Interview: Bill and Sue Farmer

The Farmers from the UK seem to have their footprints almost all over Uganda! Definitely not carbon footprints though. Today, Bill and Sue Farmer are founder and director of the Uganda Carbon Bureau (UCB), respectively. But to retrace and map their diverse story, we have to rewind 18 years!

In February 1999, Bill came to Uganda with his wife, Sue, to take the position of the DFID-funded Team Leader at the Uganda Forest Sector Coordination Secretariat, which was supporting the government’s decision to reform the forest sector and to focus on promoting the private sector’s involvement in tree growing. He was responsible for planning the National Forestry Authority. At this time, he started to learn about climate change and how farmers could earn carbon credits by planting trees on their land. After a year’s stint in South Sudan funded by USAID, Bill returned to Uganda as the technical advisor at the Private Sector Foundation Uganda.

He has also worked with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to support the upgrading of their management of concession contracts with private lodge operators.

During the CHOGM event, Bill was asked by Parliament’s Sessional Committee on Natural Resources to provide a briefing about climate change and what steps could be taken in advance of the changes that were predicted to take place. From this exercise, the Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change was created.

While Bill was leaving his mark in the renewable energy, energy efficiency, forestry and allied fields to help people to generate carbon credits and to reduce their carbon footprints, Sue was making a difference in her own way. Today, many know Sue as the Director of Admissions at the International School of Uganda (ISU), which was where she held her first rôle as a Board Member in May 1999.

Over 18 years, Sue has donned several hats, including being the early sponsor co-ordinator of the Kampala Kids League, a founding member of the Uganda Society for Disabled Children (USDC) in Uganda, supporter of the Association of Lubowa Residents, and as the former volunteer Executive Director and Board member of the Acid Survivors’ Foundation Uganda.

She has been involved in many fundraising activities for USDC, and helped with ISU’s charity fun runs, which raised millions each year for different charities in Uganda. She was also a fundraiser supporting the national kayak team that represented Uganda at the World Freestyle Kayak competition in Canada last year, and is already planning a similar event this year to fund the team going to Brazil in November. While the Farmers have been granted certificates of residence for life, they are now in the process of applying for Ugandan citizenship. But this feeling of belonging is not restricted to the seniors. Two of their three daughters have made Uganda home, and are doing their bit too.

Their youngest daughter Iddy and her partner Nathan have set up their own business, TIA Wilderness Adventures Uganda, near Lake Kacheera. Iddy has been working with the Mihingo Conservation Foundation, a charitable organisation set up to address wildlife/human conflict around Lake Mburo National Park, which also supports local schools. Their oldest daughter Jenny and her partner Charlie and baby son live at Bubugo, north of Jinja, from where she organises her academic research into the situation of Uganda’s wetlands, under the auspices of the University of Aberdeen. She has also set up the Bubugo Conservation Trust, working with the local community to conserve the banks of the Nile, and has started and stocked a free reading room which offers adult literacy classes.

Soaking up all their anecdotes and the magic of the wonderful weather on their vibrant garden, you notice a gleaming 1951 Citroen peeking from the garage. “It has won awards at the Classic Car show at the Sheraton for the past 2 years, much to my surprise and delight,” smiles Bill.