Jinja Continued!

Hi friends and family!

Things have been fairly quiet around the hostel recently. I have spent most of my time writing up research and applications and spending time with friends. My friend Nada left on Monday to go back to her home country, Sudan, for 10 days. Thankfully, she will be back before I leave to come home to America! But I already miss her so so so so much…she has been my best friend and my second mom here in Uganda. I can tell you with certainty that my experience in Uganda would have been much different without Nada. Both Nada and I wish that I could have traveled to Sudan with her…I would have loved to experience the Sudanese culture and go to a Sudanese wedding (Nada’s brother is getting married on the 21st!). But right now it is not the easiest for Americans to travel to Sudan unfortunately. Someday though I will travel to Sudan to visit Nada, Hashim, Kahlid, and Monir, my Sudanese friends.

Nada and I ❤ 

I am currently back in Jinja for the final time (I got here Wednesday and will be here until Sunday)! While in Jinja, I have been able to do more volunteering and tours as well as spend lots of time with the Bolin family, which I love. I have learned and played many games with the boys, Foster (6 almost 7) and Noah (11), since I arrived on Wednesday. I don’t think I have ever met two boys who love games more than these two! And these games are not simple…they involve a lot of strategy and thinking ahead!

Ticket to Ride Pennsylvania

This week in Jinja they are having a big agricultural show/fair. People come from all over just to attend the fair! Therefore, it has been pretty crowded in Jinja this week. On Friday, Foster and I went to the fair along with our Ugandan friend Eddy. It was mass chaos! Ugandans and Africans are not afraid to get close and personal to each other. In America, we like our space. We leave an adequate amount of space before and behind us when we are standing in a line and we usually apologize if we accidentally bump someone. That is not the case here! When you are standing in a line in Uganda, you are like sardines in a can. And people push, hard. People also frequently cut in line, haha. It’s crazy! We all finally made it through the entry line and got into the fair. People were absolutely everywhere, the majority of whom were students on field trips. Foster, Eddy, and I all held hands and pushed our way through. We were among the few white people in a sea of beautiful Africans.
The fair had many agricultural booths which consisted of many things including cows, goats, chickens, rabbits, insects, fish, and many different kinds of crops. The crops looked amazing…they were so huge! Crops grow very well here in Uganda if you give them what they need since the climate is perfect. There are actually two growing seasons here, so crops can be grown all year long! Even though the fair was hectic, I’m glad I got to experience it.

A picture of the entrance to the fair that I took while driving by (I took this on the last day of the fair, so it was not very crowded). I couldn’t bring my phone in with me to the fair because things frequently get stolen there. So I could only take the money I needed with me and nothing else. 

Let me tell you about three of the other organizations I was able to volunteer with/visit during my Jinja trips!
First up, an organization called Serving His Children.
Serving His Children is an NGO that works to combat malnutrition here in Uganda. Children are the ones who need adequate and nutritious food the most. The body needs a lot of energy and nutrients as it grows and develops. If the nutrient and energy needs of the body are not met, there can be long term adverse effects. Mothers should not have to worry about if they will have enough food (not to mention food that is nutritionally varied and rich) to feed their children. And yet there are many mothers that worry about that and there are many children that end up dying from malnutrition. I absolutely hate that. Hate is a strong word and I use it purposefully to show you how mad it makes me that this problem of malnutrition exists. My passion in life is agriculture…I want to help these kids and families who are hungry to finally be satisfied and healthy because they have enough food.
Serving His Children has partnered with the government and has an outpatient clinic at a government health center every week. The clinic is for mothers with babies. Each baby gets weighed and the circumference of their arms is measured. All of the information is recorded and you can tell if the baby is improving or not. The arm circumference has measurements that are considered red, yellow, and green. If the baby has red or yellow measurement and/or is underweight, that baby is enrolled in a feeding program. The mother will then receive several packets of high nutrient porridge mixture or many high protein “granola bars” to feed to her baby over a period of two weeks. After two weeks, they come back to be reevaluated.

A big sister taking care of her tiny sibling at the outpatient clinic

Some babies are in bad shape and need to be admitted into Serving His Children inpatient care. The first time I volunteered with SHC, there was a very young baby who had pneumonia in inpatient care. The baby was put on oxygen to help with breathing. The mother herself was only 18 years old. We ended up taking the mother and baby with us back to the children’s hospital in Jinja for better care.
The way I helped out with SHC was in recording information! I got to fill out records including weight, name, food given, etc. I also had the opportunity to hand out the supplemental food to the moms, which was such a joy. Overall, SHC is doing some great work and I am thankful for the chance to be a part of it in a small way!

Me helping Shalom record information at the outpatient clinic 

I had the opportunity to sign up for a tour of the new Amazima school located in Jinja. Amazima is the ministry that Katie Davis (Majors) started. They have a sponsorship program, feeding program, agriculture program, women’s empowerment program, etc. At the beginning of this year, they opened up the Amazima Secondary School (high school).

The administrative building at the Amazima school

It was so neat to hear their vision for the school! Most children in Ugandan schools learn by memorization. They are doing school from 5 or 6 in the morning to 8 or 9 at night. Each day they are given information that they need to memorize for the next day. They will memorize that info during the evening study hall and then spit it back out the next day. Sadly, the students don’t know how to learn. Students are still caned at school here and they are scared to ask questions.
Amazima is doing it differently. They put each new class of incoming students through a transition year where they teach them how to learn. After just half a year with the first class of students at the school, a huge difference has been seen! The students are actually learning and they love to ask and answer questions now. Amazima went through the hard process of becoming a Uganda school instead of an international school. They did that because they want to show Uganda that a Ugandan school here can do things differently and be successful. They want to bring change to the education system here!
The school is a boarding school. The kids are split up into groups of 24. Each group has a Ugandan “parent” and an American couple to lead them. The role of this American/Ugandan team is to mentor the kids and demonstrate Biblical character and marriage to the kids. Many of the kids come from broken families and backgrounds. Additionally, the men here in Uganda tend to not respect the women or treat them as equals. Therefore, many of the boys have not seen men loving women as their sisters in Christ. So the American/Ugandan team is meant to show the boys how to love their sisters well. It was so great to tour the actual school and learn more about it!

