Monday, October 30, 2017

My time here in Kabale, Uganda has made me feel like it is home already! Last week was my official first 4 days in the PAG office, 2 of which were spent out in the field with the Agriculture department.

On Tuesday, October 24th, my partner, Sarah, the Agriculture Department Coordinator, Gordon, and I  drove to a neighboring district called Kashereregyenyi to visit a few farmers that were part of the district's farmer group that were taught about conservation agriculture. Our visit to the mountain top village was to see how their farms were doing and how successful the strategies they've implemented were. Our first family included Justus, his wife, and their children who farmed their large piece of land as a family. After we made introductions in their living room, we headed to the back of the house where they housed chicken and goat pens and a small bee farm. From the animals as well as leftover food items they made two compost piles, and this was the first method they had successfully implemented. For them, this was one of the most important because it fosters soil fertilization for their crops. As we walked a little further, we came to the large fields of Irish potatoes, cabbages and short beans, with grafted avocado trees planted throughout their land. The couple showed us the patch of land with Irish potatoes planted and the difference between the plants that had been mulched (another method implemented by covering soil with decomposable materials around your area) and those that had not. The difference was amazing- those that had been mulched had large, green leaves growing out of the ground, producing potatoes for the family in larger number and size! Gordon informed me that their potatoes will continue to look like that if they continue mulching their soil, as it makes soil stronger and more fertile the more it is mulched. Below the field of planted potatoes was a method used to reduce soil erosion by the rain. By planting papayas, with its strong roots and firmer soil, helps the water running down the mountain side meet some resistance and helps prevent landslides.
Justus and his wife standing in their field of Irish potatoes
Some of their trees were also grafted, a method whereby a branch taken from one tree is tied together with the trunk or branch of another tree and produces the food that you desire with the yields that have the strong, healthy characteristics from the original tree. The grafted avocado trees produced the largest avocados that Sarah and I have ever seen, and Justus graciously picked some for us to take home. Despite their luscious-looking piece of land, Justus informed us some of the problems they face on their farm, including lack of mulch, lack of money to buy sprays for plants, and the strong sun that shines during the afternoons.

Our next farmers were Miss Habaasa and Jennifer, both using the mulching technique to protect their soil and crops. Jennifer had planted a few green pepper plants and from her small yield had provided for herself and her friends and made 170,000 Ugandan shillings ($46) from the ones she sold!
Jennifer's farm overlooking towns below the mountains

On Thursday of last week, Gordon, Sarah and I got on a boda boda (the name for the motorcycles came from people driving refugees from "border" to "border") and drove to a small village outside of town called Kitumba. Because it was reported that most of the farming land in Kitumba had lost soil fertility, our plan was to meet with Community Extension Volunteers, or CEVs, at a local PAG church to hold a training on making and using good quality manure and also have a devotional time. Deos, the pastor of the PAG church, led our devotional time discussing material from the Timothy Leadership Training he had participated in, including God's plan to restore the world from its fallen nature through our stewardship of the earth and our personal relationship with Him. Gordon then explained how to make manure from both compost and animals, and how to use it for the benefit of plants. Gordon also explained how to make trenches so that usable soil could be saved even in heavy rainfall that occurs almost every day during this rainy season.
Pastor Deos in his church

A member of our village called Rwakaraba also came to the meeting as he will soon be the second Agriculture Department Coordinator for 3 districts including Kitumba beginning November 1st. Dan is a member of our church and the husband to one of Sarah and I's mentors, Sharon. Sharon and Dan have a farm on their land and welcomed us into their home on Sunday for lunch, where Dan also showed me the potatoes and maize he has planted to provide for his wife and two children.

