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This message is for everyone in the global EA community. 

For all the things that have been said about EA over the recent past -- from SBF to Wytham Abbey to my own article on EA in 2022 (I have a disclaimer about this at the very bottom of this message) --  I am asking the global EA community to help me make only one small stride on extreme poverty where I live, before 2024 ends.

Let's make up for all the things that have been said about EA (e.g. that EA doesn't support poor people-led grassroots orgs in the global south), by at least supporting only one poor people-led grassroots org in a part of the world where poverty is simply rife.

Be the reason people like us will actually see a better world, and the reason for people like us to actually see EA as being the true purveyor of the most good.



I come from a community that purely depends on agriculture for survival. For this reason, the things that count as producing "the most good" in the eyes of people like me, are things like reliable markets for our produce etc, as opposed to things like mosquito nets, deworming tablets etc that EA might view as creating the most good.


About me:

My name is Anthony, a farmer here in eastern Uganda. My own life hasn't been very easy. But looking at people's circumstances where I live, I decided not to sit back. 


Some clue:

Before COVID came, the World Bank said (in 2019), that 70% of the extreme poor in Sub Saharan Africa were packed in only 10 countries. Uganda was among those ten countries. Even among those 10 countries, according to the World Bank, Uganda still had the sluggishiest (i.e., the slowest) poverty reduction rate overall, as shown in this graph.


Even in Uganda:

Eastern Uganda, where I live, is Uganda's most impoverished, per all official reports. Our region Busoga meanwhile, which has long been the poorest in eastern Uganda, has since 2017 doubled as the poorest not just in eastern Uganda, but also in Uganda as a whole. 

In 2023, The Monitor, a Ugandan local daily, said: “Busoga is the sub-region with most people living in a complete poverty cycle followed by Bukedea and Karamoja. This is according to findings released in 2021/2022 by Mr Vincent Fred Senono, the Principal Statistician and head of analysis at the Uganda Bureau of Statistics".

Even in Busoga itself, our two neighboring districts Kamuli & Buyende, being the furthermost, remotest area of Busoga on the shores of Lake Kyoga, have the least economic activity, and are arguably Busoga’s most destitute.

In short, while Uganda as a country is the very last in Sub Saharan Africa in terms of poverty reduction, our region Busoga is the worst in Uganda, and even in Busoga, our 2 twin districts Kamuli & Buyende, being the remotest, are simply the most miserable.


Help us see some good before 2024 ends:

I am asking the global EA community to help the Uganda Community Farm (the UCF), a nonprofit social enterprise that was founded by me, to accomplish only two goals before 2024 ends. Please be the reason people like us will actually see a better world.


Goal one:   Size of Long Island.

That's, expanding the UCF's current white sorghum project to cover every village in Kamuli & Buyende — a 3,300 sq km region the size of Long Island (New York).

Since 2019, the UCF has trained many rural farmers in Kamuli & Buyende, in eastern Uganda, on white sorghum.  Our goal right now, is to expand this work and cover every village in Kamuli & Buyende, with white sorghum. Kamuli & Buyende are two neighboring districts in Busoga, Uganda's most impoverished region. 

To expand our sorghum project and cover every village in Kamuli & Buyende, all that we need is the postharvest handling and storage capability to handle our farmers’ produce on such a scale. Specifically, all that we are asking of you is to help us install a grain cleaning, drying and storage facility that shall both enhance our postharvest handling capacity, while linking our farmers’ produce with many reputable buyers.



This facility will not only help with postharvest handling, or in building market linkages, but also, it will even help in making our overall work with rural farmers self-sustaining.

Currently, the UCF provides all our farmers with free initial inputs (seed, tarpaulins, and others), because many can’t afford them. This facility will change this by making many big buyers to view us as strategic partners, enabling our farmers to get better prices. This will give these farmers the self-motivation to produce more, and in turn, the ability to use their own incomes to secure the needed inputs, making our work self-sustaining.

The presence of this facility will also in itself be an assurance to all local farmers of the presence of a ready market (including those farmers whom the UCF hasn’t been supporting directly), giving them the self-urge to secure the needed inputs on their own — catalyzing our goal of covering every village in Kamuli/Buyende with white sorghum.


Let's get this facility in place before 2024 ends:

This facility will be installed by British firm Alvan Blanch, at a total cost of GBP 339,403 (see detailed Quote). If you have the means to cover this entire cost on our behalf, so Alvan Blanch can simply come to Uganda and install this facility for us, you can do so by sending that money directly to Alvan Blanch. Our contact people at Alvan Blanch who put together the above Quote are Ivan ErimuJames Shaw and Christabel Blanch.

Other ways you can help are: creating a GoFundMe to help us raise part of the needed support, or by contributing via any of the methods on our Support Us page (including employee workplace giving). I will update this post once we raise the needed support. 

For detailed information about Size of Long Island; local people's circumstances in our region; our purpose of installing a grain facility, or why we are aiming to expand our white sorghum work to cover every village in the first place, please go to this page.


Goal two:   12 for 100% ADMIN self sufficiency. 

That’s, multiplying production on the UCF’s 12 acre premises using irrigation and a little bit of permaculture, to ensure that 100% of our administrative overheads are met by us.

