YICE: Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment

Regenerative Learning Center: YICE Uganda empowers people, conserves biodiversity, scales up sustainable solutions, and promotes collaboration.

When Noah Ssempijja founded YICE in 2012, he would not have dreamed of the successes the Youth Initiative for Community Empowerment celebrates today. The organisation implements practical regenerative farming activities in rural Uganda. The team has impacted over 1,500 smallholder farmers, raising their incomes by 20-46%. Thus, the jointly saved almost 12t of CO2 with regenerative practices. Their focus target group is last mile smallholder female and young farmers, including displaced people and host communities.

Uganda is home to 1.4 million refugees, settled in 14 refugee settlements across the country. Refugees and host communities conflict over farming land, forests, water, and other resources. It needs a regenerative approach: People can nourish themselves without depleting the soil and their environment. With an regenerative practices they can enrich the soils and their communities.

„A world where all vulnerable smallholder farmers and their families thrive in a sustainable way is what we believe in and work for at YICE Uganda.“

YICE’s vision

4 YICE team members in front of the newly built Regenerative Learning Center in Kassanda destrict, Uganda

YICE team members at the newly built Regenerative Learning Center in Kassanda destrict, Uganda in 2023.

About YICE

YICE Uganda promotes food security, regenerates biodiversity, achieves climate change adaptation, and improves incomes for smallholder farmers. The team supports community-led activities:

  • Practical farmer training in permaculture and regenerative farming
  • Trainings in water harvesting, production of organic fertilisers and pesticides
  • Mobile low cost drip irrigation kit
  • Mobilising beneficiaries into savings groups. 

The households reached by YICE achieved food security with at least two meals per day. They also increased incomes through sale of farm produces. In addition, they regenerated soils due to the use of organic fertilisers, water harvesting and improved farming practices. YICE raised over 80,000 USD in grants to support these activities.

As a result, YICE has received several awards including the Lush Spring Prize in 2019, the UNDP Climate Smart Challenge, East African Agribusiness Award in 2016, SEED Africa Entrepreneurs Award in 2016, the Tony Elumelu Fellowship Award in 2018 and was long shortlisted for the Ashden Awards 2021.

green Pumpkin in plot; regenerative farming and agroforestry; Uganda’s national food crop, matoke
Pumpkin for peace: In regenerative farming and agroforestry, vegetables are intercropped for more yield per surface, for example pumpkin and Uganda’s national food crop, matoke (green banana).
Moved by the idea of a world with less hunger and poverty YICE Uganda started operating in 2012 as a non-profit organisation. The NGO aims to make available sustainable and easy-to-implement agricultural practices that increase the productivity of smallholder farmers’ fields, thereby boosting their incomes while protecting the environment. To achieve these goals, YICE Uganda follows four principles:

The 4 Principles of YICE Uganda

1) Empower People

To enable local communities, especially women, young people and displaced people (IDPs and refugees) to take control of their own lives, YICE Uganda empowers them with theoretical and practical knowledge about permaculture, regenerative agricultural training and flexible financial services.

95 %
of beneficiaries having at least two nutritious meals in a day

Jenefer Lhugabwe, lead agronomist at YICE, is training displaced farmers and the YICE team in Nakivale refugee settlements for permaculture practices.
Jenefer Lhugabwe (lead agronomist at YICE) is training displaced farmers and the YICE team in Nakivale refugee settlements for permaculture practices.

2) Conserve Biodiversity

YICE values living in harmony with all creatures – animals, plants and even microorganisms in the soil. For agriculture, this means for them to work according to the principles of organic farming. By implementing permaculture in the agricultural practices, they aim to ensure that micronutrients are preserved and that the soil remains healthy.

46 %
increase in incomes by sale of vegetables

3) Scale Sustainable Solutions

YICE Uganda aims to develop solutions that have a lasting positive impact on the world. Practice knowledge like permaculture gardening are continuously trained in communities. Pilot projects like the Ecosan compost toilets are highlighting a circular, regenerative approach: Human waste can become valuable fertiliser for trees and plants. Building houses with used and sand-filled plastic bottles as bricks is less than half the cost of conventional bricks, using less sand and cement. However, the NGO does not want to keep the results to itself, but to spread them and share them with others.

beneficiaries reached
(of those refugees: 780)

Winnie Tushabe, YICE co-founder and implementation director in front of compost toilet Ecosan
Winnie Tushabe, YICE co-founder and implementation director, explains Ecosan: A compost toilet solution that can be scaled to produce fertilizer for regenerative farming.