A classroom at the school

On Friday I got to stop by the One Acre Fund office of Uganda.
One Acre Fund is a really neat organization that provides a loan of improved seed, fertilizer, and education to smallholder farmers. The farmers will slowly pay back that loan after the harvest. Because of the education, fertilizer, and improved seeds, many farmers end up seeing a large increase in productivity. For example, a farmer that was getting 5 bags of maize off one acre starts to get 20 bags off the same acre with the help of One Acre! At the One Acre office, I got a chance to talk to some of the people who work for One Acre and hear more about the organization. I also got to see some crop trials they have going on to see what pesticide and variety is best. One Acre Fund in Kenya and Rwanda is even doing a program for dairy farmers, which really interested me! They have 3 different packages farmers can choose from…one is for improved nutrition, one is for artificial insemination, and one is for cow health. The program is still pretty new, so they are continuing to collect data on it. Hopefully it will one day be implemented here in Uganda!
If you are interested in the work of One Acre Fund, read the book by  called The Last Hunger Season. I am reading the book right now and it is really good!
Now time for some farmer profiles!
This is John and his herdsman Nixon. John is 70 years old and has been keeping dairy cows for 40 years. I was very impressed with John and the way he manages his cows! His farm is 1.4 acres, much larger than most of the other farmers I interviewed. That space means John has the ability to grow his own grass for his cows, which reduces the risk of the grass being infected with ticks or contaminants and mitigates the need for the herdsman to spend hours searching for enough grass for feed in public areas/open spaces. John’s cows are in very good body condition! One is approximately 378 kg and the other is approximately 578 kg. The cows are giving a fair amount of milk as well. They each give 15 liters per day in early lactation and 5 liters per day in late lactation. Additionally, the herdsman washes the cows udder before and after milking in order to prevent infection and disease.

John’s “barn” and cows

At the end of the interview, I asked John if he had any questions for me. The only thing he asked was if I had any advice for him. I remember telling him that I did not have much advice for him, as he was doing a really great job!

Godfrey wearing the OSU shirt I gave him as a thank you gift! 

This is Godfrey. Godfrey is 65 and has been keeping dairy cows for 20 years. He absolutely loves taking care of cows! In contrast to the other farmers, Godfrey does not have a herdsman. Instead, him and his family members fully take care of the cows. Godfrey used to have 5 cows, but 2 of them died from ticks and 2 died from delivery problems so now he only has 1 cow left. His 1 cow had a stillbirth at the beginning of June. However, it is in very good body condition! Godfrey has some agricultural training in his background and that is very evident with how he manages his cow. He washes the udder with warm water, cleans it with a towel, and uses a milking gel on it before actually milking. He does the same thing after milking. As a result, he has no problems with mastitis at all!
Godfrey breeds his cow via natural service with a bull instead of using artificial insemination. I asked him why he chooses to use natural service and he explained that the cases of unsuccessful inseminations are higher with artificial insemination compared to natural service. Why? Because many of the artificial inseminators are not well skilled at their job. Another positive aspect of the natural service that Godfrey uses is that it costs 50,000 Ugandan shillings (around $14) for a successful service. Meaning if the service is not successful on the first try, Godfrey does not have to pay another 50,000 for further services until success. That definitely helps save money!

Banana peels and other feed ready to give to the cow! 

When I asked Godfrey what questions he had for me, he asked if I could help give him a boost for his farm. See, the government here does not help the farmers much at all. So the farmers have to fight for and help themselves. Again, I so wish I could have given Godfrey the boost that he needs to improve his farm!

Godfrey’s grandson

Well, that’s it for now! I’m about to head back to Gayaza from Jinja, which is always an adventure. The journey should only take about 2 hours, but I have to travel on two different matatus (taxis) and one boda so it ends up taking 4 or 5 hours to get back! But I am thankful that I do have transportation back to Gayaza and can afford it 🙂 Have a great Sunday friends.

Ministries Galore!

I am happy to announce that after 6 weeks of being without running water, we finally have our water back! It is so nice and such a luxury to be able to take an actual shower instead of a bucket shower, flush the toilets, and use the sink. Running water is not something to take for granted!

No more bucket flushing or showering! 

I have traveled to Jinja twice so far and I will go once more next week. It has been so nice to get to go to Jinja and the Bolin Family is extremely kind to host me each time. Jinja is a very different city than Kampala! It is much smaller and is less busy (sometimes it can be nice to escape the busyness of Kampala!).
As I mentioned before, Jinja is the ministry capital of Uganda! My main purpose of going to Jinja has been to volunteer with some ministries there. I would love to give you some insight into the ministries I’ve worked with and the clinics I have gotten to take part in!
The first ministry I volunteered with was Sole Hope.

One of the Sole Hope vans: #zerojiggers

Sole Hope goes to many different villages in Uganda and removes jiggers from peoples hands and feet. Jiggers are small insects that burrow into skin and lay eggs. They can be quite painful and can cause a lot of damage! Not only does Sole Hope remove jiggers, but they also provide each person with a new pair of shoes and educate them on how to prevent jiggers. For severe cases (those with 50 or more jiggers), the people are brought back to an inpatient clinic where the jiggers are removed slowly. Sole Hope employees make all of the shoes that they give out!