The ability to expand our work with rural poor farmers, and to operate with continuity, depends on our ability to cover our administrative costs on a sustained basis. However, like any other small African nonprofit, the UCF simply has no reliable source of support.

Currently, nearly ALL the support that we use to run our work comes from small online donations. And as said earlier, most of this money is spent on inputs (seed, tarpaulins, pesticides, fertilizers, spray pumps etc) that the UCF provides to all our target farmers totally free, only as a hand-up. But the day-to-day costs of running this work are huge.

And now, with our new goal of expanding our sorghum project to cover every village in Kamuli & Buyende, a region the size of Long Island, our overheads will be even higher. Help us put the UCF’s 12-acre premises to maximum use, using a combination of irrigation and permaculture approaches, to ensure that 100% of our overheads are covered by the UCF itself, i.e., from the income on our 12 acres.



With 100% overhead self-sufficiency, we will be able to expand our work to new rural communities anytime, operate with continuity, and spend 100% of the money that we raise from our charitable supporters on inputs for those farmers who need a hand-up.

To achieve 100% overhead self-sufficiency, all we need is year-round production on our 12 acres using irrigation, and putting each available space on our 12 acres to use by integrating an array of crops and livestock using permaculture approaches — including a chicken forest. Needed support: $99,680. A detailed breakdown is available here.



My disclaimer on effective altruism:

Two years ago, I wrote a critique of EA. However, the reason I did so, isn't because I somehow dislike EA as a movement, no. As someone who lives in a very impoverished part of the world, I only wrote this because I believe, given EA's mission of doing the most good, EA was meant to be a very close, easily accessible ally of the world's poor -- and their local grassroots orgs -- since traditional philanthropy has long kept the world's poor on the sidelines. EA was supposed to be the world's poor's friend in need.

But, by asking all EAs to only support a few, all western charities that are recommended by GiveWell, The Life You can Save, Giving What We Can etc, it means, counting on EA's support to escape poverty, if you live in a place like ours, is simply impossible.

These are the only reasons I wrote a critique of EA, because, given EA's mission, I believe EA was supposed to be a very close ally of the world's poor and their local grassroots orgs (in a way traditional philanthropy has failed to). It isn't that I somehow dislike EA as a movement, no. To be honest, being more unreachable to the world's poor in a way that even transcends traditional philanthropy, isn't really the way to do good better.

Please give the world's poor a reason to contrast EA from everyone else in the global antipoverty space, and a reason for people like us to actually view EA as being the true purveyors of the most good. Again, at least help me accomplish the two goals mentioned above, before 2024 ends. 

Thank you.

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

I spent time digging into Uganda Community Farm’s plans last year, and ended up becoming a regular donor. From reading the write-ups and later asking Anthony about the sorghum training and grain-processing plant projects, I understood Anthony to be thoughtful and strategic about actually helping relieve poverty in the Kamuli & Buyende region.

Here are short explainers worth reading:

UCF focusses on training farmers and giving them the materials and tools needed to build up their own incomes, which is a much more targeted approach than just transferring money (though need to account for differences in local income levels too).

Personally, I think the EA community often focussed on measuring and mapping out consequences of global poverty interventions from afar and not as much on enabling charity entrepreneurs on the ground who have first-hand contextual knowledge on what’s holding their community back. My sense is that robust approaches will tend to consider both.

Strong upvote for a community member taking the time to evaluate an intervention presented by an "outsider," act on that evaluation, and share it with others. This adds a lot of value!

Thanks so much Remmelt for sharing this, and for your kind support to the UCF's work.

Thanks for sharing your views!

Have you written anything about your own take on the project, and how it compares to other donation options you were considering?

Good question!

I haven't written up a separate post on UCF and how it compares to other charity interventions.  I'd consider it, but I am already stretching myself with other work. 

I sense this post shouldn't be a community post. I know it's written to the EA community, but it's discussing a specific project. Feels like it shouldn't be relegated to the community section because of style.

I agree. Mods, is there a reason why I can't downvote the community tag on this post?

It was marked community by the author, we can remove the tag if he wants us to. I agree it's more a request for funding than something about the EA community.

AFAIK users can't remove the community tag from posts because of worries of misuse

Things that would make this post more compelling

1 - A more clear vision of the good this project would achieve if it gets the money, e.g. a cost-effectiveness analysis
2 - Why donors ought believe in the teams ability to execute
3 - A clearer vision for how the next few years would pan out if you got the money

Just to remind everyone, 339,000 GBP in malaria nets is estimated by GiveWell to save around 61 lives, mostly young children. Therefore a 25% difference in effectiveness either way is 15 lives. A cost-effectiveness analysis is definitely required given what is at stake, even if the complexities of this project mean it is not taken as final.

I don't like that this "converting to lives" thing is being done on this kind of post and seemingly nowhere else? 

Like, if we applied it to the wytham abbey purchase (I don't know if the 15 mill figure is accurate but whatever), that's 2700 people EA let die in order to purchase a manor house. Or what about the fund that gave $28000 dollars to print out harry potter fanfiction and give it to math olympians? That's 6 dead children sacrificed for printouts of freely available fiction!

