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Monday, June 1, 2009

The Other Side to Life in Uganda

Today we went on the rural visit to the village of Kaswo. This day has been by far my favorite day so far. Our group split up into three smaller groups and each went to a different farm. I had the honor of going to John Guweddeko’s farm in Kitegula where we had a wonderful tour of his 8 acres of land which is divided amongst 3 separate plots of land in different locations.

Mr. Guweddeko farms both food and cash crops. His food crops include: matooke (bananas), cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, maize, sorghum, beans, and ground nuts. What surprised me the most, was that all his food crops go to feeding his family and friends. One of the major difference between families in the US these days and the families in the villages of Uganda is that in the villages your family is considered to be all your relatives which can include anyone from grandchildren, aunts, cousins and everyone in between, not to mention that it is not uncommon for a family to have 10 children. Where in the US the family you provide for is normally the Mother and Father and their children, and most families in the US typically only have 2 or 3 children.

Where Mr. Guweddeko earns his profit from is his cash crops, which include cocoa, pineapple, and his coffee nursery. I was really amazed by the coffee nursery and all the hard work that goes into the process of planting the 50,000 seedlings that he cares for until it is time to sell them off to other farmers. It is very inspiring all the hard work and determination the villagers have and the pride they have in their land.

Another matter that surprised me was when Mr. Guwededdeko mentioned that Gobal Warming has caused a noticeable difference to his farming. He mentioned that they now experience longer dry seasons and destructive storms and hail when the rain does come. He said that over 10 years ago they were able to make definitive production plans based on the genuine weather forecasts that enabled them to plant in time, and now they are unable to adjust to the ever changing weather and climate. He also mentioned the problem of new crop diseases that sometimes can be so bad that they result in total loss, and he is unsure whether this problem could be linked to the first or not.

My favorite part of the day was when we went back down into the village to have dinner and while we were waiting the grandchild of the farmers we toured with performed for us and it was truly heartwarming to see their smiling faces. Then when we toured the village before leaving we had a swarm of small children following us and then they later chased after the bus as we drove off. I was sad to leave. It was a great day in rural Uganda.

I know we have all experienced some form of culture shock while we’ve been here in Uganda and maybe more during the rural visit as suppose to the time spent in the more modernized area of Kampala. So my question is what resemblance of home have you seen (particularly during the rural visit)? And what will you miss most once you return home?


  1. I want to thank John Guwededdko and the other three framers: Mr Keiswei, Mr. Rwanga, and Mr. Senyonga for taking the time to visit with the Drake students. This is the third year that both Guwededdko and Keiswei have hosted us and I consider them to be good friends. I also want to thank their wives for cooking a the fabulous meal from all with food they had grown on the farms. I don't think I can express how much the students and faculty gain from this experience each year, it is the highlight of the trip. Finally I want to thank Prof. Senteza's father for the many hours of preparation he puts into this part of the trip on our behalf. The rural visit would not happen without his efforts.

  2. In case you missed it there are photos from the rural visit on the "new family photos" post from May (including both the chidren who performed for us and the children from the village. Jennifer is working on posting a video of the children's performnace, so check back to see if we cange it to post.

  3. This blog is so interesting...thanks to all of you for the updates.

    I was wondering if anyone at the Des Moines Register is following your blog, as it would be wonderful if they covered your journey in the paper / online.

    Thank you for the perspectives, Jonna

  4. I think the thing that I will miss most is the looks on kids' faces when we pass through a town. They bring great joy to our lives here, and it gives us a great sense of how fortunate we are compared to them. It is scary to think that somehow we ended up in the United States, while God could have easily placed us in Africa in their shoes.

    The thing about the rural visit that made me think of the US and especially Iowa was when Abraham and Charles were talking to us about farming techniques. They use the same type of techniques that we do to farm, but we have huge machines to cover more acres quicker, while they have to depend on manual labor. It was amazing to see the same general farming concepts used in two very different cultures.

  5. Oh man! This has been the best day so far I have experienced. I absolutely loved seeing all the children. I have never really grown up on or near a farm so I'm not sure I can really relate. I think I will really miss the fresh fruit, all the cute children, and the beauty of Uganda. I was just very impressed with the farmers here. The particular farm I went to, Robert owned 10 acres of land and he farmed it all by himself. This is extremely hard work and I was incredibly blown away because in the US they use tractors and other machinery. Overall opened up my eyes a little bit and really enjoyed this experience.

  6. I will miss the children. It was such as great experience to see the look on their face as we drive by or hand out candy. They are adorable and so greatful. The rural visit was very emotional for me. When the children sang those three songs, it was definitely a moment that I will remember forever.

    I really admire Robert's work ethic. I was shocked to find out that he farmed 10 acres of land basically all by himself, with the help of his small family. He was so proud to show us his work and we definitely were happy for his success and achievements. I will miss this, extraordinary people like Robert, who we seem to meet each and every day here in Uganda.

  7. The round table at the rural visit definitely reminded me of home. All we ever need is a great meal and people to have a good time, and that is exactly what we did. The atmosphere was very home-like.

    When we leave I will miss the hospitality. The majority of those we have encountered during our stay are SO nice! We are always greeted with smiles and warm hearts.

  8. As a farm kid, I found the rural extremely interesting. Here are just a few things that I note.

    1. My dad is an extremely hard worker and I can not think of a better role model for me. However, he has the luxury of the latest technology which makes his life soo much easier than the farmers in Uganda. The planting, spraying, fertilizing, culivating, disking, and harvesting is done from the luxury of a tractor cab. You are not out in the open getting sunburned or in the dusty air. And the work is a lot less tiring. For me, it was just so impressive how hard the farmers had to work just to keep their 8 acres operational.

    2. The Ugandan farmers are more up to date with technology than I thought. They know about terraces, irrigation, crop rotation, and the benefits of planting crops in a row.

    3. It surprised me how much Ugandan farmers share with each other. In America, we do not share profits with each other (only in the form of stocks, but that is a different story). We primarily care about ourselves and will not help our neighbor if their crop fails--we let the government take care of that. Here in rural Uganda, farmers take care of each other and are truly care about the well being of each other.

    What I am going to miss is the sincere hospitality that we have here. You really can tell that the Ugandans enjoy our presence and go out of thier way to make us comfortable. I will also miss the children--they are absolutely adorable!

  9. I was extremely surprised at how advanced the rural areas were. While every thing is done by hand and knowledge is passed down through generations and NGOs, they use concepts that I ignorantly doubted they would. For example, Robert (I guess everyone loves him looking at previous posts) bought his 10 acres of land that was covered with bush and completely undeveloped. However, he knew from walking around that there was a natural spring in the middle that could help him become successful. I was also surprised how both Robert and Henry use rows for planting and stress the importance of crop diversification. They are so knowledgable in their areas. Now when I think of farming communities, my mind will wander beyond the lands of Iowa...
    Two parts of the day will stay with me forever. The first is when the children sang to us. I got goosebumps just standing there. They seemed so content with life and happy to be with us, even with as little as the have. The other part that amazes me is when Henry translated Robert's dreams to us. He is very spiritual and has prayed to God for many years about his two goals. One was a financial goal by the year 2011 to be able to expand his business. The other was to have Muzungus visit his farm. This goal was met through our rural visit, and his pride and excitedness shone the entire time.

  10. What a small world? In 1998 when i tried to Google my father's name ( John Guweddeko) there were no search results. To prof. Root The other side of life in Uganda" earns credit for some kids in your class.