ESN Bigger Meals Ltd in partnership with One World One People

2021 Progress Report

"Unleashing of energy and creativity in each human being is the answer to poverty." — Professor Muhammad Yunus.

We already knew we had a reliable way to help impoverished families in rural Uganda unleash their talents and abilities to pull themselves out of extreme poverty. But could we make it self-sufficient so it wouldn't need any outside funding to survive once it was fully up and running? So before COVID-19, we conducted a beautiful experiment to find out. (By impoverished, we mean families who live on $1 to $5 US a day who often only eat one meal a day. Families who can’t afford to send their children to school. They can’t afford hospitals or even basic medicines and if any of them get really sick or injured, they normally just suffer and sometimes die.)

In this new century, millions of people in the world’s poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.’ — Nelson Mandela


Some of our borrowers' children. From the left to right, Christopher, Angel and Bridget. ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

Inspired by the Grameen Bank, which has helped millions of people pull themselves out of poverty, we gave 45 impoverished people (mostly women) one day’s worth of free training on how to successfully manage and run their own business. Then once they had chosen a business idea they could earn a steady and reliable income from, we gave them a micro-credit loan for 100,000 UGX (US$27) and free ongoing support whenever they needed it. We had faith that they would repay their loan because we knew that the more impoverished people are, the more desperate they are to get themselves and their families out of poverty. And we knew that if they were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to do just that, they would take it with both hands and work hard.

"There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.' — Martin Luther King Jr.

Concy and her daughter

Concy and her daughter.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

We made 92 loans worth UGX 9,700,000 (US$2,587) and some borrowers received further loans of 200,000 and 300,000 UGX because they repaid their earlier loans swiftly with their hard work and business success. We charged a tiny amount of interest on the loans in the hope of slowly expanding the amount of money we had to lend so we could in turn help more impoverished families.

After 7 months our borrower repayment rate stood at an outstanding 93.06%. Sadly some borrowers simply could not repay their debts. One loan had to be written off when a female borrower’s husband took the loan money off her and beat her very badly. He then apparently wasted the money on drinking. Two other borrowers suffered serious health problems and sadly passed away. Another disappeared after receiving her loan money.

‘Poverty is the worst form of violence.’ — Mahatma Gandhi

Did our experiment succeed in helping impoverished people pull themselves and their families out of poverty?

After seven months we observed:

Significant increases in borrower household income.

Many borrowers were able to afford more food, and were able to prepare two to three meals a day.

Many were able to meet medical bills for common sicknesses like malaria, etc.

Some were able to buy books for their children and send them to school.

We had encouraged borrowers to form groups and this led to a greater community spirit as members supported and helped each other in times of difficulty and trouble.
Margaret selling her plastic shoes.

Margaret selling her plastic shoes.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

Most of the businesses started were agricultural as that’s the main activity in the rural community we conducted the experiment in. Other businesses included:

Some landless borrowers hiring land to grow crops.

Some borrowers becoming market vendors and buying fish (small fish locally known as lacede in the local Acoli language) in bulk at wholesale prices and reselling them at retail prices.

Some borrowers buying and selling plastic shoes along the roadside.
Tailoring and making clothes.

Youths baking bricks and selling them to raise money for their school fees.

Creating simple gardens that don’t require much space and using kitchen waste as fertiliser to grow extra vegetables: tomatoes, cabbages, onions, beans and greens for sale.
Some landless borrowers were able to hire land.

Some landless borrowers were able to hire land. ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

What is our goal and how do we decide if a family has successfully pulled themselves out of poverty?

The family has no trouble being able to prepare three meals a day.

They have access to safe drinking water from rainwater tanks or rivers and wells if they have the equipment to pasteurize water safely.
The family has adequate clothing and mosquito nets.

The family has a safe and stable home with a roof over their heads and everyone sleeps on beds and not on the floor.

All the school-aged children are able to go to school.

The family is able to save and there are sufficient savings to take care of any health needs they may have.

Florence with her solar panel.

Florence, one of our most successful borrowers with her solar panel.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd


2021 COVID update

Recently we followed up to try to see if our efforts had really succeeded in helping families pull themselves out of poverty in the long term despite the effects of COVID-19 enforced lockdowns. Here is what we have learned:

Out of 8 homes visited so far, 6 of the beneficiaries said they were able to have a minimum of 2 meals a day. One household said they were having three meals; lunch, breakfast and supper. One home still lived on a meal a day taken at about 5 pm daily.

