is too competitive and mulch is lacking, trench or deep hole planting techniques where appropriate.
  8. Teach importance of savings and emergency fund accounts. The Ugandans have the best climate in the world for production and people need to covert over to savings and emergency funds when they encounter floods. My ancestors, the Wyandotte Indians, are said to have two years of maize hanging in their longhouses and they tilled with sticks. Surely the Ugandans when they apply themselves, following the best advice can do it. I have taught farming in Uganda and traveled throughout and visited farms there. It can be done.
  9. Keep up the good work Graham promoting jack bean as an intercrop.

Global Warning: Stereotype Threat in the Global Church by Michael Badriaki

George Fox University, at

Graham please refer people to the excellent ECHO article that tells people how to soak the beans throw off water for 3 days and then the skins slip off and you can eat them. Eating pods and leaves of jack beans is not going to do much to prevent starvation since those are not significant sources of carbohydrates. In fact, due to antinutritional factors or chemicals in the foliage, it could potentially make matters worse which is what antinutritional factors do if you eat too much at once. Eating a little as a vegetable is fine and your body can process some amount of the chemicals in the foliage and pods with little problem but animals who eat them can potentially lose weight instead of gain weight and so it is not recommended as a feed for animals. That should cause us some concern if we are to promote the leaves and pods as famine food with the temptation to consume them in larger quantities. We really have to start thinking about promoting income per hour and high value agricultural systems that generate higher levels of income. Let’s talk about that. What is the highest income per hour opportunity that each farmer has in Uganda? Let’s teach them excellence in production of those items and in value added if there is an off season where the value added opportunity such as processing or drying can bring in income or lets teach them to prepare zai holes or vegetable transplants or fruit tree nurseries or timber tree seedlings for sale or planting in the rainy season from starting them in the dry season.