Sometimes things go much better than you can imagine they will and today was a day like that.
The Rice Farmer Cooperative-Lira (official name is North Rice Cooperative) is a project that was conceived one year ago during my trip to Uganda. Our partners at Development Monitors have done an extraordinary job of mobilizing the farmers, organizing the microloan groups, promoting farming techniques to promote larger yield and building a processing plant for this large cooperative of 409 farmers.
We rode Uganda style to attend the inauguration of the factory, 10 people in an 8-passenger van. The mood was full of energy, as everyone was excited to see this day finally here. We arrived at the factory to find a beautiful new building built by our partner for the cooperative on land donated by the local government. They gave us a tour of the inside, tested the machines and we settled, as always, under the tree for our meeting.
The meeting included not only the cooperative leaders and our partner, Development Monitors, but also the leaders from the local government. There were also two journalists present to document this important day. This factory is the first of its kind in this district.
Having the commitment and support of the local government makes a huge difference to our capacity to see really significant results from this endeavor. It is not something that we have experienced at this level before. They are sincerely committed to alleviating poverty, the goal of all of us present, and are also planning to implement a plan to insure that the middlemen who prey like vultures on the farmers during times of vulnerability are not able to do business in this district. They also said that they are already seeing how this project is transforming the whole county, as farmers are emulating those farmers who are part of our cooperative already in both farming techniques, as well as micro loan groups.
We then went in convoy to meet the farmers in the fields. The long, smooth dirt road from town finally turned into a narrow path lined with traditional huts, planted fields and livestock. As we approached we were met by a large group of people singing, waving branches with leaves and making the celebratory cry that sounds like ya ya ya ya ya in a high pitched voice. They took us into the rice fields to explain the new farming techniques they are using and how it helps it them to produce more and for less.
We ended up, once again, under the huge tree where we first met last year. There was a very good demonstration of how the micro loans groups are structured and how they hold their meetings. Then…more celebration, singing and dancing. The highlight was an old lady who was not scheduled to sing, but who insisted. She sang in English, only two feet in front of us, with a man accompanying her and it was sincerely priceless.
Today was wonderful, both because our project is a huge success and because the celebration was SO much fun. The day was long and very hot. We never had a chance to eat lunch, but it couldn’t have possibly been any better.
Today was a good day.