Shoes waiting to be given out

The process usually starts in America, where people have shoe cutting parties…they print out a pattern and cut old denim into the pieces needed to make shoes. The cut pieces are then sent to Uganda and are sown and glued until the finished project is complete. The shoes are very good quality and are made to last! The soles are actually made out of recycled car tires. If you want to find out more about Sole Hope and how you can be involved, visit their website: http://solehope.org

Children waiting to be fitted for and given a pair of shoes! 

Thursdays are Sole Hope clinic days where they go out to the villages. I got to help out at one of these clinics! We went to Wansimba primary school. We started the day by playing games with the kids so that they could be relaxed and get comfortable with us before we actually removed any jiggers.

Playing games at the primary school! 

As a volunteer, I got to do two different jobs throughout the clinic. My first job was to sit behind a Sole Hope employee and take notes. The employees were the ones actually removing the jiggers (thank goodness, because I don’t know if I would have been able to do it!). Each child would come up with a piece of paper that had an outline of two hands and feet as well as some basic information. I would take the piece of paper and record the number of jiggers removed in each foot/hand and the location of those jiggers. Some kids had no jiggers at all, which was great! Some of the kids had toenails and toes that were rotted away as a result of the jiggers. The Sole Hope team used safety pins and razor blades to remove the jiggers. They would also treat any wounds that were present on the children’s legs, etc. It was strange to watch little white worms come out of someones foot! Each child was given a sweetie (lollipop) during the removal. Even though the process of removing the jiggers was painful, the kids almost never flinched…they were so strong! American kids would have been bawling during the removal.

A child getting jiggers removed

The second job I got to do was washing kids feet. The first thing that happens to each child is getting their feet washed! As volunteers, we wash one foot with soap and water and then we ask the child to wash their other foot. That way the kids know how to properly wash and scrub their feet! Jiggers take around 24 hours to embed in skin, so scrubbing feet each day is an important part of prevention. Overall, the clinic went by very quickly! We were able to see 147 children and remove 105 jiggers.

Kids getting their feet washed!


Scrub a dub dub

I also got the opportunity to visit a ministry called Give a Goat. I learned about Give a Goat through Instagram and have been following them for over a year now. So I was super excited to get to visit the farm here in Uganda! Give a Goat raises dairy goats here and gives the milk to ministries and baby homes. The milk provides much needed nutrition to growing babies and children. They also used to give out dairy goats for people to raise on their own.

The current location of the Give a Goat farm with a few goats in the background

Goats are very common here in Uganda. However, the majority of goats here are meat goats. Meat goats are easy to raise…people just tether them in a new location each day and let them graze. Not much management is needed. In contrast, dairy goats need a lot more management! Currently, three Ugandans are managing around 40 goats. They are getting ready to move to a new location soon and establish a farm there! Give a Goat is doing great work. Milk is so important, especially in developing countries. One of the questions that I asked the farmers I surveyed for research was how the milk they get from their cows impacts their family nutritionally. All of the farmers emphasized the importance and significance of milk…it keeps them strong and healthy! If you want to learn more about Give a Goat, visit their website: http://give-a-goat.com

The structures where the goats sleep at night! 

In June, I had the chance to meet with Matt Bolin and Geoffrey Morley. Matt and Geoff are business partners in Cross Agriculture, a company Geoff and his friend started to help manage agricultural projects in Kenya and Uganda.

Matt got connected with Geoff, who grew up in Kenya, and they are now working together here in Uganda! Anyways, I got to meet with both of them in Kampala to talk about my research and their work. What they are doing is amazing. Geoff realized some time ago that there were many amazing agricultural projects that had been started here in Uganda. However, many of those projects end up failing. Why? Because of bad management. Some foreign companies and people will come here and try and start a huge project, but they do not have any of the local knowledge so their project fails. Some locals choose to start a project, but they do not have the management experience or global connections/knowledge so their project fails. The goal of Cross Agriculture is to come in, provide local and global knowledge, and help manage these projects so that they can succeed!

After I met with Matt and Geoff, I had the chance to attend a business meeting with them. Part of our journey to the meeting involved riding boda-bodas through Kampala while holding an ice cream milkshake in one hand, haha! The company we met with has many different fruit and vegetable farms in Uganda and they ship their produce and products (of which they have around 100) to different continents. This company is truly amazing! Not only do they use biodynamic farming methods, but they also take amazing care of their employees. They make sure each employee gets two full meals to eat each day, they pay for their children’s school fees, and they allow loyal, hardworking employees to have partial ownership in the farms. Matt, Geoff, and I were all blown away by this company! I’m so glad I got to attend the meeting and hear more about what Matt and Geoff are doing here.

In other news, I went into Kampala yesterday with my friends Nada and Cynthia. Nada took me to a Sudanese salon and they did henna on me! We thought they were only going to do my hands, but they ended up doing my feet as well. The woman who did it is very talented! It took several hours, but the finished product is amazing. For anyone who is alarmed, henna is temporary and only lasts several weeks 😉 The way the woman did henna on me is for married women or women who are getting married in Sudanese culture. So all of the Sudanese were saying that I was a bride, haha! Do not fear though…I am not getting married while I am here in Uganda 🙂

We ate dinner in town at the Ethiopian restaurant with our friend Hashim and a man named Ehab, who works at the Sudanese Embassy in Uganda. The food and company were wonderful and I even got to snuggle at cat (which was so nice for a girl who dearly misses her 3 kitties back home!)



Farmer Profiles
This is Rose. Rose is 55 years old and has been raising dairy cows since 1996. Rose was the first farmer that I talked to when I was going to introduce myself to farmers and schedule a second meeting. After I met with Rose, Constantine told me a heart-renching story about her. In 2010, her son was watching the final of the FIFA Mens World Cup in Kampala. During the game, terrorists set off a bomb and many people died. Rose’s son was one of the people who died that day. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child, especially in such a horrible way.
Rose has two cows and one calf, as well as pigs and chickens. Therefore, her cows are not her sole source of income. Those farmers who only have cows are usually being additionally supported by their working children. This extra support is needed because they are not making much money off of the cows and milk they are selling (there are a lot of costs involved with keeping dairy cows, which reduces the monetary gain).

