Today we got the privilege of going on one of the most looked forward events from the trip - the rural visit. We left straight after breakfast to drive about an hour and a half to go into the very rural part of Uganda. We arrived in the town center to the welcoming of probably about 30 children. Then we split into two groups so that we could visit two different farming family homes. One group walked to their destination; my group got to ride boda boda's (which are like the taxi's of Uganda, motorcycle style). Don't worry parents, the drivers made sure to go a slow and safe speed on those things.
We got to meet Henry Lwanga who taught us all about his cocoa farming and family life. Before we had arrived, I was expecting a town that was very lacking; a town full of sad people who would do anything for some food (like they show on the commercials all the time) but I am very happy to report that that is not the case at all. The town is thriving! There is more food then they need and they have access to health care (there is a pharmacy and health clinic in town as well as a hospital 10 kilometers away) and education without too much hassel.
Henry got his Bachelor's degree from Makere University and came back to farm, something that is actually rare. Most farming families don't have that much education, children usually stop after primary school so that the kids can help out on the farm. Henry's family, however, is exceptional and all of the kids attend school. He has 10 children by the way and the ones that aren't yet at university help around the 50 acre farm that the family owns.
So here is what Henry tells us the typical rural Ugandan day looks like:
He wakes up around 5 am and plans everything out so he has a "mission for the day." Then he actually begins the work around 7 am with the help of his children. The kids usually can only help out for a little bit since they need to get to school. He works out on the farm all day while his wife stays home and works on general upkeep, cooking, smaller plants, etc. The kids help out more on the weekends and on holidays but even afterschool there is always some sort of project to do around the home. On a cocoa farm, there is never lack of something to do - they have to harvest every 14 days. I asked about who inherits the farm, expecting to hear the usual "eldest son" answer, but Henry says that's actually something that is put in the will and is kept a secret until the father passes away, and this is not always (or even usually) the eldest son. But no one will know until the time comes; I found that very interesting.
After seeing some of the cocoa plants and learning about the agriculture aspect of their life, we had to retreat to the pourch of the house to get out of the pouring rain - bad timing huh? But we got to ask more questions and hang out for a bit so it wasn't terrible. When the rain stopped, we headed back into town to have some lunch. The wives of the farmers who had been showing the two groups around had cooked us a feast; there was so much food there! And most of it was very different food then we are used to eating. What I liked most about the feast was that, according to Dr. Senteza, all of the food came from within a 5 kilometer radius. It was all home grown. Well, this is excluding the soda that we had to drink of course. But the food was pretty good and there was more then enough there, which is a great testimony to how the town is thriving.
The people are so happy there; it was wonderful to see! Also, there was an overwhelming sense of community. One of the staff members from MUBS was telling me that while he was growing up in a farming community, he was able to disappear for the whole day and no one would worry because in those town, everyone knows each other and no one needs to worry about being robbed or kidnapped or anything. What a great place to be!
Some questions for the students to think about:
- If you could grow up in a place like this no knowing what you are missing out on from America, would you want to? Why?
- How is this way of life different then your own?
- What most suprised you about the way of life in rural Uganda?
- How has this experience changed your perspective on life, Uganda, America, etc?
- How are small farms key to the sustainable development of Uganda?