The Agriculture Programme was officially started in July 2008 when 3 acres of land within Namwendwa Primary school was ploughed for the planting of maize.
This land was donated to the Primary School from the community church and is now in the schools name.
The aims of the agriculture programme were to:
be able to provide every student at Namwendwa Primary with lunch from the produce and to introduce more variety to their meal;
to educate the children of the importance of nutrition and variety in their diet; and
to teach the students (through hands on practice) effective farming techniques.
Goals (1) and (3) have already been achieved, (although are ongoing), with the successful harvest of maize in December 2008, the students have already benefited from the increased variety in their lunch. The children were actively involved with maize growing (planting, weeding, picking and peeling the cobs) and observing (during ploughing and spraying). The education about nutrition - goal (2) - began in February 2009. As well as these three goals we have achieved much more - the Ugandan volunteers (Andrew and Moses) have been attending farming workshops to improve their skills; we now have a pineapple plantation of over 5000 plants, many other crops are being/have been grown (passionfruit, onions, dodo, sweet potatoes, egg plants, oranges, peas, beans and cassava). In addition to the food crops many trees have been planted around the school including trees for shade and hardwood trees with a view to selling the wood.
Why did we start the Ag Programme?
Previous to 2009, only 1 in 5 of the 1000+ students attending Namwendwa Primary School were provided with a meal at school.
To be provided with lunch at any Ugandan Government Primary School each student must bring a contribution of maize and firewood at the start of the year. The maize was used to make porridge and the fire wood was used to cook it. Most families do not have this extra food to spare, so majority of students would go without lunch. In addition to this lack of food, there is also a problem with the nutritional value of the food. The staple diet of maize, matoke and sweet potatoes is very high in carbohydrates but lacking in essential protein and irons and there is very little variety of other foods available. 45% of children surveyed by CCF (Christian Children's Fund) in 2005 were found to be suffering from malnutrition, meaning that almost every second child in the community was malnourished.
The agriculture programme was designed such that enough maize could be grown at the school to provide all students with porridge (without them having to bring a contribution), and a range of other fruit and vegetables could be grown to add some variety to their lunches, such as beans and dodo (spinach like vegetable). In addition the children were to be taken out to the plot to assist with the ploughing and weeding and to learn the methods used in farming.
What has taken place so far?
Namwendwa Primary School:
The ‘ag’ programme was started at Namwendwa Primary School in 2008, and thus a variety of crops was already established, and these continued to be maintained.
The plot has been expanded this year to an area of 5 acres. Most of this space is dedicated to growing maize and the rest to cassava, potatoes, and pineapples. A small amount of beans and dodo (spinach) is also grown. The pineapple plantation began fruiting this year (the baby pineapples – ‘suckers’ – were planted in 2008 but take around two years to produce fruit). From these crops, the students receive maize porridge around four days a week and on the other day receive either potatoes or cassava with some beans and dodo.
Butaaya Primary School:
2010 saw the establishment of an Agricultural Programme at Butaaya Primary School, located in Butaaya parish, a neighbouring parish to Namwendwa.
Prior to 2011, the majority of students were not receiving a daily lunch because parents could not afford to supply the necessary maize and grinding fees –the exact same problem found at Namwendwa Primary before the implementation of the ‘ag’ programme there. On that basis, a similar plot was established at Butaaya Primary School in September 2010 with the aim of growing enough maize to provide for student lunches.
Although September is a relatively late start to the maize growing season, they experienced a good crop and the harvest proved to be enough for lunches. Initially around three acres of maize was planted but this plot has now been expanded to 5 acres and includes the same variety of crops as Namwendwa Primary with the exception of pineapples. There were some initial concerns about the quality of the soil at the plot, so the Ugandan committee had an expert come to inspect the soil. The conclusion was that the soil was fine however the area was just coming of a drought so it was dry. Since the rains have returned there has been no problem.
The plot at Butaaya was initially managed by Andrew and Moses from the Ugandan committee however a teacher from Butaaya, Richard, has taken on many of the tasks. Andrew and Moses still visit the school around twice a week to ensure everything is on track, and to offer advice learned from the plot at Namwendwa.
Recent developments to the 'ag' program
A significant issue arose in 2011 with the design of the Agricultural programme.Grinding the maize harvested costs money each semester.
At the commencement of the programme back in 2008, it was agreed between One Village and the parents of students at the school that the parents would pay a small amount per child to cover the grinding cost, so that the programme was less dependent on support from One Village.
However, although the parents had good intentions, many cannot realistically afford to cover this cost, and they know that if they don’t then One Village will, and therefore choose to spend any spare money they have on other priorities. One Village identified this cycle of dependence as a major inhibition to this project becoming sustainable and self-sufficient, as was the initial goal.
Both the Ugandan committee and the Australian committee conducted research into solutions to this problem and agree that solution is for One Village to purchase a grinding mill to grind the maize from the school at no cost to the parents.
In addition, there is scope for the mill at the school to become an income-generating project for the agriculture programme because there is a shortage of milling businesses in the Namwendwa community. This was causing long delays and there is little price competition; thus a community demand exists for another milling business. The money made from the grinding business would then be saved to pay for fuel, repairs or services, wages for the person employed to do the grinding, and could also potentially be used to cover the cost of ploughing and seeds for the agriculture programme at the start of every season. This could eventually make the agriculture programme entirely independent of One Village’s support.
The research and planning stages for the milling machine project began in early 2011, and construction was completed by the end of the year. This is a big step toward the Agricultural program becoming entirely independent from One Village and achieving our goal of sustainability.
The project was sponsored by agri-business Auscott manager Harvey Gaynor from Moree NSW, whose fundraising efforts in his ‘Walk for One Village’ initiative have already occurred early in our new financial year (2011-12).
As well as covering the cost of seeds and ploughing, the budget for the ‘ag’ programme also provided for fertilisers, pesticides and more tools. Both Namwendwa and Butaaya now have enough tools (hoes, pangas, and slashers) for an entire class to take part in Agricultural activities.
Looking into the future
The next priority at Butaaya is to construct a kitchen and store room, as was constructed at Namwendwa in 2008.
Currently the harvested maize is being stored in the principal’s office and the kitchen used for cooking the maize is in a state of disrepair.