I hope you see why I don't like this type of rhetoric. 

[Warning: long comment] Thanks for the pushback. I think converting to lives is good in other cases, especially if it's (a) useful for judging effectiveness, and (b) not used as a misleading rhetorical device [1].

The basic point I want to make is that all interventions have to pencil out. When donating, we are trying to maximize the good we create, not decide which superficially sounds better between the different strategies "empower beneficiaries to invest in their communities' infrastructure" and "use RCTs to choose lifesaving interventions" [2]. Lives are at stake, and I don't think those lives are less important simply because it's harder to put names and faces to the ~60 lives that were saved from a 0.04% chance of reduction of malaria deaths from a malaria net. Of course this applies equally to the Wytham Abbey purchase or anything else. But to point (a), we actually can compare the welfare gain from 61 lives saved to the economic security produced by this project. GiveWell has weights for doubling of consumption, partly based on interviews from Africans [3]. With other projects, this might be intractable due to entirely different cause areas or different moral preferences e.g. longtermism.

Imagine that we have a cost-effectiveness analysis made by a person with knowledge of local conditions and local moral preferences, domain expertise in East African agricultural markets, and the quantitative expertise of GiveWell analysts. If it comes out that one intervention is 5 or 10 times better than the other, as is very common, we need a very compelling reason why some consideration was missed to justify funding the other one. Compare this to our currently almost complete state of ignorance as to the value of building this plant, and you see the value of numbers. We might not get a CEA this good, but we should get close as we have all the pieces.

As to point (b), I am largely pro making these comparisons in most cases just to remind people of the value of our resources. But I feel like the Wytham and HPMOR cases, depending on phrasing, could exploit peoples' tendency to think of projects that save lives in emotionally salient ways as better than projects that save lives via less direct methods. It will always sound bad to say that intervention A is funded rather than saving X lives, and we should generally not shut down discussion of A by creating indignation. This kind of misleading rhetoric is not at all my intention; we all understand that allowing a large enough number of farmers access to sorghum markets can produce more welfare than preventing 61 deaths from malaria. We have the choice between saving 61 of someones' sons and daughters, and allowing X extremely poor people to perhaps buy metal roofs, send their children to school, and generally have some chance of escaping a millennia-long poverty trap. We should think: "I really want to know how large X is".

[1] and maybe (c) not bad for your mental health?

[2] Unless you believe empowering people is inherently better regardless of the relative cost, which I strongly disagree with.

[3] This is important-- Westerners may be biased here because we place different values on life compared to doubling consumption. But these interviews were from Kenya and Ghana, so maybe Uganda's weights slightly differ.

@Thomas Kwa in my eyes this is a hugely insightful (perhaps even spectacular) response, thanks for taking the time to think about it and write it. Perhaps consder writing a full post with these kinds of insights about benefits of CEAs.

That is If you can stomach spending more time away from your real job making sure that we still exist in 50 years to even talk about GHD ;).

I think that kind of thinking is appropriate in all these cases. The Whytham abbey purchase was an investment, but it is reasonable to compare the cost compared to other investments in these terms.

On the one hand, I am sympathetic to the differential scrutiny applied to different projects.

On the other hand, there are conceptual models in which this scrutiny makes sense. In one of them, money has been pre-committed by donors ex ante to cause areas. So money in the global health/development (GH/D) bucket (or maybe the neartermism bucket) is only competing for funding against projects in the same bucket (while the HPMOR and Wytham projects were in something like a "longtermism community growth" (LCG) bucket).

As a practical matter, this is approximately true -- in the context of an appeal on the Forum for funds, Anthony's project is very likely to receive funds that would counterfactually have gone to other GH/D work (and there's a good chance they would have counterfactually gone to GiveWell-style work). In contrast, the odds of someone like me giving money to HP fanfic distribution or Wytham are ~0.

Relatedly, one could see the GH/D and LCG fields as too methodologically different for this kind of comparison to be fitting. There's a certain appeal to that, since the numbers in LCG cost-effectiveness analyses tend to be much less grounded in data than GH/D numbers. And if you make the "number of future lives potentially saved" high enough, the LCG project will always win even if the "chance of preventing catastrophe" is miniscule indeed. Of course, one extension to this approach would be to argue that (e.g.) EA-style GH/D projects and non-EA-style GH/D projects are also too methodologically different for this kind of analysis -- and that would leave us with no common yardstick to evaluate projects in GH/D itself. 

I understand the sentiment but disagree. For global health interventions, cost effectiveness analysis is doable and adds value. Most CE orgs and other aspirational cost effective orgs like my own have done some form of CEA as part of making their case

For Whytham Abby and Harry potter fan fiction that may be more difficult to do.

Although I think there should be far more CEAs across all fields. Like for Harry Potter giveout I would have done something like (obviously this is full hack)...

DISCLAIMER: I'm not saying this actual BOTEC is meaningful, I'm just giving it as an in example that these kind of CEAs are possible.

650 Students given books, I assume that of these 100-300 of these students will read them, and 0-5 will change their life trajectory towards giving or altruism to a small degree counterfactually due to the book. 0 to 2 will give 50,000 to 500,000 more over their lifetime and 0 to 5 will change their life direction and save 1 more life than they would have otherwise.

