Establishing a self-sufficiency vocational farm school for war affected children and youth in northern uganda

Posted Nov 12, 2014 by OkwenyGeorgeOngom

1. Organization: A River Blue. 

A River Blue is a community base not-for-profit organization, and a registered NGO in Uganda, working in Alebtong district in northern Uganda.

A River Blue is run by a small, active, committed Board of Directors. Operations are conducted out of a community based office in Alebtong staffed by Ugandans and external communications support is provided by a small US-based team headed by Prof. Erik Ehn, Brown University and Gerard Stropnicky based in Danville, PA.

Our fiscal sponsor is, Together We Can ( ), based in State of North Carolina, USA. 

2. Executive director: Okweny George Ongom 

Okweny George Ongom’s prior work experience and his enthusiasm for the continued recovery in northern Uganda make him a valuable team member.

Mr. Okweny joined A River Blue when the US founder Chandler Griffin visited Uganda for the second time in January 2008.

In his most recent position of an Executive Director, he created an overall partnership strategy to address the needs and rights of children and youth in relation to education; HIV/AIDS; livelihood; protection; health and development; and child participation.

He helped build ARB’s capacity for efficient and effective program delivery and routinely collaborated with government departments and local officials.

He has extensive experience in organizational development, peace building, human resource and financial management, and participatory project planning. 

Ongom is a retired Forest Officer and has undergone various additional trainings including in strategic planning, financial administration, advocacy and youth counseling. 

3. Location

Aloi Subcounty, Alebtong District, Northern Uganda, East Africa. 

4. Financially self-sufficient farm school 

Although Uganda government offers free universal primary/secondary education at a few state owned schools, yet, schools in Uganda still face further challenges in terms of low internal efficiency and the unequal quality of education.

Most of the youth and young people leave schools when they aren’t properly prepared to face the world of work, leading to high rate of unemployment and underemployment, due to poor quality skills training and lack of entrepreneurship exposure. 

Financially self-sufficient vocational school offers a solid education system focusing on strong agricultural practices, business skills and entrepreneurship.

Its mission is “to impart practical and entrepreneurial education to poor farmers in the war ravaged northern Uganda to empower them to successfully recover economically”. 

The proposed model is different from the conventional BTVET system in Uganda in that we have found a way to combine quality, relevance, and affordability.

This model promise to offer high quality agricultural education at the secondary level yet does not require these poor vulnerable children and youth to pay any more than a token tuition fee.

Other approaches either recognize the importance of quality but do not have to pay for it, or have found ways for the poor to pay for their education but cannot deliver quality. 

“This model is not a demonstration centre, and neither an infrastructure development project “but a collection of small enterprises which serve as models”. When a young person leaves here, he/she is capable of managing all aspects of Agriclinics & Agribusinesses, not just a production unit.” 

The centre’s model emphasizes the development of cultural, technical and organizational skills to empower individuals and communities.

It promotes the linking of agriculture to industry and services and the development of green rural cities. This is a replication of Songhai model which started in Benin and being replicated throughout West Africa. 

5. Business model 

The model is intended to change these war affected children and youth hailing for peasant poor families into rural entrepreneurs. There is a general assumption in this community that the food chain starts with the farmer who knows how to farm, but the reality isn’t the case.

The Agricultural BTVET in Uganda today is set to deliver people a piece of paper that shows their academic prowess, but students aren’t really learning how be enterprising farmers, and this is the missing link to help peasant farmers changing as entrepreneurs. 

The vocational farm school is designed to be this missing link. It is proposed to be a boarding school for rural children and youth, low-income students that operates as an independent entity under A River Blue non-profit umbrella.

It will offer 20 full and part-time employment staff, including administrators, teachers, cooks, and other support personnel. Sometimes interns and volunteer experts from around the world will be invited to support the staff, offering additional training and services. 

Besides maintaining self-sufficiency, the school has two other express missions. 
• To give students agricultural skills so that they can become successful agricultural extension agents, to start their own agribusiness enterprises, or to teach responsible agricultural methods in their own communities. 
• To promote and replicate their model of a self-sufficient agricultural school elsewhere in Uganda and globally. 

6. Establishment of a river blue production wing:

The production wing will be an integral part of learning environment for the institute students and secondly to generate revenues to help defray the expenses of operating the institute, and to provide substantial and continuing linkages between the institute and the area business communities and is consistent with the ARB’s goal of “creating a model financially self-sufficient agriculture based vocational training centre through a public private partnership approach”. 

To achieve self-sufficiency, the school is set to develop several sub-enterprises, including poultry, fish-farms, piggery, dairy, grain milling, goat keeping, green house vegetable production, tree nursery, bee keeping, hotel and restaurant, tourisms, etc. each of these is designed to provide experimental education for students and to generate additional revenues for the school. 

7. Technical wing

The technical wing is proposed to offer school-based enterprises in career and technical education programs. The quality of instruction in many career and technical education (CTE) programs is enhanced by providing students with work experience in school-based enterprises.

School-based enterprises prepare students to transition from school to work or college. This educational tool provides participants work experience, and opportunities to build business operation, management and leadership skills. 

These real-world applications significantly enhance the curriculum by encouraging students to make sound business decisions. As entrepreneurs, students learn by applying classroom instruction while exhibiting problem solving and analytic thinking skills. 

In providing these practical experiences for the students, jobs are often performed for local school systems, school personnel, other students and the general public.

Some examples are the repair and maintenance of automobiles, the construction of houses and storage sheds, the offering of personal services in cosmetology programs, the selling of food product prepared by ProStart programs and the operation of a school store for students, faculty, and the community. 

This wing require construction of administration offices, classrooms, student dormitories, VIP Guesthouse, catering area, toilets, staff houses, roads and recreation amenities, fencing, etc. 

I believe this explanation will send a message to your friend and could potentially leverage further support from her. 


Okweny George Ongom | Executive Director| A River Blue 
Tel: +256 772 313338 | +256 755 601210 | +256 713 313338 
Email: | 

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