Simon Nambafu, an entrepreneur who runs Anhart’s Sustainable Villages Initiative, is building his experimental farm in central Uganda to address poverty and hunger

It’s been just over a month since Simon Nambafu last visited his farm, in a rural area 75 km north of Kampala, and he is shocked by what he finds. We’ve just walked over a stretch of rough terrain scattered with weeds, banana trees, and coffee plants, and arrived at a clearing. There is a two-storey tall tower of bricks. 

“Where we are standing, it was a huge anthill,” he explains. “You wouldn’t even bring a truck here.”

The tower is the work of one of his employees, Abudalah Mukiibi, who dug out soil from the anthill and moulded bricks. He fired the bricks in kilns and piled them on top, applying mud to the outside to trap in the heat and raise the temperature. Simon is impressed by the deep red colour of the bricks, the quality (anthill soil has fine particles and makes great bricks) and the overwhelming quantity. 

It’s more than enough for the guest house and chicken barn that Simon plans to build. For his first projects — an office and produce store at the property’s entrance, he purchased bricks. It was Abudalah that suggested they make their own. “When we began, I just wanted, say 1,000 bricks,” Simon says, recalling their conversation. “He says ‘No! Why so little?’” The tower has 20,000 bricks. He does a quick calculation of how much money Abudalah has saved him: more than $5,000.

Simon checks out the new home of ENP Uganda: an office and a store for selling the farm’s eggs.

The brickmaking project is in the creative spirit of the farm, called ENP Uganda (Enterprising Non-Profit). This is one of four such operations—the others in Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo—in Anhart’s Sustainable Villages Initiative. The program gives grants to community-based organizations, similar to local non-profits, to build small businesses, maternity clinics and schools. While the program operates with donations, it is designed to grow through local business development. ENP Uganda will generate profits to support the initiatives of grassroots organizations that work to alleviate hunger and poverty.

In 2018, Simon purchased this four-acre property along with a 30-acre field in partnership with Anhart. At the time it was a wilderness of creeping weeds and overgrown trees. His team has cleared the ground several times in preparation for soya beans and maize, and cultivated coffee plants, banana and pine trees. Soya beans are grown on the other field to feed the chickens, which have already generated enough revenue to buy 30 goats. A swampy area on the property is designated for a fish pond.

The farm is on track to start giving grants to local groups next year. Simon, who also built a school for girls in Tanzania and runs a safari and tourism enterprise, mentors leaders in the SVI program, and they visit his farm to learn agricultural and business skills.

As we drive on the bumpy rural road to the main highway to Kampala, Simon is thinking of the brickmaker. You can put all kinds of resources into a business, but ultimately it is the human ones that matter. “He is creative, he is committed, he works without supervision,” says Simon. “I am thinking of making him permanent.”

“With coffee it is like this. If you don’t prune it they become big wild trees. When we came in here, some were wild trees and not even producing coffee. So we brought in a professional and he said ‘ok remove that one, prune that one,’ and we did that and planted new ones. These are short, maturing, but at the same time high yield.”

Sustainable Villages Initiative is a program of Anhart Community Housing Society, which is a Canadian registered charity. To support social entrepreneurs building small business, maternity clinics and schools, please click here.