So cost effectivenss might be between 0 x $50,000 = 0 raised + 0 x 1 = 0 lives saved  and 500,000 x 2 = 1,000,000 dollars and 1 x 5 lives saved.

So the book handout might be somewhere between completely useless and raising $1,000,000 extra dollars for EA causes and saving 5 lives (I don't stand by this analysis, it's just a brief hack)

So compared with saving 6 children with nets it might be comparable-ish based on my 2 minute math. This kind of math might also have been done and not shared in the grant review!

Again, a disclaimer that I'm not trying to justify the grant here, just mocking up the basic mechanics of the kind of botec you could do.

I'm fine with CEA's, my problem is that this seems to have been trotted out selectively in order to dismiss Anthony's proposal in particular, even though EA discusses and sometimes funds proposals that make the supposed "16 extra deaths" look like peanuts by comparison. 

The Wytham abbey project has been sold, so we know it's overall impact was to throw something like a million pounds down the drain (when you factor in stamp duty, etc). I think it's deeply unfair to frame Anthony's proposal as possibly letting 16 people die, while not doing the same for Wytham, which (in this framing) definitively let 180 people die. 

Also, the cost effectiveness analysis hasn't even been done yet! I find it kind of suspect that this is getting such a hostile response when EA insiders propose ineffective projects all the time with much less pushback. There are also differing factors here worth considering, like helping EA build links with grassroots orgs, indirectly spreading EA ideas to organisers in the third world, etc. EA spends plenty of money on "community building", would this not count? 

The HPMOR thing is a side note, but I vehemently disagree with your analysis, and the initial grant, because the counterfactual in this case is not doing nothing, it's sending them a link to the website where HPMOR is hosted for free for everybody, which costs nothing. Plus HPMOR only tangentially advocates for EA causes anyway! A huge number of people have read HPMOR, and only a small proportion have gone on to become EA members. Your numbers are absurdly overoptimistic. 

I also probably "disagree" with my analysis

Disclaimer I don't know much about the HPMOR thing - for example I didn't know it only tangentially plugged EA. I was just giving a 2 minute example of the kind of analysis you might do (obviously with better info then I had), and that it is possible to do that CEA. I wasn't trying to justify the grant at all my apologies if it came across that way!

Also I don't think this post is getting that hostile a response?

I think everyone agrees that it's harder to do cost effectiveness analysis for speculative projects than it is to do it for disease prevention, and that any longtermist cost/benefit analysis is going to have a lot more scope for debate on the numbers. But it is also harder to do cost effectiveness analysis in terms of lives saved for other GHD measures like rural poverty alleviation (though if this project affects malnutrition it might actually be amenable to GiveWell style analysis. )

I think ultimately if every marginal dollar proposed to be spent on GHD has to demonstrate reasoning as to why its as good as or better than AMF at the margin, it's only fair to demand similar transparency for community building and longtermist initiatives (with an acceptance of wider error bars).[1] Especially since there's a marked tendency for the former to be outsider organizations and the latter to be organizations within the EA network...

I make no comment either way about the particular viability of this project. And I'd actually be quite interested in your more detailed thoughts on it, as whilst you're not an expert on farming you clearly have in depth knowledge of Uganda.

  1. ^

    At the risk of boring on about Wytham, the bar seemed to be that it was net positive given lots of OpenPhil money was being directed to conference venues, not that it was better than buying a marginally inferior venue for a lot less money and donating the rest to initiatives that could save lives

This comment shows the challenge of the agreevote/disagreevote system:

  •  I agree with the direction toward showing more cost-effectiveness analyses in other fields versus reducing their importance in global health/development. 
  • I do not think the fanfic CEA is plausible, even at the 2-minute level, for some of the reasons identified by @titotal. That being said, the people funding fanfic distribution were probably interested in "people drawn to AI safety / x-risk mitigation" as their outcome variable / theory of impact, not donations made or individual lives saved. So the BOTEC is simultaneous too kind to and too demanding of that project.

Perhaps then in this case you just don't agree or disagree when it's 50/50? Looking at it now I also don't think my little CEA is plausible, I do think it perhaps got taken a bit too seriously though :D!

Yeah, I didn't vote either way, which is fine. I'm just confused about how to interpret the votes of those who did! Did they agree/disagree on both parts, or vote based on which part they thought was primary?

Thanks so much John. There is a longer post on our website that explains in more detail why we intend to expand our sorghum project to cover every village in Kamuli & Buyende; local people's current circumstances; how the intended grain cleaning, drying and storage facility will transform local people's livelihoods -- and the market linkages we will be able to create once this facility is installed -- from all local breweries in East Africa, to relief agencies like GOAL, UNHCR, the Red Cross, and the UN's World Food Program (who is currently the biggest buyer of grains in Africa). 

Please see that page on the UCF's website here.

Funders are likely to judge you based on whether you can clearly and concisely get these ideas across. Directing to a long blog post is unlikely to cut it. They'll probably not read it. I'd strongly suggest modifying the original post to include this information, or make it more apparent. There's 69420 people, just like you and me, vying for their attention at any given time; they aren't going to do much additional work to understand your application. If they can't find these answers very quickly, they'll click off and look elsewhere. 

