St. Jude Story
During the political upheaval of the late 1980’s, Josephine and her husband, John, were living in Kampala, working as teachers and running a mill that processed grains. They received word that food was scarce in the Masaka region and decided to travel to John’s parent’s home to deliver food from their mill. They left intending to return to Masaka the following day. Instead, war broke out. The bridge connecting Masaka to Kampala was burned leaving them stranded. Josephine refused to live under the same roof as her father-in-law, because as a daughter-in-law she would not be permitted to speak or interact with him. Instead, Josephine convinced John to build a simple shelter on a small plot of land John had been willed by a relative.
Slowly but surely John and Josephine built a life on this land. They were able to get a mattress from a relative and two piglets. From two pigs, they were able to save enough for a heifer. From a heifer they were able to diversify into poultry. About five years later, John and Josephine heard on the radio about an organic farming workshop. By this point, they had one bicycle, meaning one of them could go. Josephine went and attended a three hour workshop on composting. The teacher of the workshop, a woman from the UK, came around making house calls on the workshop attendees a few days later. When she came to John and Josephine’s she found Josephine teaching three neighbors how to compost. So inspired by Josephine’s teaching skills and drive to learn more, the instructor offered to sponsor Josephine for 2 years of further training in the U.K. John agreed once again, going against social norms in Uganda. After returning from the U.K., Josephine was able to greatly improve their own plot of land and open a plot to train anyone who might be interested in learning more about integrated organic agriculture.
The operation has expanded in scope, but not in size. The farm is now a registered non-governmental organization and works with thousands of Ugandans every year. When it came time to name the organization, Josephine and John chose to name the project after St. Jude. When they were first forced to move to the Masaka district, they prayed to St. Jude often because St. Jude is the saint of hopeless cases. The training was completely free for many years, but now costs a nominal fee of 500ush due to the high demand. John died in 2005 after suffering a stroke, but Josephine and the remainder of her family have carried on the work. Several of Josephine’s children are directly involved in the work. Jude works at the farm as he finishes his college education. Daniel has recently returned in the farm after spending four years in India receiving a graduate education in food science engineering. It truly is a family affair
St. Jude currently employs about 20 individuals. Most of the employees are related to the family, or live on or near farm property. Three to five Ugandan interns are taken on at a time. Boys from disadvantaged families in rural areas come and spend 6 months to a year learning better agricultural practice at St. Jude before returning to their families. St. Jude hosts trainings several times a weeks for groups of all sizes. While St. Jude still operates on the same 3.5 acres that John and Josephine started with over two decades ago, the operation has expanded to include a food processing center and an updated training center that has the capacity to house students who are present for multi-day trainings. St. Jude offers general trainings on organic farming and specific trainings on subjects such as mushroom growing, kitchen gardens and food processing.
St. Jude works with thousands of individuals. Many come and visit the center to receive trainings and tours. St. Jude has hosted many prominent individuals, including two visits from Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni. St. Jude also works in the community, at local schools, prisons and with community groups.