Monday, June 1, 2009

Saturday, May 30: RURAL VISIT

Today we took a trip to a small, rural village and had the opportunity to visit various farms. For me, today gave a much-needed boost of optimism and hope. We were welcomed warmly by all the kids of the village and their happiness, despite their dire living situation, was immediately contagious. I personally was in a group that met with two different farmers. The first, Henry Rwanga, was a cocoa farmer who has attained remarkable success. He managed to go to university to study agriculture and is actually employed by the Ministry of Agriculture as a civil servant to aid his neighbors in their farming efforts. Through educating himself, Rwanga was able to learn new techniques, diversify his crops, and expand his acreage.
The second farmer, Robert Senyonga, was incredibly successful as well. He is an example of the possibilities that can arise when farmers take advantage of NAADS, a government-sponsored agricultural program. By participating in this program, he has managed to purchase ten acres, implement new techniques, and grow an amazing range of crops from yams and bananas to corn and sugarcane. Robert farms all ten acres on his own, with help only from his wife and children.
NAADS, while being a government-sponsored program, is funded ninety percent by foreign investors such as USAID and the Swedish Foreign Development Fund. The program is split into small parishes and is available nation-wide. However, there are a large amount of farmers who are skeptical and refuse to be told new ways of doing things. With promises of success also come possibilities for failure.
After spending the entire first week in the city of Kampala, I had almost forgotten that the majority of Ugandans live in rural areas. Getting out into the country helped to remind me of what a huge part agriculture plays in the lives of most Ugandans. Sadly, most farmers do not experience success stories like Henry and Robert. A lot of them are merely subsistence farmers who earn little more than enough to send their children to school. Yet the successes of both Henry and Robert are enough to keep me optimistic that more success is possible with continued education and unwavering hard work.
After experiencing the rural visit, do you think sustainability is needed more in the cities or the rural areas of Uganda? What do you think is the biggest obstacle farmers face in trying to become more sustainable?

3 comments:

  1. The rural visit is always one of the highlights. I agree the response of the children provides a much needed shot of optimism. I think sustainability is much more a part of daily life in the rural village. From collecting rain water to use on the plants to retating crops to add nutreients to the soil the rural farmers appear to be advancing down the sustainability path. However the real question is wheteher it is out of econoimc necessity or a concern for the environment. I also found it interesting that the farmer my group visited (see Jennifer's post above where she mentions this in more detail) mentioned the impact of global warming on his crops.

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  2. This rural visit has definitely been a highlight of my Uganda experience so far. As we drove further and further away from Kampala, I was excited to experience the fresh air and get away from the city life. The visit was great and refreshing.

    I feel that these farmers face a lot of obstacles in their ability to be sustainable. For example, organic fertilizers can be used that helps crops absorb more, increase a yield, and they are toxic free. Thus, these organic fertilizers are supposed to be better for the environment. Also, we learned that when farmers produce organically, they get a premium price. These organic fertilizers are more expensive. The expense of these fertilizers are an obstacle to development and sustainability. Because they are so expensive, not all farmers can afford them, and thus, they cannot receive the positive benefits from using these products. High expenses also prevent farmers from employing others to help them on their farm. This hinders their development and as we saw with Robert, these farms are a 24/7 job.

    I think that more aspects that enable sustainable development are definitely needed in the city, Kampala. Having been in the city for almost a week, it was beginning to look depressing. Garbage is overflowing. It is dirty... Life in the rural visit was more positive. Farmers were very proud to show us their work and we were very happy to see this progress and success. Environmentally friendly programs should be instated in the city. I think that regular trash cans and pick-ups could even make a big difference and lead to aspects of sustainability.

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  3. I agree with Shannon that sustainable development is a more urgent issue in urban areas, I think one of the great challenges for cities such as Kampala is that there is so much activity that it is hard to simply stop and think about what needs to be done. The citizens of Kampala are too busy being stuck in traffic jams, working in their shops, or taking long walks to get places.

    In contrast, the people of rural areas spend their entire day in proximity with their family, constantly thinking about how to provide for themselves in the most efficient way possible. Their work is in their backyard...and it's their means of survival. One of the great challenges these farmers seemed to face was lack of resources and lack of land. Even if they got more modern machinery, it would be inefficient because land is limited, and such machinery would take a big bite our of slim profit margins. Likewise, if they had more land, they would not be able to keep up with manual labor because they are already putting in full days.

    I would agree that this aspect of the trip was the most inspiring and encouraging thus far, as these farmers and families are putting in 100% effort and enthusiasm into their lives despite the many challenges they face.

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