For what it's worth, I'd love to have more people like you, a local person actually doing the work on the ground (pun intended), getting the funding they need to make their vision reality.

Thanks so much John. I am going to see how best I can modify the original post to include this message. I am also really thankful to know that you are happy to see people like me on the EA forum, and that you wish I would get the needed funding to make my vision a reality. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I joined this forum this month of April, and I would be very happy, too, to make friends here that would help me bring about some change in our region.

Hey Anthony, a quick question (I might comment more later)

"In short, while Uganda as a country is the very last in Sub Saharan Africa in terms of poverty reduction, our region Busoga is the worst in Uganda, and even in Busoga, our 2 twin districts Kamuli & Buyende, being the remotest, are simply the most miserable." 

Any poverty scale of Uganda will show the Karamoja region being the poorest - I'm not saying Kamuli and Buyende are doing well, but any scale will show the region of Karamoja being far poorer than Busoga, with at least 10 districts of Karamoja faring far worse, an often other Northern Districts faring worse than Kamuli and Buyende as well. Could you show me a poverty rating that rates Busoga as the poorest region or Kamuli and Buyende as among the poorest districts in Uganda?


Hi Nick, thanks so much for this. Until 2013, northern Uganda was the poorest region in Uganda, and until 2016, Karamoja, a sub-region of northern Uganda, was the poorest not just in northern Uganda, but in Uganda overall. A few details:

1) From 2013 to date, the poorest region in Uganda has been eastern Uganda. The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) says in this 2019 report that “the poorest region in the country had always been the northern region until 2013, but it is now the eastern region”.

A 2023 report by the World Bank also put the poverty rate in eastern Uganda and northern Uganda at 42% and 40% respectively.

2). However, even after eastern Uganda became the poorest in Uganda (in 2013), Karamoja (in northern Uganda) remained the poorest sub-region in Uganda overall, but only until ~2016. 

When Karamoja was still regarded the poorest sub-region in Uganda, its poverty rate was 74% (as a share of regional poverty, not nationally), and it still is 74% even today.

3). But the National Household Survey (by UBOS) both in 2016/2017 and 2021/2022 said Busoga has now overtaken Karamoja -- and is currently the poorest region in Uganda -- with a poverty rate of 14% (as a share of national poverty), and 74.8% within Busoga itself. 

4) Here is a 2019 publication by The Monitor referencing the UBOS 2016/2017 National Household Survey and placing Busoga's poverty rate at 74.8%.

5) The New Vision in 2022 also said Busoga is currently "the poorest region in the country".

6). The Monitor in 2021 said "the sub-region (Busoga) still contributes the largest percentage of poor people in the country".

7). In 2023, The Monitor, referencing UBOS' 2021/2022 National Household Survey, also wrote: “Busoga is the sub-region with most people living in a complete poverty cycle followed by Bukedea and Karamoja. This is according to findings released in 2021/2022 by Mr Vincent Fred Senono, the Principal Statistician and head of analysis at the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics“.

8). Incidentally, in UBOS's 2019/2020 National Household Survey, Karamoja DIDN'T even feature in the first three regions with the highest percentage of poor people nationally. The first was Busoga (14%) followed by Bukedi (10.4%) and Acholi (10.3%) See details on page 101 of UBOS's 2019 National Household Survey here (PDF).

Thanks Anthony.

I think the confusion is coming in terms of number of people vs. percentage. A couple of those news articles were confused at the meaning of some of the statistics. Uganda news sources are notoriously unreliable when reporting statistics. That watchdog article for example completely misrepresents the statistics.

The karamoja region has a low overall population but far higher extreme poverty rates than busogoa in all the surveys you shared. That would make most people consider it the poorest region. I don't think you'd find any serious statistician who would consider busoga to be "poorer" or to have a higher poverty rate than places like karamoja. I'm not sure if you've been to karamoja, but the free yours i have been there it really shocked me as the level of poverty really seems on a different level from other places.

The population of busoga is high, so it has the highest raw number of poor people in the country, while poverty rates as a percentage are lower than some other regions. I think that's what caused some of the confusion here.

This isn't too say busoga doesn't have a lot of poverty, it remains one of the poorest areas of the country and that point of yours still stands correct.

I think it's important though to be super careful how we frame our statistics so we don't exaggerate, which can help built trust in our argument in general.

Thank you Nick. 

You said: "I don't think you'd find any serious statistician who would consider busoga to be "poorer" or to have a higher poverty rate than places like karamoja".

Here is what you need to know: 

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) is Uganda government's official statistics agency. They are staffed with the best statisticians Uganda can find, and in publishing their reports, they do so in collaboration with local teams from agencies like Makerere University, the World Bank, UNDP, and all the global antipoverty agencies operating locally in Uganda.

Here is UBOS speaking live on NTV (one of Uganda's major TV channels) two years ago, pointing out clearly that "Busoga region has the highest levels of poverty." 

In that report, Karamoja and Bukedi are also mentioned towards the end of the video, but the report EXPLICITLY mentions that Busoga leads with 14.5%, followed by Bukedi, and Acholi.

