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Enhancing livelihoods

Enhancing Livelihoods

by Greening the communities

In Uganda, more than half of young people are unemployed and forest cover is said to decline by 100% in the next 40 years.

Tree Adoption Uganda has educated hundreds of young people, incubated numerous businesses and planted thousands of trees.

One of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards finalists is Charles Batte. When he left high school, like many other children from slums around Kampala, he was faced with Uganda’s 62% youth unemployment rate. He recalls the overwhelming hopelessness that many of his friends experienced. Faced with the social chaos of urbanisation, poor health facilities and limited job prospects, many developed issues with drugs.

“It was during that time that I started to develop a sense of social responsibility,” Batte recalls. “A desire to do something that would mean that other kids, who were brought up in my community, shouldn’t experience the same problems that I experienced.”

In 2008, shortly after leaving high school, Batte began working in a garage. Although his monthly salary was only $30 (R37.00), he was able to save enough over eight months to begin a small-scale farm.

Charles Batte is the founder of Tree Adoption Uganda, an early stage NGO whose mission is to offer a programme of business training to impoverished young people.

Seven years later, he now employs 50 people and has used the profits to fund a health centre and Tree Adoption Uganda (TAU) - a social enterprise fighting climate change and training young people to start their own businesses.

A changemaker, unable and unwilling to simply accept the prospects assigned to his generation of Ugandan youth, Batte sought to challenge and improve his community, his environment and himself. Batte founded TAU to give young people the opportunity to raise start-up capital for their own businesses, and he’s convinced that the model could be pivotal to supporting young people to find their way out of poverty across Africa.

The TAU model has already provided 150 young people with three years of training, mentoring and support, to aid them in creating their own businesses. In order to initiate and support these new businesses financially, TAU provides them with the opportunity to raise funds through the Tree Capital programme.

As part of the Tree Capital programme, fledgling entrepreneurs set up tree nurseries and sell their products to corporate social responsibility initiatives.

TAU is growing rapidly. In addition to the 150 young people who have completed the programme, it has also provided business training to 600 high school students and is currently trialling a “Household Empowerment Program” (HEP). The HEP will support and enable 150 women and 50 men to start their own businesses – extending beyond TAU’s original remit of underprivileged youth to low income families.

There is particular focus on women, which challenges the frequent marginalisation in Uganda and the routine exploitation of the female workforce as a source of temporary and disposable labour.

While the success of Batte’s project is partly based in its adaptability and flexibility, it is also evidently a product of Batte’s personal commitment.

Who knows what the next seven years might hold?

The Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards is an international awards programme delivered in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership and Ashoka, which rewards inspirational entrepreneurs aged 30 and under who have developed a product, service or application that helps make sustainable living commonplace.

(This is an edited extract from an article that originally appeared on virgin.com.)

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