There was a noticeable acquisition of basic items of survival like sacks for harvested crops, hoes, jerry cans for carrying and storing water, blankets and walking sandals. Some had built latrines. One home was able to acquire a second-hand bicycle as a means of transport. They could not afford a new one. They use it for collecting water from a nearby stream and travelling to distant places and hospitals. They also had a radio and mobile phone for listening to news and communication. Washing soaps and cans were visible in their compound as a safety measure against COVID -19. Another very hardworking borrower had even bought themselves a solar panel.
Aloi with the bike she bought.

Aloi with the bike she bought.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

One woman had an additional source of income. She served porridge in the morning and evening to motorcyclists who earn a living through motorbike taxi services.

There was no reported increase in cash savings. Medical bills apparently consumed most of the savings.

Some school-age girls were still not able to go to school because their parents couldn’t yet afford to send them.

Akello selling porridge to motorcyclists.

Akello selling porridge to motorcyclists.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

Challenges ahead

There were plenty of mistakes we made that we have learned from and there are also many challenges we still need to carefully address and overcome.


We need to carefully avoid raising expectations for loans beyond the money available for us to lend. Once during the project, one of our volunteers took to lending out her own money to avoid shattering the hopes of desperate people when we ran out of money because of high demand.

We were far too reliant on our kind-hearted volunteers who also have other jobs they needed to do to feed their families. We need to pay for full-time staff who we can invest in through training so they can, in turn, deliver quality service to our beneficiaries.
Some more of our borrowers' children.

Some more of our borrowers' children.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

In some families, we learned that loan disbursements to women had created resentment and stigma. Some men even ordered their wives to give them a portion of the money they made from their businesses less they leave their home and there were also some cases of domestic violence.

We need to send our Project Manager to Bangladesh to do a brief internship with Grameen Bank to learn all of their best practices and how they overcome some of the many challenges we are facing like how to safeguard women borrowers from domestic violence. We also need to buy their specialised Branch Management software.

We need to become entirely self-sufficient so we don’t need donations in the long term. To do that we need to replicate what the Grameen Bank has done by lending to a sufficient number of borrowers and achieving a high enough borrower repayment rate that the interest earned can pay for the cost of lending and also expand the funds we have available to lend to more and more new borrowers/beneficiaries. Because ESN Bigger Meals is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee we have the advantage of never having to pay shareholders and investors a return, unlike commercial lending businesses. Therefore, our cost of lending is mostly made up of paying staff wages and costs as well as bad debts arising from when borrowers die or become unable to repay their loans through no fault of their own. Life in extreme poverty can all too easily become just too hard and brutal at times.

What else are we doing for families living in extreme poverty?

Helping populations living in extreme poverty to protect themselves from climate change through mass tree planting.

We want to mass-produce seed-balls in Uganda to help make it easy for school children and people living in rural places to plant billions of trees throughout Uganda and Africa. You can learn more about seed-balls here:

To aid that effort we will focus heavily on climate change education. We have designed a very simple, but effective, single page climate change education leaflet. Its purpose is to educate Ugandans who live in rural areas about the dangers of climate change and greatly motivate them to plant new trees and look after them. We’re also designing a new and scientifically up-to-date climate change education program for schools which will focus mostly on the science behind planting new trees for the future versus the science of cutting them down unsustainably, which is deforesting vast areas of Uganda and putting those areas at greater risk of droughts and floods.

Tree planting.

Tree planting.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

Using Clean Technology to prevent fuel poverty and save lives.

The world’s countries now need to keep global warming under 1.5° C by 2030 to avoid catastrophic warming. Meanwhile, approximately three billion people in the world still cook using open fires or simple stoves using kerosene, wood, charcoal, coal and other biomass, and as many of them as possible now urgently need access to alternative clean cooking and water pasteurising technology. Also, globally, an estimated 4.3 million people (mostly women and children) die annually from exposure to smoke from charcoal and biomass, which causes acute respiratory illnesses, cancer, heart disease and cataracts. Finally, two billion people are thought to lack access to clean water, which causes an estimated 485,000 diarrhoeal deaths per year due to waterborne parasites and bacterium. Please see our solar oven and water pasteuriser we have designed especially to help solve all of these urgent issues via ESN Bigger Meals Clean Technology.

Our solar oven.

Our solar oven.
ESN Bigger Meals Ltd

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