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Cultivating Flourishing Ecosystems in Uganda

How regenerative farming is bringing forests back

In northern Uganda, forests are disappearing.

Climate change, land-clearing for agriculture and growing demand for charcoal is wiping out trees and threatening livelihoods. In fact, the rate of deforestation is so devastating that the country could lose all its natural forests in just 40 years. And when forests are destroyed, it’s not an isolated problem: soil becomes degraded, biodiversity disappears, and watersheds suffer.

Ugandan farmers are already feeling the effects of deforestation—they’re struggling to adapt to unpredictable weather patterns. Rain is no longer falling when expected, and drought is ravaging crops so badly that farmers are unable to feed their families.

Lush’s regenerative farm

In 2014, Lush began investing in regenerative farms: agricultural projects that regenerate degraded land while producing ingredients for our products. In the same year in Uganda, we purchased 34 hectares of deforested land, 8 of which was a former displaced persons camp.

With each regenerative farm project, we have three common goals:

1. Put more trees in the ground

2. Put more money in the hands of farmers

3. Build an ethical business that can grow ingredients with 100 percent transparency

Sesame oil from our regenerative farm goes into Skin Drink Facial Moisturizer

Sesame oil from our regenerative farm goes into Skin Drink Facial Moisturizer

Our three farms in northern Uganda are all within two hours of in Gulu town, an area with limited fair economic opportunities. Communities here are still feeling the effects of more than 20 years of civil war; social and environmental unrest isn’t uncommon. But communities are recovering, and more prosperous times lie ahead. We’re proud to provide full-time work for 40 employees at the farm and oilseed processing site, which are 100 percent locally managed.

The farm isn’t a typical flat, expansive field covered in a single crop. It’s an agroforesty system; a natural environment that works with nature instead of against it, while still allowing for viable, profitable crops. Agroforestry systems are extremely resilient in the face of rapidly changing weather patterns because they create a microclimate where the trees regulate water and soil moisture, improve soil fertility and create shelter for shade-loving plants and animals.

Outside the borders of our own farms, we work with 200 partner farmers in the surrounding community to grow ingredients that we use in our cosmetics: sesame, moringa, vanilla and cocoa. These partner farmers are also using agroforestry models. These diverse systems allow farmers to grow food for their families alongside the crops that Lush will buy, creating more food security and biodiversity for their communities.

What we grow

Moringa, also known as “the miracle plant” is incredibly nutritious, fast-growing, drought-resistant and helps to stabilize degraded soil. It’s been grown in Uganda since the 1950s, but with little market demand, there’s not much incentive to grow it.

By being a guaranteed buyer of moringa at a fair price, Lush has offered farmers incentive to plant this regenerative tree while providing a pathway to a strong income. Sesame is grown alongside fruit trees to increase biodiversity, tree cover and food security.

There are two oilseed presses in our Ugandan processing site, which operate using 100 percent solar energy. They can produce upwards of 550 pounds of moringa and sesame oils in one week. In January 2018, the first batches of moringa and sesame oils from Uganda arrived into our factories and can now be found in Skin Drink Facial Moisturizer and Magical Moringa Beauty Balm 

Looking forward

As we continue to grow our regenerative farming projects, we hope to revitalize the land and support communities far beyond the farms that we own. And whenever you buy a Lush product, you’re investing in a flourishing future we can all feel good about.