Cow and calf eating corn stovers

Rose struggles with unsuccessful artificial insemination and the challenge of getting feed for her cows during the dry season. Thankfully, Rose does not have any issues with East Coast Fever (ECF). East Coast Fever can be a big problem for farmers here in Uganda! It is transmitted via ticks. The risk of your animals getting ECF increases if you are bringing grasses and other feed to your animals from outside of your farm. And most of the urban and peri-urban dairy farmers of Kampala are getting feed from locations outside of their farm as they don’t have the space or resources to produce enough feed on their own. The farmers can’t control the environment where they are getting their grass from as it is mostly public land. Therefore, they may be bringing in grass and feed for their cows that is infected with ticks carrying ECF. But what can they do? Their cows have to eat. Many farmers spray against ECF around their farms. However, the spray costs money, a resource that is not abundant for these farmers. Rose sprays two times per week in the dry season and once per week in the rainy season.
At the end of each of my interviews, I asked each farmer if they had any questions for me. One of the questions Rose asked was if she could get a cow and a calf from America (our American cows end up producing a lot more than the local Ugandan cows because of improved genetics and access to adequate amounts of feed and water). Of course, I have no way of getting Rose and cow and calf from America. But I so so so wish I could. I want nothing more than to help these farmers and empower them! The little I can do right now is to listen to them and to share their stories with people like you.
This is Foster. She is 62 years old and has been managing dairy cows for 16 years. Foster has two cows and one calf. One of the cows is a pure Friesian (Holstein) and the other is a local and Friesian cross. It is amazing to see the difference in the milk production from the pure Friesian and the cross. According to Foster, the Friesian produces 30 – 40 Liters of milk per day in early lactation and 10 – 12 Liters per day in late lactation. In contrast, the cross produces 8 Liters per day in early lactation and 5 Liters per day in late lactation. Crazy, right?!
Foster uses artificial insemination to breed her cows. She wants to breed her cows with semen from pure Friesian bulls in order to produce high producing calves. However, the semen from pure Friesian bulls is extremely expensive (250,000 Ugandan shillings, around $70 per insemination…remember, the insemination is usually not successful on the first try so the farmers have to keep paying for each insemination until it is successful) and Foster cannot afford to pay that much. Instead, she chooses to use the lower quality and less expensive semen (100,000 shillings, $28).

Foster’s housing system for her cows was unique! She makes use of her small space by building up instead of out. The cows live on the bottom and other animals live up top.

Foster did not buy her cross cow…it was given to her. In Africa, it is common for there to be a dowry required when a man wants to marry a woman. In Uganda, that dowry includes cows! Meaning that a Ugandan man will have to give his fiancé/wifes family several cows in order to marry their daughter. So one of Foster’s daughters got married and she got a cow as a result!
Okay, that’s it for now! I’ll talk more about other ministries I have gotten the chance to work with here in Uganda in a future post. Hope you all are having a great week!

Sipi, Eid, Ggaba, Watoto, Jinja!

Wondering what all those words in the title mean? They may seem like strange words to us Americans, but read on to understand what each word is and how it relates to my time here in Uganda!

Whew, the week of June 18th was another crazy week! My week started with me getting sick…a fever and sore throat that turned into a stuffy nose and cough. Thankfully, I am fully better now!

It is hard to believe, but I finished my data collection/field work for my research project on Friday, June 23! Now it is time to type everything up, analyze it, and write. I am glad to be able to finally get some rest, but I am sad that I will not be interviewing and interacting with the farmers anymore. However, I know that I will never forget the farmers that I have met and I will keep sharing their stories and spreading awareness of the challenges that they are facing.

Okay, let me update you on some of the things I have done in the past few weeks that are not research related!


Two weekends ago I traveled to Sipi Falls in eastern Uganda with four American students from Princeton University.

Hiking at Sipi Falls!

I originally met one of the students, Rebecca, in the dining hall at MUARIK. When I first saw her there, I was so excited because there are not many Americans at MUARIK. Rebecca and I got connected and became friends! Everyone at the hostel calls Rebecca my sister because that is how they refer to people who come from the same country as you. For example, Nada calls her fellow Sudanese friends her brothers.

Rebecca lives just across the street from me and she is interning with CURAD, an agribusiness incubator that works with the coffee value chain.

On Saturday, June 17 Rebecca, three other Princeton students doing internships in Uganda, and I began our trek to Sipi Falls. The journey can take between 4 – 6 hours or so (it’s Africa, so you never really know!). While in Sipi, we got to watch the sunset from the top of a mountain/hill and do some beautiful hiking at the base of Mount Elgon.

Watching the beautiful sunset

Me and some of the precious and silly kids that befriended us

We saw some tall waterfalls and a cave! Overall, it was an exhausting but fun weekend. If you would like to sometime hear an interesting story about that trip, just ask me about a guide named Patrick 😉

Inside the cave!


One of the waterfalls

Sunday, June 25 was Eid, the end of Ramadan for Muslims. We celebrated by having a meal together and eating lots of Sudanese cookies and candies (which was a big treat because desserts are not common here!).

Sudanese cookies!!

Celebrating Eid

Before Ramadan ended, I had still been breaking the fast every night at 7pm with my friends. We usually just had the meal at MUARIK, but we also went into town and the surrounding areas for a few meals! These friends of mine are so kind. For dinner, they always pay for my meal, transportation, etc. They would never let me pay…that is just the Sudanese culture. I am telling you, they are extremely generous people! When breaking the fast in town, we had Sudanese food, Indian food, Ethiopian food, and Ugandan food all on different occasions.