There is totally no "confusion" between the actual numbers of people living in poverty in Busoga and Karamoja, versus the poverty rates (in %) of the two regions. The people publishing these reports can differentiate between the two.

As regards Uganda's lcoal media outlets being unable to interpret figures, what I can say is: The New Vision (Uganda government's official newspaper), and The Monitor, are Uganda's two biggest media outlets. Every single news story they have published in the last few years has EXPLICITLY said Busoga is currently the poorest region in Uganda, and their reports come from press conferences with the concerned people (e.g. UBOS), as seen in the above video. 

You also said "it's important though to be super careful how we frame our statistics so we don't exaggerate, which can help built trust in our argument in general." All I can say is: if anyone is exaggerating the poverty in Busoga (vs that in Karamoja), it isn't me.

You also asked if I have ever been to Karamoja. Here, I think you are trying to suggest that we put aside the officially reported figures and instead judge the two regions with our eyes/opinions.

In that case, I believe the reason you are saying Karamoja is far poorer than Busoga (when judged from our eyes, rather than with official stats) is because:

a) Busoga has a somewhat greener environment, while Karamoja is mostly semi-arid.

b) local people's culture, i.e., the fact that people in Karamoja, whether they are a bit better off or not, mostly sleep in sketchy huts because of their nomadic pastoralism (while people in Busoga have slightly better housing); 

c) the fact that people in Karamoja, whether they are a bit better off or not, mostly wear wrappers rather than full clothes, while people in Busoga wear full clothes even if they are very poor.

d) the fact that Busoga hosts Uganda's most popular tourist city, Jinja, which city only acts as the door to Busoga's crippling poverty -- the moment you dare to venture into Busoga's remote countryside, like my village of Namisita, where most households can't even afford soap and salt.

I really don't know what you are basing on to underestimate the conditions local people here are living in. And I know you are a New Zealander (or so) who has been in northern Uganda for a few years. But Nick, leave local circumstances to those of us who have a firsthand grasp of them.

Hey Anthony

I've changed my mind a bit. I think you're right you aren't trying to exaggerate the stats - UBOS is the problem here more than the media or anyone else. I'm now going to have to consider UBOS statisticians non-serious, which is quite problematic (I might even write a post about this given how terrible their work has been here). Thanks for sending me that video - others should watch it too so you can see what I mean. It blew my mind that the "statisticians" who as you say should be the best in the country, appear not to understand their own survey.

They srart with this bizarre statement

"The proportion of people who are poor increases from 8 million to 8.3 million people"

Then it gets worse from there...

UBOS makes at least 3 completely false statements in that video, compared to their official report.

To reiterate one more time, the UBOS report states extreme poverty rates in one part of the report in 2019/2020 at 66.7% in Acholi, 65.7% in Karamoja, and 29.4% in Busoga. Because the population in Busoga is so much higher than either Acholi or Karamoja (more than double the population), the Busoga region has the highest total number of extremely poor people of any region in the country, which is where the confusion comes in. So Busoga region itself is less poor than other parts of Uganda, even though it has a higher total number of poor people - not the easiest thing to understand.


I would love to have a chat to discuss this more if you have time today or anther day, I'll send you a message with my phone number.


I just want to chime in to say how lovely it is to see a disagreement on the internet that doesn't degrade. It was very nice to read each of you describe what you believe to be true, cite sources, explain reasoning without exaggerations or ad hominems, consider context and hypothesize about possibilities, and move a step closer to 'truth.' Bravo.

Thanks too Joseph, for appreciating this. Anthony.

This project sounds intriguing, though I haven't yet read about its cost effectiveness on the website. As a side note, if they don't already, I think it would be useful for Charity Entrepreneurship or other non-profit incubators to make a concerted effort to reach out to people like you in the global south.

Thanks so much for your encouragement.

Antony, If you are looking for early stage funding and support for your charity or a project if it you could consider applying to the charity entrepreneurship program when applications re-open in a few months. There is an option to apply with your own idea.

See https://www.charityentrepreneurship.com/

(Disclaimer commenting in a personal capacity)

Thanks so much for sharing this. I will keep an eye at CE, and their upcoming application cycle.

A lot of people here donate to givedirectly.org, with the philosophy that we should let the worlds poorest decide where money needs to be spent to improve their lives. Grassroots projects like this seem like a natural extension of this, where a community as a whole decides where they need resources in order to uplift everyone. I'm no GHD expert, and I would encourage an in depth analysis, but it's at least plausible that this could be more effective than givedirectly, as this project  is too large to be paid for under that model.  

Grassroots organising seems like a good idea in general: by cutting most of the westerners out of the process, the money goes into the third world economy. We could also see knock-on effects: maybe altruistic philosophy becomes more popular throughout Uganda, and they are more receptive to, say, animal rights later on in their development.  

I think more estimates around cost effectiveness is a good idea, but EA had funded far more speculative and dubious projects in recent memory. I would encourage EA funders to give the proposal a fair shot. 

Grassroots projects like this seem like a natural extension of this, where a community as a whole decides where they need resources in order to uplift everyone. 

