For the last twelve months or so Friends Reaching Out has been dedicating some time to developing the agricultural element of our work in Uganda. It is an area of the project that has been quietly ticking over for approximately twelve years now, employing two local farmers on a part time basis to grow crops that supplement the children’s diet and reduce our feeding costs at key points throughout the year. While the operation has worked well on a relatively small scale the potential for development and the benefits that such development could bring are great, so we began to investigate some options.
The first and least shocking revelation was the fact that non of us are farmers and that we would be doing the work a disservice not to consult someone with relevant expertise and experience, alongside our farm workers. We contacted UDS (Ugandan Development Services) who are a UK charity working in Uganda to provide practical solutions to poverty, one of their areas of work being farming projects. We had come to know of their work through a meeting of Christian Network Uganda, who provide a facility for UK Christian charities working in Uganda to network, exchange experiences & ideas and support one another where possible.
Around the same time as we had begun these initial investigations we were surprised by the opportunity to purchase the five acres of leasehold farmland that the charity has been using for the past twelve years. In addition we were also offered a further adjoining two acres, all at a reduced rate, due to our relationship with the landowner and our historic use of the land. This was very timely and we were fortunate enough to have sufficient funds (that had been recently raised through a sponsored event) to purchase the title deed for the seven acres and secure a vital asset for the development of the farming project!
In March 2013, during an oversight visit by a Friends Reaching Out Trustee, we arranged for UDS to visit the land and meet with our farmers. The purpose of this consultation was to establish the current practice, daily and seasonal calendars, training requirements and make initial recommendations for development. With valuable knowledge of the best new practice, a great amount of experience and a dedicated team we felt confident in the recommendations delivered by UDS; the first of those and next step for us being soil sampling and analysis from across the site. Soil sampling took place soon afterwards and these were sent for analysis to the agricultural sciences department at Makerere University. The results in brief concluded that the soils are suitable for growth of most tropical crops but would benefit from fertilisation and drainage management to improve yields.
We are very excited at the prospects for growth of our agricultural work. Among other benefits it will create permanent and seasonal employment supporting local families, reduce our dependency on increasingly costly purchased food stuffs, and in the future could potentially generate a small income from excess produce. Our next step would be settling upon an improved regime and to begin farmer training!
Find out how our training has progressed HERE.