Well, in case any of you were in any doubt, its official. The girls are more resilient than the boys. I suspect that this isn’t ‘news’ for many but the fact that Lachie and I have been the first to succumb to sickness in Uganda seems to give it more credence. Lachie’s unfortunately in a much worse state than me and didn’t join us on our road trip today.
We’re visiting one of our new projects today. The Junior Landcare Project at Masaka. That’s a three hour drive from Kampala, through productive countryside of papaya, bananas, forests and sweet potatoes. The road was good and traffic nowhere near as crazy as downtown Kampala, where single file means ‘don’t hit anyone else’ and driving the wrong way down a one way street is just seen as a challenge.
At one point today we straddled the equator before heading on to the Butale school. What a welcome we received! We felt like royalty as the children greeted us with singing, dancing, drums and speeches.
What a contrast we felt from our visit to Bulesa school yesterday. Both are government funded schools. Both are chronically underfunded. Both have teachers committed to the wellbeing of their children and their communities. Only Butale runs the junior landcare project, the methodology that the Kain Foundation’s funding is going to allow to be rolled out to four additional schools. It was at this school that last year’s team funded a new piggery. That piggery has allowed the school to take the project to another level, creating their own source of manure which improves their crop production and gives them another source of income.
That landcare system provides a common vision around which the teaching staff and local community can unite. The passion of the headmaster and his team of young teachers was fantastic. They showed us how they use song, dance, poems and rhymes to teach the children about the principles of sustainable agriculture and land use. Teaching them about crops, irrigation, mulching, recycling, terracing and animal husbandry so that even if children do drop out of school they have useful skills to pass on to their communities.
But there’s so much more to it than a few school lessons and the growing of a few plants. We visited the homes of a couple of families that have already adopted many of the practises the school teaches. Those families had set up terraced gardens, used manure from the animals they keep to fertilise the soils and produce a variety of saleable produce that helps them improve their own environment. Both families showed signs of wealth we hadn’t seen in other communities. One had a car. The other was building a large house. One of many houses we saw in the area that were larger and more developed than the slums we’ve visited previously.
So, to us it seems that the landcare system works. At least, the system at this school does. It’s helping communities to develop practises that differentiate them from others and builds sustainability into their existence.
And you know what, the knock on impact at the school was clear too. The children were brighter eyed, more energetic, and clearly thriving. This despite the school facilities outside the landcare projects really being no better than those at Bulesa.
Today, we were enriched. Tomorrow we get to visit the first of the schools we’re funding to roll out this project and start the cycle of sustainability.