Ethiopian food in Old Kampala


One night we went to Ggaba beach, which is right on the edge of Lake Victoria. It was our friend Monir’s last night in Uganda before returning to Sudan, so it was nice to have fun and spend time with him before he left! We took a boat ride out on the lake and then ate whole tilapia that had been caught in the lake. I had the head of the fish! It’s hard to get used to people eating whole fish here with the skin and bones instead of just fillets, haha.

Watching the sunset from the boat on Lake Victoria

The Sudanese and American cohort! Hashim, Rebecca, Khalid, Monir, Taylor, and Nada


Our tilapia, complete with lemon wedges!


On Sunday, June 25 I finally got to attend Watoto Church in Kampala. IT WAS AMAZING!! Watoto has many different church campuses throughout Kampala and they have thousands of people attend each weekend. They even have a church plant in Juba, South Sudan where a war is currently going on! The worship music at church included a lot of dancing, which was so much fun. One of the things that I love about Watoto is that they have several children’s villages where they raise kids that have been abandoned and dumped on the streets. Some of you may have heard of Watoto Childrens Choir…they travel to America on tour and have been to Columbus before. That choir is made up of kids from the Watoto children’s villages! It was really wonderful to worship with such a large group of believers here in Uganda. I can’t wait to go back!

Here in Uganda it is coming into the dry season, meaning it doesn’t rain very much. Uganda has two main seasons: rainy season and dry season (both happen twice per year). It was rainy season when I first arrived in Uganda in May. In the dry season things get a lot more dusty! Every time you wash your hands, red brown dirt flows off of them. The dust clings onto your clothes and feet as well. This is Uganda 😉 In Kampala during the dry season they sometimes have a large truck drive over the roads while spraying water out the back. This wets the roads and reduces the dust!

I just got back from spending a few days in Jinja, Uganda. Jinja is 2 hours east of Kampala. While in Jinja, I stayed with the Bolin family. Let me tell you how I met the Bolins! On my plane ride from Amsterdam to Entebbe in May there was a family of four sitting behind my family. We started talking with them about one hour before we landed in Entebbe. Incredibly, both the husband and wife have an agriculture/dairy background! That family was the Bolin family. It has been such a blessing to get to know them and stay in contact…it was totally a God thing that we were sitting next to each other and had the opportunity to meet! They have been so kind to let me stay with them when I travel to Jinja. I will blog about my time in Jinja in a future post!

Here are a few farmer profiles…enjoy!


This is Theresa.

Theresa is 62 years old and has been keeping dairy cows for 6 years. She lives very close to Betty (we actually weren’t planning on interviewing Theresa originally, but she saw us talking to Betty and wanted to be included!).

Theresa owns a 4 month old calf and the cow who gave birth to that calf. She is one of the only farmers that I have talked to who uses natural service (bringing cow to a bull) to breed her cow instead of artificial insemination (AI). When I asked her why she chose natural service, she responded that AI was more expensive. Many decisions come down to costs for these smallholder farmers. They may very well know the best things to do for their cows, but if they don’t have the money for it they cannot do it.


Theresa’s herdsman using the weigh band on the calf. The weigh band tells me the girth of the cows and their approximate weight, both of which give insight into the body condition of the cows.

Theresa said that her major challenges as a smallholder farmer are unreliable and expensive vets and the possibility for feeds gathered from open spaces and roadsides to be contaminated with plastic bags. One cow that she had started randomly loosing a lot of weight. Eventually when the cow was slaughtered, they found a plastic bag inside of it…that plastic bag had caused a huge loss in productivity!

Theresa also mentioned that an NGO came to her farm one time and vaccinated her cows. While that sounds wonderful and very helpful, it is actually quite scary and frustrating. Why? Because the NGO did not give Theresa any information about what vaccine they were using and the withdrawal time of that vaccine (how long Theresa and her family need to discard the milk and not drink or sell it). So something that was supposed to be helpful turned into something dangerous. Like everyone always says, communication is key.



This is Harriet.

Harriet is 70 years old and has worked with dairy cows since she was young. When she was young, Harriet represented Uganda as an international field hockey player!

My interview with Harriet was one of the harder ones that I have had to do because Harriet is losing her memory. She unknowingly kept repeating herself and would even move back to the previous questions without noticing. It was hard to find a balance between not being rude, but also trying to move things forward. It ended up being very difficult to get answers from her for some of my questions. But that is the reality of working with people and you make it work!

Harriet owns 4 cows and they are all in good body condition. Back in 1993, the church she was going to gave out 6 pure Friesian (Holstein) cows to 6 different people. Harriet was one of the people who received a pure Friesian cow! She had only had local cows before that time. Harriet took very good care of her Friesian cow and experienced the increased milk yields of the more productive breed.



This cow has some large horns! That means it has a higher percentage of the local cow breed compared to those with shorter or no horns.

Harriet used to have many more cows than she does now. However, her land size has decreased over the years because she is being squeezed in as Kampala expands. Therefore, she had to cut back on the number of cows she was keeping.

Another challenge that Harriet faces is reliable vets and artificial  inseminators. When she calls the vet or inseminator, he or she delays a long time and ends up getting to Harriet’s farm when it is too late. For example, the inseminator will come when the peak of heat is already past. Therefore, the expensive insemination is not successful.

Even though interviewing Harriet was difficult, I am still glad that I got the chance to meet her and learn about her farm!

The country of Uganda and the people of Uganda have fully captured my heart! I am already dreading July 30th, when I have to board a plane and come back to America. But I won’t think about that now…I still have a whole month left 🙂

Love and miss you all!


