Access to good food can change lives. Together, Riverford and our customers contribute to some vital causes – giving not just money, but our time, skills and veg. From helping Ugandan families grow their way out of poverty, to donating tonnes of fresh organic veg to community food banks, we support meaningful change from the ground up.
Over £600,000 raised for Send a Cow!
Our long-time charity partner Send a Cow was founded in the ‘80s by Devon dairy farmers. They don’t actually ship cows to the tropics any more (despite the name!). Instead, they work in seven African countries, providing local livestock, seeds, and practical training in sustainable farming – enabling disadvantaged families to grow enough food to eat, and more to sell.
Like Riverford, Send a Cow believe in good farming as the source of secure food, lives and communities. Their entire approach is organic; by teaching farmers to improve soil fertility, conserve water, and create holistic systems with no waste (even the cows’ urine is used to treat plant diseases), Send a Cow foster sustainable change. They offer a ‘hand up’, not a hand-out; giving people the tools to help themselves, instead of becoming dependent on aid.Donate £1 to Send a Cow
Send a Cow & Riverford – see your donations in action
We’ve seen Send a Cow’s fantastic work for ourselves, thanks to our long-standing links with farmers in Uganda, where our donation efforts are focused. In 2002, after hosting Timothy Njakasi (regional coordinator for Send a Cow) in Devon as part of his sustainable agriculture training, Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson spent two weeks on Timothy’s own farm in Uganda.
“It was the most inspiring farming I had ever seen… all small scale and always diverse. What seemed disordered was actually shaped by a level of ecological knowledge unknown to farmers in the developed world,” said Guy. “It was obvious I had more to learn than to teach, so we funded Timothy to turn his farm into the Kasenge Riverford Organic Agricultural Centre.”
The Centre is still going strong, and has trained thousands of Ugandan smallholders in organic methods.
Push-Pull Project, Uganda
For four years, Riverford supported Send A Cow’s Rakai Orphans Project. This aimed to revitalised communities in the Rakai district of rural Uganda, by providing a support network for orphans and vulnerable children.
The Rakai Orphans Project was really successful; however, Send a Cow identified that the loss of maize to pests was a significant barrier to food security. Maize is a staple crop in Uganda, and up to 80% of yields were being lost to stemborer moths and parasitic striga weed.
When it was time to fund a new project, Riverford co-owners voted to support the ‘Push-Pull’ Project for the next three years, working with the same 400 families we supported through the Rakai Orphans Project.
‘Push-Pull’ refers to a simple but powerful farming method, where maize is intercropped with Desmodium flowers, which produce a scent that repels the stemborer moth: the ‘push’ of the name. The Desmodium roots also stop parasitic striga weeds from attaching to the maize roots.
The maize and Desmodium are surrounded by a plant called Brachiara (a type of livestock fodder), which attracts the moths, encouraging them to lay their eggs. Sticky gum on the Brachiara binds the moth larvae, leaving them unable to hatch; the ‘pull’ element.
This project will improve nutrition for everyone in the local area, building on the progress of the previous Rakai Orphans Project.
“I had stopped growing maize because of pest damage, but I was excited to start Push-Pull. […] My maize harvest has already increased, and my cow is now producing 8 litres of milk a day, up from 4.5 litres, thanks to an improved supply of fodder.” – Hadija, who lives in Rakai with her husband and 10 children, including several orphans in her care.
FoodCycle – Serving community meals across the UK
Waste not, want not. Riverford have much more forgiving specs than the supermarkets, but there’s always going to be some veg that’s a little too damaged or too ripe for customers. That’s where FoodCycle comes in.
FoodCycle combines surplus food, volunteers and spare kitchen spaces to create nutritious three-course meals, served for free in a warm and welcoming environment, to vulnerable people at risk of food poverty and loneliness. “For many of our guests, this may be the one moment in a week they share a meal and conversation with other people,” they say.
FoodCycle share our belief in the power of good food – and in the importance of eating together as a community. The impacts, as well as getting a round meal into people, are profound:
- Over 80% of guests say they have made friends
- 87% of guests say FoodCycle has a positive effect on their community
- Over 85% of FoodCycle volunteers say they have developed a better understanding of other cultures and backgrounds
Riverford staff volunteer with FoodCycle, delivering free veg to sites in Devon and Peterborough, and helping cook and dish up. And through staff donations alone, we’ve raised £5101 for FoodCycle since 2018!
Visit www.foodcycle.org.uk to find out more about FoodCycle. Charity number 113323.
Food in Community
We also donate veg to Food in Community, who operate in Totnes, Devon (just up the road from our farm). Local they may be – but they believe their revolutionary system could be replicated anywhere to tackle food poverty and social isolation.
Every week, Food in Community’s volunteer team collect surplus food (mostly organic) from producers and farmers’ fields, then get it to wherever it will be most useful:
- Redistributing to charities, schools, nurseries and community groups
- Delivering veg boxes to cancer patients’ homes
- Weekly ‘pay what you feel’ community cafés
- Workshops and cookery clases for groups including refugees, people with mental health issues, carers and older men living alone
Find out more about Food in Community.