4) Working with Others

YICE Uganda believes that they cannot accomplish big goals alone. Through sharing, partnerships and guidance from others they seek to achieve more. Supporters of YICE include RegenerosityRe-Alliance and Lush Fund.

11.8 +
tons of CO2e greenhouse gas emissions saved

naturally fenced green tree seedling on dry soil

A naturally fenced tree seedling next to the YICE demonstration garden at the police station in Nakivale refugee settlement, Uganda.

What does YICE currently need to scale and achieve the next goals?

Build a Regenerative Learning Center

In Kassandra district, Uganda, YICE wants to build a Regenerative Learning Center. Currently, the land is secured, the plan is approved and the construction started. 15,000 out of 40,000 US-Dollar are still needed in funding to construct 2 hostels (boy and girls), 1 office and 1 training hall. The buildings are constructed from used plastic bottles. Having trained permaculture and regenerative farming for over six years on a “train and move” arrangement, YICE now designed a base to offer more formal and certified trainings to smallholder farmers and young people. In addition, a lot of agricultural students in Uganda lack opportunities to carry out their practical placements. The permaculture learning center will offer an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge and learn from the garden and food forests. The ministry of education in Uganda will certify the trainings.
wall of a house built from plastic bottles
Regenerative Learning Center of YICE, built with plastic bottles.

RE-Farm: Regenerative Farming for Displaced Farmers

Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda is known as the oldest refugee settlement in Africa, hosting over 160,000 refugees. “The increased flow of refugees in Nakivale has put the already scarce resources under immense pressure. Refugees and host communities conflict over farming land, water, forests and other resources”, says Noah Ssempijja. Refugees lack of self-reliance and resilience.
Permaculture garden of a displaced family, trained by YICE’ “Re-Farm” project in Nakivale refugee settlement.
Permaculture garden of a displaced family, trained by YICE’ “Re-Farm” project in Nakivale refugee settlement.

Re-Farm is an integrated regenerative farming project targeting women and young refugee farmers in Uganda. The project aims to contribute to achieving healthier lives, regenerated soils and more resilient livelihoods for refugees and host communities”, explains the YICE team. The lack of food leaves vulnerable women, children and the elderly at risk of becoming malnourished. This can compromise their immune system and make them more susceptible to infections. Hence, the Re-Farm project wants to “build the capacity of refugees to produce organic nutritious food as well as increasing incomes for refugees and host communities through permaculture designs, food forests and access to finance”.

YICE team member in green permaculture garden in Uganda
Comfrey instead of conflict: Permaculture gardens in Uganda nourish host communities and refugees alike, building the foundation for peace between people and economic development of the families.
two people showing the fertile earth farmers can get from their compost toilet solution Ecosan
Building healthy soil for healthy lives: Aimable and Winnie show the fertile earth farmers can get from their compost toilet solution Ecosan in a settlement’s household.

The Mobile Drip Irrigation Kit

YICE Uganda manufactures the Mobile Drip Irrigation Kit locally in collaboration with and youths and women in local communities. They only use materials locally available in Uganda: a water tank (150 – 200 litres), drip irrigation pipes and a raised metal stand which increases water pressure. The kit’s production costs are around $67 and it is sold so smallholder farmers for $80 – $100.

YICE’s mobile drip irrigation in a permaculture garden
With YICE’s the mobile drip irrigation, farmers can focus water supply on plant beds that currently need watering most.
„We provide sustainable and actionable agricultural services to rural smallholder farmers that help conserve the environment, improve farm productivity and promote incomes; targeting women, youth and displaced people in Uganda.“
YICE’s mission

More than 40 YICE demonstration gardens are now showing local farmers, how they can grow vegetables without chemical pesticides and fertilisers. And there is more to come – with the support of everyone, who can!

ripe eggplant in refugee permaculture garden
Eggplant in refugee permaculture garden, providing healthy, nutritious food.

Pictures: taken for Generation Restoration on an educational trip with Regenerosity and Re-Alliance, 2023.

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