Friday, June 6, 2014

Rural Visit

Today we visited a small rural village where our own Professor Jimmy Senteza grew up.  While at the village we toured a farm that spanned ten acres in total.  I was surprised to see the variety in the different kinds of crops.  They grew cocoa, coffee, bananas, tangerines, cassava, and other seasonal vegetables.  John, the farmer that led us on the tour, let us try a freshly picked tangerine and some of the cassava (which tasted like a white carrot).  After a short break of eating bananas and saying hi to some children in the village we went on a tour of how they processed cocoa.  We got to see how they crack open the fruit and scoop out the seeds.  They let us all try a seed straight from the fruit which tasted like candy.  We saw the boxes in which the seeds are fermented and then saw how they were dried.  We also got to taste some of the fermented, dried seeds too.
After the cocoa processing plant we went to John's house.  First we discussed with the elders of the village about how the farmers use inter-cropping to grow cocoa, bananas, coffee, and maize all together.  We discussed some different views on what it means to be a farmer to Ugandans and what it means to be a farmer to Americans.  Ugandans believe that in order to be considered a farmer one needs to use mechanistic farming techniques and is otherwise considered a peasant, subsistence farmer.  The American view was that a farmer is any one that produces enough crop to sell and it isn't all for personal use.  We also discussed how adapting to the climate change is one of the most difficult challenges these farmers face.  All the seasons have started to change so they no longer know when it will rain and when it will not.  The decreasing job market leading to unemployment in the youth of Uganda was also talked about.  After the discussion we ate a delicious traditional Ugandan meal prepared by local women.


5 comments:

  1. For the most part in Uganda, I have experienced that culture plays a big roll in the decisions people make. Not only culture but also what culture says about certain norms and professions. As Jenna said, farmers are seen to be peasants in Uganda. It was very cool to see a bigger picture with John, who earned a college degree in Agriculture. John, an entrepreneur, he took a need in the market and expanded his business to provide for the demand. His farm does not just provide for his family with food but also an income as a business. His techniques that he learned in school were well shown on his farm and undoubtedly linked to his success. This is a key example that Uganda can no longer let their culture define their educational/business opportunities. Would less cultural influence allow for greater economic improvement? Especially in education areas such as agriculture or women continuing schooling rather than merely working in the home?

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  2. My favorite topic of discussion was climate change. I had heard from a few other sources here in Uganda that climate change was happening, but after hearing directly from John and seeing some of his crops, I felt more knowledgeable about the topic. I find it kind of scary that they do not know when the seasons (dry and wet) begin and end, like they used to, which now is making farming much more difficult.

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  3. The most impactful moment for me on our trip to the rural visit was when I asked the elders what the most important aspect of life is. While it was a broad question, I was interested in hearing what they would have to say in order for me to achieve a better understanding of their perspective on life. Dr. Senteza's father gave an answer that was quite eye-opening--he responded that the entire basis of his life has been working hard enough that his children live a better and happier life than he has. Many times, we forget the sacrifices our families have made and continue to make for us, especially our parents and grandparents. This was definitely a moment where I realized just how highly valued family is to a typical Ugandan. Along with religion, supporting one's family is one of the most important aspects of life for many Ugandans, and this is most evident in the rigorous work ethic these Ugandans possess and employ on a day-to-day basis.

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  4. I was very surprised in the knowledge the farmers had about the crops they planted. They knew when to plant them, where to plant them, how many to plant, what to plant them with, and when to prune and harvest them. They also used irrigation as a means to get water to their crops. The level of knowledge they had to maximize their output was astonishing because I was not expecting them to know as much due to living in a rural area and not having access to internet. It was interesting to hear the farmers talk about the youth and how they should get into farming because it has the potential for high financial reward. Although many Ugandans realize this, they seem to lack the determination and work ethic needed to be a farmer. Instead they choose to live in the city where jobs are few and far between because they see farming as something that is below them. As one of the U.S. Embassy staff said, "We need to find a way to make farming sexy." I believe that if the outlook and attitude of farming were to change, Uganda would be on a path towards prosperity and a more sustainable future.

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  5. The rural visit showed me how innovative some of the farmers in Uganda are. from the irrigation systems to the drying levels of cocoa beans, Ugandan farmers made simple innovations that greatly increased their yield and production. One concern that the farmers had that surprised me was how they have been affected by the global climate change. This is an issue that strongly effects everyone from the wall street tycoon to the Ugandan pheasant. The rural visit was very interesting.

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