We left the hotel in Kampala this morning at 6:30 AM to head out for our last project visit in Kyankwanzi, central Uganda. It has been three long weeks. We have travelled more than a thousand miles by car, 50% of that on bad roads. This morning, we (myself, my husband and Pilot Light Program Director Delphin Muhizi) were all very tired. We met up with our local partner, Action For Rural Women’s Empowerment, for the three and half hour drive to visit the farmers of the Women’s Vegetable Farmer Cooperative. This was my first visit to this group, as we agreed to take on this project during my project tour last year.
As I said, we were worn out, but when we arrived, we were greeted so warmly and sincerely. The energy was lifted and we were, once again, ready to face the day. This is our only all women farmer group and the ladies came dressed in their best. It was a sea of beautiful faces and striking colors. We spent time discussing the projects successes and challenges. We visited two farmers at their homes and toured their crops of soybeans and maize.
There are 100 women benefitting from this project, although we met only about 40 of them today. Two things that came out of the group discussion that I think are very important to mention are:
1. Soybeans are a relatively newly introduced crop in this place. One farmer presented us with soybean products she makes to sell, which is creating added value to her crops, plus is promoting better nutrition in the area. There is plenty of food growing everywhere, but the diet in rural east Africa consists mostly of starches and fruits. Protein is more expensive. She makes soybean coffee (a dried and ground soybean used like instant coffee or tea), soymilk and a really delicious unsweetened “cookie” call bagya.
2. One of the greatest difficulties women farmers face is land rights issues here in Uganda. Our partner is working hard on advocacy and educational surrounding this issue.
To cap off the afternoon and the project tour, the women treated us to a traditional lunch cooked by them. There is just something magical about eating local food, under a tree, in the village…