This makes sense, but I don't think it gets us very far on the question of whether to fund this particular project. 

There are many grassroots projects in developing countries, and it is often difficult for a Westerner to evaluate the effectiveness of those projects (at least where their theory of impact is more complex than bednets --> less malaria). It's even difficult for us to assess the relative extent of informed public support for a grassroots project from afar. Those issues are less formidable with GiveDirectly; if the main theory of impact is to benefit Person X, we have both theoretical reasons and experiential evidence that giving Person X money is a good way to accomplish that. That doesn't necessarily scale well to supporting grassroots work.

That being said, I can see a decent theoretical argument for (as it were) GiveDirectly for Communities -- give a community a certain amount of money, and let the community decide what needs that money should go to. I can see a number of practical problems with that, though. I think your average Westerner is going to be considerably worse at evaluating projects valued at ~50 times GDP per capita than in making their own consumption/investment decisions, and I suspect that may be true in many places. The quality of many decisions made by various democratic political systems also gives me pause. So I think there would need to be evaluation and selection of proposals rather than the total deference of the GiveDirectly approach.

Ideally, we would have evaluation organizations that were more local to the populations that were being served, rather than having the big GH/D evaluator be in the United States. That should give us evaluators with more local knowledge, and (to be honest) those with a cost structure and business processes that would make evaluating five-to-six figure projects more feasible.

I think the combination of bottom-up approach of local communities proposing their own improvements with EA-style rigorous quantitative evaluation (which, like you say would be best undertaken by evaluators based in similar LMICs) is potentially really powerful, and I'm not sure the extent to which it's already been tried in mainstream aid. 

Or possibly even better from a funding perspective, turn that round and have an organization that helps local social entrepreneurs secure institutional funding for their projects (a little bit like Charity Entrepreneurship). Existing aid spend is enormous, but I don't think it's easy for people like Antony to access.

I also think there's the potential for interesting online interaction between the different local social entrepreneurs (especially those who have already part-completed projects with stories to share), putative future donors and other generally interested Westerners who might bring other perspectives to the table.  I'm not sure to what extent and where that happens at the moment.

After reading a bit more, one potential issue here is that most of the white sorghum and cassava processed by this project (Anthony can correct me if I'm wrong) will be used for making alcohol, which could cause negative externalities through increasing alcohol production or reducing price, although this is hard to measure.

There could also be more local brewing as well using these crops.

Anthony what do you think about this potential negative to selling sorghum to the alcohol companies?

Hi Nick, I had no access to the internet the whole of yesterday, and it’s why I am only writing you back now. This is a good question that I think many people would be very curious to know. So, I am instead putting my answer in a separate post. I am going to share it with you once it’s ready. Thanks so much.

This post makes some interesting points about EA's approach to philanthropy, but I certainly have mixed feelings on "please support at least one charity run by someone in the global south that just so happens to be my own".

Thank so much Chris. The heading, though, clearly said "Help me make some small stride on extreme poverty where I live"

Let me just say this: if you visited the project office of the UCF (in Kamuli), and see for yourself that even the people working at the UCF are also living in the exact same conditions of abject poverty that all other people in our region (whom we are aiming to move from poverty) are living in, you'd see why it isn't wrong at all to seek support for the work we are doing on extreme poverty.

We are simply trying to build a self-sustainable path from poverty, but even myself as UCF founder, I was still going hungry (without any food) until only recently. In Namisita where the UCF is based, every local household in the immediate neighborhood, and every household across our region, lives in chronic poverty. I am not sure if it would have made sense for me to write this post and ask the world to support other people elsewhere instead?

Thanks for your post. I’m not exactly part of the EA “community” - I’ve never met someone who was an EA in person, but, at least from people’s online presences, it seems like EA leaders are generally thoughtful, earnest, and open to feedback. I hope your post will be some feedback they’ll consider.

From what I’ve seen of this community so far, I suspect that some EA’s reluctance to support your work could stem from a couple of things:

  1. People don’t like to feel “duped” - I’m not saying you’re trying to pull one over on them, but there’s “safety” in just going with what GiveWell or some other EA vetting organization recommends. I know I wouldn’t feel good if I thought my donations were going to support corruption. So maybe think about how you could better establish credibility - perhaps ask some EA’s if this is a factor and what you could do to allay their fears (honestly, this may be tough, since the prevalence of online scams has made many people pretty skeptical of anything they only interact with online, although Remmelt’s comment seems like an example of something that could give one more confidence).
  2. People don’t want to be wrong - this is related to #1, but instead of worrying about whether your organization is legit or not, it’s a question of if it’s the “best” thing for them to support it over other organizations. Again, it probably feels easier to trust that EA vetters know what they’re doing in their analyses of how to do the most good. I like a lot of what I’ve seen of GiveWell, the EA organization I’ve most looked into, but I personally feel they’re missing a couple of big chunks of the puzzle (and the real world is a hard puzzle, in my opinion). One big chunk is something your organization might bring to the table, but which can be difficult to quantify, namely, promoting personal responsibility and, in turn, self-esteem building due to the taking of more responsibility for oneself. I’m not sure what else you could do to help people see that your organization could be “better than its EA numbers” due to this effect, but from my end, I’ll keep trying to convince people in this community (as here) that it’s a real and significant effect, and hopefully it’ll start to catch on at some point (or someone will convince me I’m wrong, which is always a possibility). 