The view on a morning walk at MUARIK

Moooving Forward

Hello friends!
I am currently in the thick of research (forgive me for not posting an update sooner, I haven’t had much time!).

Most of my time has been spent with Dr. Constantine Katongole, an animal nutritionist at Makerere University. Constantine has been so helpful…honestly, this research project would not be possible without him. He is the one who has driven me around Kampala (which I am very thankful for because you do not want to drive here if you don’t absolutely have to!), connected me with the farmers I am doing my research on, located the farms I am doing my research on (they are not always easy to find even when you know the general area they are in), and translated from English to Luganda (the main language in the Central region of Uganda) and vice versa.

The purpose of the first week of research was to go to urban and peri-urban (suburban) dairy farms around Kampala so that Constantine and I could introduce ourselves to the farmers. After the introductions, we asked if they would be willing for me to do my research survey on their farm. If they agreed (which they all did), we scheduled a time that was convenient for them when we could come back and complete the survey.

Last week and this week have been spent going back to the farms and actually doing the survey/interview and I cannot even explain how awesome it has been.


Conducting research on one of the farms! From left to right: Foster (the farmer), Constantine, and me

To give you a little background on myself, I never really wanted to do research originally. Research didn’t interest me as much and it honestly intimidated me. However, I needed to conduct a research project in order to complete the honors program at Ohio State. Most people complete their honors research at Ohio State, which is awesome! But I knew that I wanted to do my research in another country. Why did I want that? Because I have a passion for international agriculture, specifically in developing countries. I also love to travel and experience new cultures that are completely different from what I am used to in America. I want to spend my life working in agriculture in developing countries and helping the amazing and hardworking people who live there.

So, I became excited about this research project that Dr. Barker and Dr. Sabiiti helped me design because it was in Uganda. But I also became excited about it because of the nature of the project. I was not going to be doing research in a lab or in a field on my own. Instead, I was going to be interacting with real life Ugandan smallholder dairy farmers and learning about their successes and their challenges.  You cannot successfully help these people until you have talked to them and gotten their perspective. There are a lot of things that we do not know/understand when we are just on the outside looking in.
All of that to say, I am really excited about this research project and I am happy to be doing it!
So far, I have interviewed 7 different smallholder dairy farmers (meaning they have 1-5 cows approximately). My survey looks at all aspects of the farm, including feed type, cost and quantity, cow health issues, age, milking stage, and body condition, milk output, milk end-use (home consumption and selling), and major challenges of the smallholder dairy farmers. I have already learned so much! I am going to give you all a glimpse into the life of each farmer I have interviewed by highlighting several farmers in each blog post.

So here we go 🙂

This is Annette.

Annette is an amazing woman who is about to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband! She keeps chickens and pigs and also farms matoke/banana trees near Kampala.

Constantine and I traveled to meet with Annette and ask her if I could interview her about her dairy cows. Constantine has been to Annette’s house/farm several times in the past and the last time he came she was keeping dairy cows. However, Annette explained to us that she no longer has her cows. They all died. But they did not die a natural death. Someone came in the night and poisoned her cows. The calves died very quickly and the milking cows took a little longer to die. Believe it or not, poisoning of livestock is common here! It is awful, but it is true. And dairy cows are expensive for the people here, so they are not easy to replace (one dairy cow will cost between 1 million – 2 million Ugandan shillings, which equals approximately $275 – $550). Therefore, Annette does not have any new dairy cows. She also had some of her chickens stolen in the past! Urban/peri-urban farming is not easy here.
Another issue that Annette had to deal with last year was drought. The climate is becoming more and more unpredictable here in Uganda. The rains don’t come when they always used to and most people here do not have irrigation. If crops don’t get water, they will not grow. Therefore, these farmers in Uganda depend on rain. People here spend a lot of time praying for rain! At a Bible study I attended at my hostel, many of the students were thanking God for bringing rain so that their crop trials could grow.

In times of drought, the government has told people to try manually irrigating with bottles of water. However, it is impossible to irrigate even a small piece of land properly with water bottles. Annette tried using some water bottles, but her crops still suffered from the drought.

Even though I could not do my survey on Annette’s farm since she does not have dairy cows anymore, I am still very thankful for the chance I got to meet her and learn about some of the challenges she has faced.

This is Betty.

Betty has one calf and two cows. She is a lady with a great sense of humor! I interviewed her while she was doing the morning laundry.

Constantine translated my questions and Betty’s answers since Betty does not speak much English and I do not speak much Luganda! Betty is 69 years old and has been keeping dairy cows for 14 years now. She said that the major challenges that she faces as a smallholder urban dairy farmer are feed scarcity and an inefficient herdsman.

Feed scarcity is a big problem for urban and peri-urban dairy farmers, especially as Kampala keeps growing and open spaces with grass become fewer and fewer. Most of the urban and peri-urban dairy farmers around Kampala are follow a non-grazing system, meaning their cows are confined and their food is given to them in a trough. They don’t do any grazing. The food that the cows receive is grass cut down from roadsides or open spaces, food waste such as banana peels, or crop waste such as corn or bean stovers. So as open space in Kampala becomes less available, so does feed for urban livestock.When dairy cows don’t get enough feed, it can cause a lot of issues. They will not produce as much milk as they are capable of and they are less likely to concieve on the first service/insemination. Many farmers I have talked to have told me that their cows almost never get pregnant on the first try. That means they have to wait until the cow goes into heat the next time (which wastes time) and they do have to pay for every insemination, which can be expensive.
Almost all of the farmers I have talked to hire a herdsman to collect the feed, prepare and give the feed, and do the milking. Sometimes though, like in Betty’s case, the herdsman are not consistent or do not pay enough attention to the cows. Betty mentioned that her herdsman is also the herdsman for another farmer, meaning his attention and time is split between two sets of cows.