After work on Thursday, Sarah and I met our friend Ivan and left Kabale to visit his hometown and family in Kisoro. We crammed into an already-full taxi and drove 2 hours in the mountains to reach the town. From there, we rented a boda boda and drove down a road lining Lake Matanda until we reached his home. Though his parents spoke very little English they, along with Ivan's many siblings, were so excited to have a Mzungu (white person) in their home. Friday morning Ivan took Sarah and I to a few famous places, including Mgahinga Gorilla National Park where 3 tall mountains reside, crossing the Uganda, Congo and Rwanda borders. Because it was raining and we arrived late in the morning, we could only hike to a platform view of the park, which featured the mountains, the Congo and Uganda. Our personal tour guide told us all about the area, activities like gorilla tracking and hiking, and found some 3-horned chameleons for us to marvel at on the way back down. Driving back down the long, bumpy road became dangerous when it began to rain heavily, so we pulled into a school and played soccer with some of the children hanging out in a construction building. We then departed for the Congo-Uganda border, only 15 minutes away, but due to time, we quickly went to Lake Matanda where we bargained for a cheap boat ride out on the lake at sunset where we could see the famous Mount Muhabora and the various islands in the lake. We needed the entirety of Saturday to rest when we arrived back home!
Sarah, Ivan and I at Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

God is at work in this community of passionate, welcoming people and Sarah and I are so amazed that we get to be a part of that daily, whether working or free-time fun!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I have been in Kabale, Uganda for a little over one week now and God's glory is everywhere- in the tall, green mountains, in the people, and in the local church.

When I arrived into Kampala late Sunday night, October 8th, I was picked up and taken to a hotel to stay the night.  The next morning, the regional contact, Carol, two of her friends, the driver and I set out for the seven hour drive from Kampala to Kabale (we were lucky to be in a car- the bus ride is 10 hours!) On the way through the luscious green land, we stopped in a small town to pick up gonga, which is a delicious grilled plantain that is soft and chewy on the inside and a favorite snack for locals. My new friends told me all about the Ugandan culture in all of its uniqueness. For example, the country has been influenced by many different cultures and as a result, Uganda is home to 43 different languages. In Kabale, a derivative of the Bantu language, called Rukiga, is the chief spoken language.

When we arrived in Kabale Monday evening, we pulled up to a famous hotel called the White Horse Inn. The inn had previously hosted the meeting of leaders from Uganda and Rwanda and two former US presidents and is known for its fantastic views of the terraced mountains of the city. Our small team stayed there for the week and enjoyed great food and service. On Tuesday, I attended a leadership training on Family Planning and surveying that a public health speaker from Nairobi, Kenya led. About 50 people from 3 different regions of southern Uganda attended to be trained in how to conduct accurate surveys of women in their villages to collect data for family planning statistics. Over lunch, I met the supervisor of the agriculture and sustainable farming program, Gordon, whom I will be primarily shadowing for the next few weeks. Tuesday evening, we had a welcoming dinner at the hotel with the leaders and pastors of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) Church.

Sarah and I at World Food Day festival
My local learning partner, Sarah, and I were introduced later in the week and as we got to know each other, the church leaders decided to house me with Sarah in her beautiful home down the street from our church. Another woman, Prossy, also lives in the home and owns a local store. After I moved in on Friday, we prepared our first dinner together and enjoyed the evening getting to know more about each other and life here in Kabale.

The English service of the PAG church started at 8am on Sunday and the pastor introduced me to their family in both the English service and Rukiga service. Many of Sarah's friends welcomed me into their church family and community, including a doctor named Ivan who works as a clinical physician at a Christian hospital nearby. We spent the afternoon touring the different wings of the hospital and then headed to the end part of a women's conference being held at the church that evening.

Monday of this week was my first glimpse of being in the field with the Agriculture department, although it was a unique opportunity. October 16th was World Food Day and in the Kisoro district of Kabale, hundreds of people set up tents on the top of a mountain to tell people the different ways they've used the earth's resources to provide income, health and a sustainable future to their families or communities. Hundreds of people, including the second Prime Minister, came to see displays and buy products. Our group of the agriculture and farming department had a booth selling and telling about Amaranth and its benefits for famers.

View over Kabale city
The rest of this week, the pastorate, including the pastors from the two local PAG churches and the bishop, and representatives of PAG's community development programs are attending a Timothy Leadership Training, or TLT, where Sarah and I were also invited to. From Tuesday to Friday, we will gather together in a small room next to the town church and work through a discipleship class geared toward those already in church ministry. This week's module is about sustainable development, and we are learning how to identify and properly use community resources to make our communities independent and sustainable, taking past, present and future into account to work to glorify God in a lasting way.

The first few days have been packed, but as I get to know the town, the people and the work being done in World Renew's partner, I am filled with excitement for every day ahead and all that God wants to do and teach Sarah and I!