Hi friends and family!
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!)
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.
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.
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 😉
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!).
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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 here we go 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Every night I sleep under a mosquito net. In the morning, I awake to the sounds of roosters crowing and turkeys gobbling.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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 🙂
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!
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!