It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our Mother Organisation URDT’s co-founder, Silvana Franco Veltkamp .
Silvana Franco Veltkamp was born in North Africa, Tunis, and raised in Italy. In her teens, Silvana spent a year living and studying in Mogadishu, Somalia.
This experience cemented her love and concern for Africa, thus giving rise to her lifelong commitment to its people. She worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome and Beirut. In 1981, with her husband, Johan, and Eustace Rutiba, Silvana co-founded the African Food and Peace Foundation (AFPF). Silvana served as Executive Director of AFPF from its inception in 1981 until 1997, when she left the U.S. to return to Italy.
She struggled with the law to ensure the principles of AFPF that informed Uganda Food and Peace Project (UFPP) were preserved when their co-founder negated on their agreement. This later gave birth to Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme (URDT).
Starting back in the 1980s, Silvana would hold fundraising dinners at her home once or twice a year for her Ugandan Project. Many of the participants were alumni of Robert Fritz’s course would go to those dinner meetings and get briefed on what was going on in Uganda. Most alumni would write a small cheque, and enjoy the updates and dinner. This simple initiative grew bigger and bigger over the years.
In 1987, Silvana co-founded the Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme with Mwalimu Musheshe and Ephrem Rutaboba. Amongst others, they had a vision to establish a rural university, but due to the local education levels of the Kibaale people, the idea was shelved until the year 2000. Silvana was the first Secretary to the Board of Directors of URDT. She is the co-author of the working documents of URDT.
She was one of the first fund raisers, originally the team leader in the States. She contributed greatly to capacity building in the States. She hosted all the URDT teams whenever they travelled to the States.
She contributed immensely to the development of the course: Principles of the Creative Process for the African Rural University (ARU) and the Illustrated Village Technologies for Creating being used by the Epicentre Managers. She remained a strong voice for URDT in the States. In 2007, she retired due to poor health. She returned to her motherland Italy. However, she continued to come to UGANDA to work with the team at URDT campus. However, her sight deteriorated and she reduced on the frequency.
As we mourn the loss of a visionary leader, let us also celebrate Silvana Franco Veltkamp’s extraordinary life and legacy. Her friendship, Ubuntu spirit, passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to education and sustainable development will continue to inspire us as we carry forward the mission, she helped shaped.