Monday 9th February 2015
The alarm went off at 5.30am – ugh – it was pitch dark and quiet at the guest house – Patrick our driver arrived early and packed our suitcases into the large VW style vehicle. After eating a breakfast of omelette , bread and fruits we were on the road at 6.15am only 15 minutes late mainly caused by Simon who is more of a night owl as all his family are aware of
We drove in silence for a long time as the day started to dawn- just before Kajjanski Patrick turned off and the next 45 minutes were on a dirt track just short of Kampala so we did not have to endure the never ending traffic jam in Kampala. We joined the main road by the excellent school Kings Budo – here Aggrey the communications manager for Send a Cow was waiting for us.
We drove on and after another hour came to the place where the road crosses the equator. We stopped and had fun with photographs and watching water drain anticlockwise one side of the equator and clockwise the other side – totally AMAZING !
On again in our nice an spacious vehicle – arriving at 10.00am at the first group – we were met by 2 Ugandans who are salaried by Send a Cow to train these groups – as we drew up we could see the group of some 30 women and some of their husbands were already waiting for us – the women were dressed in their best dresses all made as a uniform – they then sang songs they had composed to describe their group – they danced and got even us Brits dancing
now over to Edward’s excellent description of the day :
Blog written by Edward Upton for Monday 9th February
I had a truly inspiring day yesterdayy visiting a Send a Cow project near Masaka in Uganda.
The group of 30 farmers underwent 4 years of training, supported by weekly visits from a social worker and agricultural trainer. From a group living in absolute under-a-dollar-a-day poverty, there are now farmers owning thousands of dollars worth of livestock and selling exports crops like coffee. This education and support, plus the capital grant of one animal per household, has transformed their community.
Although the success relied on a solid base of family and group cohesion, organized labour and animal husbandry, I want to focus on three aspects which have ongoing potential for the community.
1. Record keeping
Yep, data to you and I. Writing daily details of milk yields, crop inputs, market sale prices and even visitor numbers enabled the farmers to measure and improve.
Data also allows farmers to forecast and be inspired. Selling a regular surplus of milk from two cows (after family consumption – yes, they have great teeth!) gave the farmer a regular income of US$3.50 per day at the farm gate. That is more than a teacher’s salary in Uganda.
With tender care and back-breaking forage harvesting, they now have a calf being reared – and can count just how much that will mean in further milk and profits.
Maybe in 10 years they’ll be entering yields into a smartphone app, and have market prices forecast automatically.
2. Organic agriculture
Oil derivatives (like diesel and fertilizer) are more expensive in Uganda than the UK – in ridiculous contrast to the local market prices for vegetables. Efficient farming therefore has to rely on minimal imported inputs, and maximize the local bounty of sun, rain … and manure.
Every precious drop of animal urine is captured – to mix with ash and chilli as an insect repellant for plants – or used neat as a fetiliser.
In dry season, every drop of water is maximized, with lots of mulching of vegetables to prevent evaporation; and with a permaculture approach of shading coffee bushes with banana plants, and vegetables under the coffee.
I’m a fan of organic farming for health and environmental reasons, but out here I just don’t see an alternative, cost-effective way to increase crop yields.
3. Peer-to-peer lending
Developed-to-developing country lending networks, like Kiva.org, have grown rapidly – but with inevitable problems in vetting funding applications at distance. What farmers need are equivalents of 19th century Europe’s co-operative societies – where savers and lenders from the same area are brought together.
These farmer groups operate a very effective local system. All members pledge to save every month: from just 1 cent a week. Then any member can ask for a short term (maximum 3 month) loan from the fund – which is now $2000.
The default rate is low – around 2% – as members know the debtors ability to repay, and can monitor progress in person. Plus every debtor has savings in the scheme – so wants to preserve their share of the capital.
Three month loans ( and flat 10% interest) make repayments easy to predict – and work in a country where planting to harvest is only 3 month.
Uganda’s government abolished co-operatives in the 1990s when they started sponsporing political campaigns. But if these lending clubs can grow they could go some way to unlocking the capital that Africa needs to grow.
We arrived back at Namerembe Guest House around 5.30pm – so nearly a 12 hour day of travel and observation – we were keen to try different places to eat as Simon had done some research before coming – ( normally I just act like a missionary and only eat at Namierembe with a simple supper ) So it is fun to combine the trip with some different experiences
At 6.45 we set off with another driver to cross Kampala and entered the end of the mad rush hour in the city – jams – jams and more jams – eventually getting to the expat part of the city – and having supper at a popular “muzengo” ( white man’s ) place. We met with Patrick head of Send a Cow’s Uganda operation and the lovely Aggrey – we had really fun supper and more talk about Send a cow’s truly transformational work with the poorest of the poor.
Hope springing in our hearts as we look for a way for CRESS to facilitate something similar in South Sudan .!
What a relief to get up normal time again – I personally love the old missionary rooms in Namierembe ( the boys selected their room in the new block – they do have a fabulous view of the city – that is the why the guest house’s strap line is “ The million Dollar View Guest House “ But I like the rooms that I can imagine those brave missionaires in the early 20th Century taking some R and R in – they are the ones who bought education and faith to many African countries – now we need the Africans to bring their faith back to us in the UK
So 2 hours of meeting with CL, JA and EM – followed by a trip to Café Java to sit in air con and drink coffee only spoilt by Café Java taking 40 minutes to bring our orders – very testing ! Even in Uganda one has to work really hard to deliver and get enough done in one day especially when one has travelled 4000 miles here and has only limited time
So the men all left about 30 minutes late to visit Triple P school where Joseph has three children – Simon is very keen to stay on there for an hour or two to teach some of the children – he is really looking forward to this visit
Edward will then travel on another half hour with Joseph and Emmanuel to visit the Organic Farm school where all Send a cow’s teaching is based and where CRESS has sent 6 South Sudanese. They will pick Simon up on their way back and Simon will do the next blog
I just hope that the traffic is not worse than usual ie bad –to Atrocious !! We will see
I shall stay working and taking some time to get my head around some of the decisions and work we have done for the last 5 days