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?