Note that these are just my own “outsider” impressions of EA, and I could very well be mistaken, but I hope this comment might be helpful to both you and EA’s in your efforts to do more good.

Hi Sean, thanks so much for this really insightful message, and the things you have pointed out.

I just want to note two things:

1). Although I am now asking EA to help the UCF raise support, my original EA critique (which I made two years ago) was aimed at getting EA to change the way they work with the extreme poor and their local grassroots orgs in the global south as a whole, not just my own organization (the UCF).

2). As regards my own work at the UCF, a few people from The Life You Can Save, one of the EA charity evaluators, physically visited us in Namisita (Kamuli) in 2023, and even toured some sorghum fields of the local farmers that the UCF works with.

I believe their motivation to visit us was my EA critique, because their proposal to visit didn't come from me. It came from them. Here are a few photos from that visit (I am the one putting on a black cap in those photos):





Dear Anthony, I really hope UCF is successful. I think it deserves significantly more attention from effective altruists than it has received so far. I just donated on your donorbox link. One thing I'm curious about: what's your reason for choosing Alvan Blanch for the grain-processing system? I don't know anything about agro plants, but I would have guessed a UK company would be expensive compared to e.g. an Indian or Chinese one.

For EAs reading: I'd love to see a cost-effectiveness analysis of UCF, and would be happy to fund one. Please contact me here or at macsweenroddy AT gmail.com if you'd be interested in doing one.

Dear Roddy, thanks so much for this message. Although it has taken me long to write you back, I am really very thankful for your kind contribution to the UCF, and for the encouraging words you left on this post. I have also mentioned you in my new post that was published yesterday.

As for why we chose to have Alvan Blanch to install our intended grain facility, rather than say an Indian or Chinese firm, the reason is because most agro-processing plants that I know here in Uganda were installed by European companies. Those which have been installed by Indian and Chinese firms are those that mostly belong to Asian investors operating in Uganda/Africa.

But those owned by Ugandans/Africans, often use European firms. These include:

1) GrainPulse in Mukono (near Kampala). Their facility was installed by Alvan Blanch.

2). AgroWays, which has several plants in various parts of Uganda, some of their grain facilities and silos were installed by Cimbria, a Danish firm, and some by Alvan Blanch.

3). Acila Enterprises in Soroti (Uganda), their grain cleaning, drying and storage facility was installed by Alvan Blanch.

4) Totco Grain & Seeds, in Lira (northern Uganda), their grain facility was installed by Cimbria.

Anthony, you may have negative feelings about being held accountable to the moral standards of privileged First World vegans. Nevertheless, as a committed vegan and animal rights advocate I do find that financially supporting the use of livestock raises ethical complications for me, which is regrettable. Is it absolutely essential for you to incorporate animal agriculture into your operation? 

Hi Rupert, thanks so much for this. 

The reason we want to incorporate animal agriculture in our operations, is simply to find a way of covering our overheads in a self-sufficient way. Because short of this, it would be very hard for us to meet our operating costs especially with our new goal of expanding our sorghum work. 

But, as a person, I am really very conscious about animals rights, and I am very conscious about organic/permaculture farming systems, and it is why, on our page "12% for 100% ADMIN self-sufficiency"... I even pointed out that: "unlike those chicken that are kept under factory farming systems (like battery cage), free-range chicken are very cheap to feed, and to take care of."

On that page, you can see that my goal is to try and make our 12-acres as natural as possible, including the growing of crops like red pepper for use in making organic pesticides.

If we manage to raise the needed $99,680 for transforming our 12 acres, I would love to invite you to visit the UCF, when we have initiated our intended chicken forest too, just to share ideas. In fact, we really need people's ideas, and we need friends from anywhere in the world who can visit us anytime, on this journey.

Executive summary: The author, a farmer from eastern Uganda, asks the effective altruism (EA) community to support the Uganda Community Farm (UCF) in expanding a white sorghum project and achieving administrative self-sufficiency by the end of 2024, in order to demonstrate EA's commitment to directly supporting grassroots organizations in impoverished regions.

Key points:

  1. The author lives in Kamuli and Buyende, the poorest districts in Uganda's most impoverished region, Busoga.
  2. The UCF aims to expand its white sorghum project to every village in Kamuli and Buyende by installing a grain cleaning, drying, and storage facility, which will enhance postharvest handling capacity and link farmers to reputable buyers.
  3. The UCF also seeks to achieve 100% administrative self-sufficiency by maximizing production on its 12-acre premises using irrigation and permaculture approaches.
  4. The author believes that EA should directly support poor people-led grassroots organizations in the global south, as traditional philanthropy has kept the world's poor on the sidelines.
  5. The author argues that global poverty can only be ended by supporting the extreme poor and their local grassroots organizations, rather than relying on a single approach like unconditional cash transfers.



This comment was auto-generated by the EA Forum Team. Feel free to point out issues with this summary by replying to the comment, and contact us if you have feedback.

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