One of Betty’s cows

Okay, that is all I will write for now! I will post again soon with more farmer profiles and other things I have failed to update you all about.


An incredibly beautiful Ugandan sunset

On My Own

On Tuesday, my family settled me into my room at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK) near Gayaza. Watching them drive away and head to the airport was incredibly hard. Even though I am so glad to be in Uganda, at that moment I wanted to run after the car, jump in, and fly back to America with my family. It is hard being in a foreign country all on your own!

My first night here was hard. Not only was I alone in Uganda without my family, but the power and water were out until late in the evening too, haha! Since that first night, everything has gone uphill. I absolutely love where I am staying and the people I am staying with! I truly feel at home here.

At MUARIK, I am staying in a dorm (or hostel as they call it) with around 20 graduate students. Most of the grad students in my hostel are doing a masters in plant breeding and seed systems. Two of the students are pursuing a Phd in rural development.

My summer home…the hostel!

Sign pointing to where the masters student’s research fields are

These students could not have been more welcoming to me! They have constantly been helping and checking up on me. The students are from all over Africa, including Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, etc. MUARIK is a really big institute with many classrooms, hostels, labs, greenhouses, and fields. It is a great place to go on walks and explore!

The beautiful view from a field at MUARIK!

I cook my own breakfast here, which always consists of oatmeal and either coffee or tea. For other meals, our hostel has a cook named Esther. I can get lunch and dinner from Esther for 5,000 Ugandan shillings, which equals about $1.50! Esther is an amazing cook and she makes all the Ugandan staples, including rice, beans, matoke (mashed up plantains), etc. I have gotten to eat and try so many new foods here in Uganda and I can say that I really do like Ugandan food!

My daily breakfast

One of the students here who has been particularly kind and gracious is Nada. Nada is from Sudan and is completing her Phd currently. Since Ramadan (the month of fasting for Muslims) is going on right now, Nada fasts during the day and breaks the fast each night at 7pm with fellow Sudanese students. I have accompanied her almost every night that I have been here! So not only have I gotten to eat Ugandan food, but I have also gotten to eat Sudanese food as well. The meal always starts out with eating dates, then moves on to Sudanese bread, lentils, beans, and meat, and then ends with tea.

Breaking the fast

Every night I sleep under a mosquito net. In the morning, I awake to the sounds of roosters crowing and turkeys gobbling.

Home sweet home!

Our water system in the hostel has not been working since last Thursday! That means no running water. So we have had to gather water from the tank outside our building and pour the water into the toilets to flush them. I’ve also learned how to take a very efficient bucket shower!

A bucket shower about to commence!

If you are living in Uganda, having a bucket is a requirement. Thankfully the water just started working again earlier this afternoon. Here in Uganda, you make do with what you have. Sometimes there is no power, internet, or water. But all of those things are not necessities for life! Life here is simple…that is one of the things I like most about Uganda and Africa. Things are very inexpensive and people are always willing to help out those around them. Yes, there is a lot of corruption here and things move at a very different pace. But if you come here I think you will fall in love with the people, the beauty, and the culture.

Most of my time at MUARIK so far has been spent hanging out and adjusting to life here. Tomorrow, I start my research! I am doing my research under Dr. Elly Sabiiti. Dr. Sabiiti was a previous dean of the agriculture college at Makerere University. For those of you who don’t know how I came to be in Uganda this summer, it is all thanks to Dr. Sabiiti and people at OSU including Dr. Barker, Dr. Peffer, Beau Ingle, etc. My professor, Dr. Barker, introduced me to Dr. Sabiiti when he was at OSU as a Fulbright visiting scholar in January 2016. Dr. Sabiiti invited me to come to Uganda and the rest is history 🙂 The focus of my research for this week is traveling to various smallholder dairy farmers and asking them if they would be willing to have me complete a survey about their farm/dairy cows. If they are willing, I will then schedule a second meeting with them to take place in the coming weeks where I will actually complete the survey. I will keep you updated on how that all goes!

Dr. Sabiiti and I

In the past week, I have had the opportunity to take part in several fun and new experiences! On Saturday, I went to the wedding reception of one of the grad students here. In some ways, it was similar to a American wedding reception. However, the music was very different (upbeat African music). I also couldn’t understand most of what the speakers were saying as they were speaking in Luganda instead of English! One of my favorite parts of the wedding was the gift reception line at the end. Everyone gathered in a big line and danced their way up to the front to congratulate the bride and groom and hand them their gift! I must say, the dancing here is amazing.

The wedding!!

Getting food at the wedding with two of the Ethiopian grad students

I have gotten the chance to travel into Kampala several times with Nada via matatu (taxi) and boda-boda (motorbike). Riding on boda-bodas can be somewhat dangerous, but they are a ton of fun! And they get you where you want to go in a timely manner as they can easily weave through traffic.

On Sunday, I spent most of the day with the Gibsons. Dr. and Mrs. Gibson are the other Americans living in MUARIK. They have been here for 9 years so far! Dr. Gibson is the professor in charge of the graduate plant breeding and seed systems program here. The Gibsons took me to church with them and then we spent the afternoon chatting. It was amazing to hear their story about how the Lord has guided them in their international work for their whole lives. Mrs. Gibson leads a Bible study for a few of the senior girls who attend the nearby elite, all girls high school. I was able to attend the study and get to know the girls. When they grow up, the girls truly want to have an impact on their country from helping with orphans to assisting refugees. That is what Uganda and Africa need: educated young people rising up to tackle the challenges of their country.

On Sunday evening, the grad students in my hostel had a party to celebrate the end of their coursework (they are now moving onto research and internships). I only caught the  end of the party, since I had been at the Gibsons. However, it was still extremely fun as we danced the night away…I even learned how to do some of the African dances! In just this first week that I have been on my own in Uganda, I have been so amazed at God’s faithfulness. I could not have asked for a better place to stay or better friends to live with!

