During the first week we had already seen a lot of progress being made at Dream Farm. We delegated our teams, splitting up the 20 people into 4 groups with a team leader. We then surveyed the1.75 acre piece of land and began digging our swales. Our tree nursery's site was chosen.
On the 4th day, the students from Bujibwe Primary School came to help us out and learned about all the benefits of growing their own food using these regenerative agricultural tools. Garden beds were laid out on contour between swales and pathways were established.
The tree nursery was well underway by day 6 with over 800 pots planted with indigenous tree species and fruit trees like mango, papaya, jackfruit and soursop. The rainwater tank was being installed and gutters were in place. The heat was intense with only brief thunderstorms to cool us down but the team remained enthusiastic and going strong!
On day 6 we were thrilled to have around 50 students from Kyakabunga Primary School join us onsite at Dream Farm. The energy level was so high and everybody had tons of fun learning about permaculture and working diligently in the field. We made a lot of progress thanks to those kids! The next day we decided we would be going to their school to return the favour and set up some gardens around the compound which they will use for a food program.
We went to Kyakabunga Primary School to begin the first instalment of their food program garden. The kids began shedding their shyness and enjoying the hands on learning which is a much different approach then they are used to. Growing food within the school compound is often seen as a waste of learning time since there is so much emphasis on theory and classroom based education. It takes a lot of sensitization to convince parents, teachers and school committees that school farms are not only important for nutrition and food security but also for learning important life skills and vocational training.
We took 6 more days to finish up the project at Dream Farm with great satisfaction knowing that this demonstration farm will have long term positive impact on the food security and environmental remediation of the community. We planted 684 trees and part of Dream Farm’s long term action plan is to have every household in the surrounding area plant 1000 trees.
Trees are routinely cut for firewood for outdoor household kitchens without any thought of replanting. There is no awareness around reforestation and we are going to change that.
During our stay a few of us spent time visiting the homes and farms of local people who are the beneficiaries of this project. We evaluated their current knowledge of what was taking place at Dream Farm and invited them to come join in which they did, gave them tips on adjustments that could be made on their own land and ensured they plan to attend the skills workshops and services that will be available at Dream Farm which is a registered NGO in Uganda.
Dream Farm has a lot do right now to maintain the new project but we sat down for long hours and developed a sustainability plan and budget.
We have worked in the idea of starting a market stall in Kyakabunga town where only cabbage, tomatoes, onions and banana are sold so that beetroot, kale, papaya, sorghum and lots more varieties from the farm can be sold with the future cooperation of the other farmers who have learned regenerative agricultural skills from Dream Farm.
We have a workshop planned for the teachers at Kyakabunga Primary School and there are many plans in the works for the farmers in the area to gain understanding of the value of planting lots of trees, growing their own nutritious food, saving and collecting seeds, being a part of a new movement in their community and much more!
We finished the first phase of the food program garden at Kyakabunga Primary the day before we left Eastern Uganda. A serious storm was on the horizon which forced us to really move with speed and get all our seeds, seedlings and trees in the ground. This area being drought prone, storms are a blessing especially when seeds have just been sown and swales are in place. We were proud of the completion of phase 1 in only 3 days. There were only a few simple things left to do such as plant the bananas. It was a small project but it will be able to feed all the children fresh vegetables if maintained properly.
JB will return for a teacher workshop and then install the second phase with Dream Farm and Scope Uganda providing the school has shown effort in maintaining their garden. The head master Jackson and head teacher Amon are very enthusiastic and will have to persevere to keep the other teachers keen and interested. For some teachers, the arrival of this project signals more work for them. The biggest barriers to success are neighbouring chickens running around the gardens unattended and goats coming in can destroy everything in a few hours. Cows are also regularly escorted through the compound then left to graze. Although Dream Farm installed a fence around the perimeter 4 months ago, it will require a lot of diligence to sustain the farm especially while school is out and teachers will have to come weed and water during their break. The stakeholders and parents will be enticed to get involved at the next few board meetings which should get a lot of support as the chair person Jovanis was on site helping since the first days at Dream Farm.
We have a lot of hope that the food program will see long-term success and the hunger stricken children who go full days without eating may study with full bellies and calm minds.