Yesterday, a team from Rationale joined St. Jude on a very special trip to their food security farm in Nwoya District (the district just to the southwest of Gulu). Our students are very familiar with the farm; they often work on the farm during their holiday breaks in order to give back to the larger St. Jude community and to learn important agricultural skills. The farm is a familiar space for most of Rationale’s team, which on this trip included Aciro Gloria, one of Rationale’s student-scholars, Ocitti David Okech, Rationale’s mentor, and Matthew, Rationale’s founder and director. The older women who serve as adopted mothers for the younger children at St. Jude also regularly visit the farm to help produce the food that their children consume back at the Children’s Home in Gulu. There is one group, however, that is not familiar with the farm: the children themselves.
St. Jude currently has almost 150 youth in their full-time care. Many rarely – if ever – visit the farm, as a result of both practical concerns (how to transport and then watch over so many children on the farm) and issues of safety. Yesterday was a special visit where we brought about twenty-five of the youngest children who stay at St. Jude to the farm in order to learn about where their food comes from and how it is produced. For some, this was their first time leaving the compound, for others, their first time leaving Gulu. They sat in absolute wonder and with progressively widening smiles as they struggled to see over edge of the window. With wide eyes they danced to the radio and sang in unison in the back of the truck throughout the hour-long drive.
As Denis, the farm’s manager, showed David and Matthew around the new fields, Julius accompanied the children as they learned about each of the crops being produced on the farm (maize, cassava, groundnuts, bananas, rice, beans, millet, boo, eggplant, and others) and participated in the many activities that their regular upkeep requires. They toured some of the hundreds of acres of land on the property and at mid-day each enjoyed a fresh plate of posho [a starchy food made from boiling maize flour] and beans produced and cooked directly on the farm. This is a meal they often have in Gulu without any idea where it comes from. Yesterday we were able to change that.
We believe strongly in the importance of lifelong learning, a process that must start early. While Rationale is intent on focusing on secondary and university youth, we were happy to join St. Jude for this fantastic community-building visit to their farm in Nwoya.
Greetings from Gulu!
This will be the first of many updates during my time here in Gulu and I’m excited to be able to share my experiences here on the ground with you all in the States (and elsewhere)!
First, a bit of reflection. The last few weeks have been busy visiting all of St. Jude’s programs, getting updated on the past six months of activity, and sharing the launch of Rationale with everyone at the Home. It has been an extraordinary experience to be able to reflect on the launch of this project alongside all of those that have made it possible in Uganda, as well as those students already benefiting from our programs. The response has been incredibly encouraging and I’m extremely grateful for having the opportunity to launch the project while I am here in Gulu. The relationship we are building is one that transcends the work of any one individual, the net of support of a well-meaning group, or the scope of impact possible by a near limitless pool of funds. We are building a community of individuals committed to the vision of having all secondary and university students affiliated with St. Jude Children’s Home unencumbered by school fees, of developing a space where one day these scholarships are available to each student through funds internal to St. Jude. This is why we invest in the farm and things are progressing quickly as usual!
St. Jude was eagerly anticipating the construction of a food storage unit during our last visit in November/December 2011, and sure enough I arrived to a near complete project last Friday when we traveled to the food security farm in Nwoya district to evaluate its progress.
The farm is currently 243 acres and is home to a near endless number of crops (groundnuts, rice, two varieties of maize [corn], cassava, beans, peas, simsim [sesame], boo [greens], millet, sunflowers for cooking oil, and more!). Given the expanse of the farm and relatively limited amount of labor to cultivate and transport the crops at the end of each harvest, it became clear that a large storage facility needed to be built to shelter the crops between transport periods. In less than six months that facility is now almost complete. After the installation of the roof and possible partitions inside it will be ready to store the yield of each harvest, saving time and resources by facilitating dedicated transport trips and maximizing the amount of produce that can be utilized by St. Jude back in Gulu. It is a massive structure that will be an asset to the future of the farm. We couldn’t be happier to see its quick success and the residual support it will provide to our programs on the farm.