Family Adventures

I am currently writing this blog post during a power outage in Jinja, overlooking the Nile River. Power outages are frequent here and you never know when they are going to happen! They are just a part of normal Ugandan life 🙂


The Nile River (or the River Nile as the Ugandans say)

I have now been in Uganda for 11 days, although it feels like I have been here much longer. My family and I have seen many different parts of the country, each part having its own unique beauty. We spent several days in Kampala, the capital city. Whew, I have never in my entire life been in a crazier city than Kampala. People are everywhere and they cross the road wherever they want! The traffic is horrible, especially in the morning and afternoon/evening. Cars, matatus (taxis), and boda-bodas (motorbikes) fill the streets and barely squeeze by each other without getting into accidents! The city includes the very rich (government officials, military personal, etc.) and the very poor (those living in the slums of Kampala).

The craziness of Kampala!

We were able to walk through some of the markets, which have any kind of food or product that you could ever want! Colorful beans are laid out, bunches of mangoes are beautifully stacked up, and many tiny anchovies are in buckets. Huge chunks of meat hang from small kiosks.

A market by the roadside

While in Kampala, I got to visit Makerere University and meet with Dr. Sabiiti, the professor that I am doing my research under here. We drove together to Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute, which is where I will be staying for the remainder of my time in Uganda starting on Tuesday! The research institute is in Gayaza, which is about 15 kilometers from Kampala. More info on the institute to come in future posts!
My family and I did two safaris in Uganda. The first one was in Murchison Falls National Park (northwest Uganda). It was so amazing!! We got to see giraffes, elephants, jackson antelope, Ugandan kobs, a python, hippos, a leopard, many beautiful birds, warthogs, water buffalo, hyenas, baboons, oribis, mongoose, and lions. The highlights for me were seeing the hippos and the lions! Our guide, Sam, found two females and one male lion in the bush…we even got to hear the male lion growl.
Not only were the animals prolific and incredible, but the scenery was magnificent too. I got to sit on top of the car and feel the wind blow past me as we drove through the savanna.

The beautiful savanna of Murchison Falls National Park

On our final day at Murchison, we took a boat ride and then hiked up to Murchison Falls, which resulted in me being the most sweaty that I have been in a long time (it gets pretty hot here!). The falls are extremely powerful…if you choose to go down them, you won’t survive.

Me with the falls in the background

Our second safari was at Lake Mburo, in the western region of Uganda. On our way, we passed the equator!

Passing from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere for the first time in my life!

The new animals that we got to see at Lake Mburo were zebras and impala. The zebras were so beautiful!
Seeing the African animals in the wild was incredible. It was so neat to see them running, communicating, eating, and interacting. The hippos were huge! We saw them in the water during the day, but they come up on land at night to eat. They eat one third of their bodyweight in grass every night! I also learned that elephants have a 22 month gestation period, which is insanely long! We did get to see a baby elephant 🙂
We are now finishing up the family traveling part of the trip in Jinja, Uganda. Jinja is known as the source of the Nile, since it is where Lake Victoria empties into the Nile River. On Sunday morning, we got to attend a local church called Arise Africa. Black and white, Ugandan and foreigners were all worshipping together and it was beautiful! Jinja is the ministry capital. There are so many ministries based here such as Amazima, Sole Hope, etc. My mom and I are in heaven, haha 🙂 Today, we got to go white water rafting on the Nile, which was so awesome!
Okay, I will wrap up this long post! Be on the lookout for more posts as I transition from traveling to researching.

The Beginning

It’s only the end of my first day in Uganda and I am already in love with this country. My family is currently here with me and we are traveling around Uganda for two weeks before I settle down and start my research! It took us a long time to get here. We went from Columbus to Detroit, Detroit to Amsterdam, and Amsterdam to Entebbe, Uganda. It just so happened that we ran into Benji Majors in the Detroit airport. Benji Majors is Katie Davis Majors (the founder of the Ugandan ministry Amazima and the author of Kisses from Katie) husband. I was freaking out! My mom and I love Katie and have been following along with her ministry for many years now. Benji happened to be on our same flight to Amsterdam and to Uganda! It was so neat to talk with him for a bit.

To be honest, I was extremely nervous about coming to Uganda for the past few weeks leading up to the trip. There were so many details to be finalized and tons of packing to be done. I was nervous about coming to a new culture where I would stick out like a sore thumb (there is no way to blend in here!). I was nervous about being alone for most of the summer in a place I didn’t know much about. I am still nervous about being alone when my family leaves me and flies back to Ohio. And yet, much of my excitement for this trip has returned even after only being here for one day. It is still hard to comprehend that I’m actually in Africa, a place I have always dreamed about visiting! I know this summer will be challenging and wonderful at the same time, which is a good thing I think. I am definitely out of my comfort zone, but that will help me grow!

Today, my family went to the botanical gardens in Entebbe. In order to get there, we walked on a red dirt road and passed by many Ugandan homes. The kids would yell out “Hi!” or “Hello Muzungu (white person)!” Their smiles were contagious! We were seriously like celebrities. There were tons of goats tied up to graze at the edges of the road and there were many chickens, cows, and pigs too. I loved seeing crops like maize and cassava growing right by the road!


The road to the botanical gardens

At the botanical gardens, we had our first monkey sighting. The monkeys bounded from tree branch to tree branch. We even got to see a few mom monkeys with their babies hanging onto their bellies!



We ended our day by watching a football (soccer) game taking place next to our guest house and playing with the many Ugandan children there, which was my favorite part of the day 🙂 I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks have in store!


The children I got to play with this evening!


Could they be any cuter?