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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Agriculture in Rural Village

This morning we went on a walking tour of a family farm within the village of Kikandwa. The farm is small-scale and produces a variety of crops without the use of electricity, unique from most large-scale farms in the United States. Crops are fertilized by pig manure, plants are irrigated by a spring-fed stream dug intentionally with downhill flow to reach a large amount of land, and tools such as hoes and shovels are the "tractors of Uganda," as one of our guides Ben said today. Continuation of family farms is an issue that was raised today because younger generations move to the city for education and stay for career, leaving family farms vulnerable to eventual abandonment, a loss of property and wealth. We also toured a cocoa plantation and were able to experience the chocolate making process up close, including breaking open cocoa pods to suck the fruit, to tasting the dried and roasted cocoa beans that resemble the taste of extra dark chocolate. Throughout the visit, we were guided by a number of village elders and warmly welcomed by families and children who are grateful for the partnership with Drake and excited to show us the fruits of their labor.

According to the World Bank, Uganda's agriculture employs approximately 72% of the population, while agriculture in the United States employs about 2% of the national population. With this in mind, and realizing that Uganda uses a majority of small-scale subsistence farming, while the U.S. uses majority large-scale farming, what could the U.S. learn from Uganda in terms of agriculture? Additionally, what could Uganda learn from U.S. agriculture?


  1. Thank you Julie for sharing your blog. We feel fortunate to be able to share in your,"Once in a lifetime", experience.
    Your visual descriptions provide us with an opportunity to share your adventure. While reading your blog, we are reminded of how Americans farmed many years ago. It is an
    Evolutionary process. Cocoa beans sound delicious!

  2. I think the U.S. could learn from the rural farmers about caring for their farms. The farmers we met had so much love and passion for their crops and are so knowledgeable on every different type of plant and use diversification to keep nutrients in the soil. So the U.S. can learn about care and diversification, but the Ugandan farmers can learn about mass production to better be able to feed more people with less work. I think combining the practices in both countries would be beneficial for both.

  3. Hey Julie, great perspective and summary of the visit! I think the U.S. could learn a lot on the reuse of materials on the farm. Every "waste" that was produced at the farm we toured was used for another aspect/crop somewhere else on the land. The U.S. could also learn from the diversification of products on farms.

    Likewise, I agree with Kaley that Uganda could learn about our mass production of crops. It is sad to see the family farms worrying about eventual abandonment, especially because farming is such a vital part of the community!

  4. Great post Julie! I have noticed that it seems people have a greater appreciation of their food here in the sense that they understand how much work it takes to produce it. In the U.S. there is much more of a disconnect between the food we eat and the work it takes to produce the food. This can cause people to value their less and even be more wasteful. This is something the U.S. could learn from Uganda.

  5. Thank you for your post! Visiting the rural villages and getting to personally walk through the farms was a great experience. Through this visit, it was clear to see the instilled passion and appreciation these farmers and their families had for the land. Doing the work by hand seemed to mean more because it was done in their own backyards to put food on the table for their families. From what I know about agriculture in the U.S., it seems that the large scale farms are not going towards feeding a family or small community, but rather growing as much as possible to make a greater profit in a smaller amount of time. Economically, I do see the advantage of this, however, when money rather than the nutritional value of the food and the environmental sustainability of the land is put at the forefront, that can only lead to problems. Both the U.S. and Uganda have positive and negative attributes related to their agricultural mechanisms and combining aspects of each of the two countries could be beneficial. Remembering the importance of a growing economy, fresh food for the community, and divided wealth are basic points in a successful agricultural system for all.

  6. Thanks for this post, Julie! I really appreciate the question you pose, because there are definitely things that the US can do better with its agricultural system. One of the major things that I noticed in the Ugandan agriculture system was the usage of natural fertilizers and irrigation systems. While chemical fertilizers can be effective in promoting the growth of crops, they can also be harmful to the surrounding environment. Commercial livestock farms in the US most likely produce enough resources to allow for manure to be reused on large-scale produce farms as fertilizer. This would be cost-effective and promote the recycling of chemical products already present in the environment. Further, I would be interested to see whether farms make use of rainwater for irrigation in the US. If farms set up catchment systems for water and dug irrigation canals similar to those in Uganda, it could eliminate the need for watering during rainy periods.

    In Uganda, there is not much large-scale farming, and I think this industry has a great potential to contribute to eliminating food insecurities in the country. Large-scale farms could sell excess product in rural and urban markets and could also partner with commercial food production companies to sell their produce. I think a farming system smaller than the US commercial system but larger than the current system would be greatly beneficial to Uganda. In this system, I would also recommend that Uganda continue to use natural fertilization and irrigation methods that minimize environmental impact.

  7. Nice summary Julie! When we were at the rural village, I recall one of the elders telling us that they harvest three times a year, while in the U.S, it's mainly one (I believe). I think that their lack of technology forces them to be creative, which is something that I deeply admire in many aspects of Uganda. Their irrigation system is just paved paths in the dirt for rain to collect, and then each path leads to a different crop. They are very efficient in their ways of farming which I definitely think can be applied to U.S. agriculture. However, they also have the climate for their agriculture, while that type of climate does not really exist in the U.S. Yet much of U.S. produce is mass produced with added chemicals, so I definitely think Ugandan perspective can help U.S. farmers get hearty, organic produce without the unnecessary additions.