The main operational area of Evergreen Africa is in Uganda, to the east of Mbale town, close to the border with Kenya, on top and around the high slopes of Wanale Ridge. The ridge is one of the highest foothills of Mt. Elgon. It is a volcanic mountain which receives rain most of the year, and its soils are very fertile meaning that, at one time, almost any crop could be grown there.
Arabica coffee grew particularly well in this area and in the 1970s and 1980s it was one of the main Arabica coffee producing areas in Uganda. But the local farmers were not operating in the international market, which left them exposed to ‘middle men’ who were only interested in big profits for themselves resulting in very little – if any – benefit to the farmers themselves. In frustration the local farmers cut down coffee trees and replaced them with tomatoes and other quick gain crops which have not provided any significant income. One of them was Eucalyptus trees which, with their rapid growth and shallow roots, allowed a quick - although minimal - profit. Unfortunately the lack of deep roots and the constant felling of the Eucalyptus has resulted in serious soil erosion, such that virtually no useful crops can now take hold and grow.
This in turn has exposed the people in this community to high levels of poverty, which in many cases has resulted in destructive behaviour such as child commercial sex workers, early marriages, robbery and drugs, and an increase in the number of children living rough.
Situated as it is, high on a mountainous ridge, Wanale is difficult to reach and the population is spread thinly, in terrain which is difficult to negotiate. As a result, the major charities and NGOs, which prefer to operate in large conurbations where a large concentration of people can be helped in a small geographic area, have never visited or assisted Wanale. Indeed the only charitable organisation operating in Wanale is JENGA, which is Evergreen Africa’s preferred partner.
For all of these reasons, Evergreen Africa will concentrate its efforts on delivering education, health and income-generation projects on Wanale Ridge for the immediate future.