Adventures in Agriculture: Time Change

My first two weeks in the Pearl of Africa have been exciting, challenging, but most of all relaxing. It is no secret that flying from the U.S. to Uganda would mean adjusting to a new time zone: 8 hours ahead of my normal schedule to be exact. However, the biggest time change I have experienced here is the Ugandan sense of time. In the U.S., Americans are known for following strict timelines and punctuality is of utmost importance. In Uganda, time is viewed a little differently. Instead of rushing to get places and stressing about time, we enjoy every second of the day.

When I begin to get ready in the mornings, I don’t worry about the extra 5 minutes that I needed to lay in bed and relax, because I know that a departure time of 8:00am really means 8:20am. When we arrive in a village and the villagers haven’t arrived yet, I don’t worry because we have a chance to relax, soak up the sun, and listen to the sounds of nature while we wait for the hardworking villagers to come for trainings. In the end, everything works out. The villagers are always happy to see us and are very welcoming. We are always able to arrive and accomplish our goal of equipping people with the knowledge to succeed in their production practices.

I have always had a laid-back view of time compared to other Americans. My friends and family know that I will be late to any event or gathering that we plan. So, coming to a country where tardiness is not viewed as a flaw has been refreshing. I have enjoyed my first two weeks of slowing down and acclimating to a new sense of time in Uganda, and I’m looking forward to the next few months as I explore Ugandan agriculture.

Adventures in Agriculture: The Secret in Sipi Falls

It was the sweaty seventh mile of the day and I couldn’t have been happier to see a chair with a back and two arm rests waiting for me. I picked up my feet a little faster as I quickly approached the chair anxiously awaiting the moment of rest. With a loud thud and an exhale of relief I plopped down and began rubbing my calves wondering how long ago it had been since my last hiking adventure. Because I couldn’t remember where or when it had occurred, I concluded it was obviously a long time ago.

An elderly man slightly bent over and frail looking slowly came out of his mud hut and Alex, our guide, introduced him to us as Mike. With just about as perfect English as I’ve heard in Uganda, Mike welcomed us to his home. He sat down beside Mackenzie and I and shared that he was going to tell us a secret today. The secret that so many people around the world don’t know, but love at the very same time. We were about to learn how farmers help people all around the world wake up.

I like so many people in this world, love a good cup of coffee and was thrilled that this man, who seemed to have the “secret” was going to share it with us muzungus (white people)!

His hand slid toward, what I later found out were, coffee beans off the table into his opposite palm. He said follow me to begin the journey! We followed Mike to the garden where he dug a shallow hole and asked us to scatter our beans throughout the hole. After covering the hole with dirt he explained that in three months the seeds will produce two little leaves and will be big enough to take out of the ground and put into the nursery. He took us to a cool covered and shaded area full of small round plastic bags holding seedlings that were about 4 inches tall.

Emma with FOH Volunteer, Mackenzie, and coffee farmer Mike.

After seedlings in the plastic bags resemble little trees they are put directly into the ground and the farmer waits for three years. The fruit coffee trees produce after are called cherries and Mike knows they are ready for harvesting when they turn bright red.

Coffee must be harvested by hand because it’s delicate. Coffee cherries are attached to the tree by a small stem that resembles stems in grapes. If the harvester removes the stem from the tree, no cherries will ever produce from that stem again. Therefore, coffee harvesting requires thoughtful and careful hands to pick the best fruit!

Mike took his harvested cherries to the pulper which separates the husks from the coffee beans inside of the cherry. These coffee beans are khaki in color and resemble small peanuts!

These small peanut looking beans also have a husk which must be removed. Mike does this by placing the beans in the mortar and uses a pistil which hits the beans and removes the husks. Mike pours it all together on a plate. He so delicately tosses the contents of the plate up into air and blows the tiny pieces of the husks off of the plate onto the ground. I naively thought I could do the same. Just imagine a chicken pecking at a worm on the ground. That’s what I looked like when he handed me the plate and I tried to toss the contents of the plate into the air without dumping them all on the ground and blowing away the husks all at the same time!

The next step of getting the coffee a little closer to our cup is where the magic happens: Roasting! Coffee roasters have the unique ability to makes each cup of coffee in the world different. Mike poured our beans into a pot over an open fire and stirred constantly for about 7 minutes. In order to create Medium Roast coffee, he suggested roasting over the open fire for 7-12 minutes. The beans were completely black and resembled what I buy in the US!

This is where some coffee producer’s job is complete because some coffee connoisseurs prefer to buy the beans whole while some prefer grounds. To drink our coffee with Mike, we then poured the beans into the mortar and crushed them with the pistil to make coffee grounds. Minutes later we enjoyed a fresh cup of joe with our new friend Mike!

He explained to us that he is a member of a cooperative called Ndiyo, which means Yes in Swahili. His and other farmers from his cooperative’s coffee can be bought from Farm Mountain Coffee. Mike grows Arabica coffee, which suits his cooler mountainous Sipi Falls climate best.  This type of coffee was first discovered in Eastern Uganda and taken to Arabic nations who gave it the name Arabica. Coffee is Uganda’s leading exporter and Uganda ranks 8th worldwide for coffee production.

As I wrapped my little fingers around Mike’s mug, I drank the freshly made cup of hot coffee. I couldn’t help but take in the smell of freshly ground beans. I looked around and realized that this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was in the cool and crisp mountains of Uganda learning the entire story, from seed to sipping, how the coffee reaches the cup. I was talking with a small holder farmer who works tirelessly to provide for his family and gives “coffee tours” on the side to interested tourists like myself. I realized I couldn’t get any closer to the source of how the world begins to wake up everyday with a nice cup of coffee. Mike, like many other farmers, provide people all around the world with a commodity that we drink daily without ever realizing what it takes to produce. I felt incredibly blessed to meet just one of the many men and women behind the magic and creation of coffee. The secrets that lie deep within the mountains of Sipi smell ever so sweet!

Emma and Mackenzie at Sipi Falls.

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/top-coffee-producing-countries.html

Adventures in Agriculture: Katie’s Ugandan Bucket List

Ugandan Bucket List

It feels like I was just boarding the plane to get to Uganda with high anticipation of what the next three months would bring. Now I’m on the plane to depart, reflecting on my time in the Pearl of Africa.

In recent years, my parents have been into checking things off their bucket list. Since my first blog post was about how my parents inspired me to go to Africa, I find it fitting that they have inspired me to create a Ugandan bucket list.

Katie and her Sunday School class.
  1. Enjoy the sound of rain on a tin roof
  2. Go to a wedding
  3. Hug a stranger
  4. “Path” cinnamon roll
  5. The school children yell “bye” as you walk by
  6. Safari at Murchison Falls
  7. Get recruited to teach Sunday school
  8. Eat lots of fresh produce: pineapple, mangos, watermelon and jackfruit
  9. Eat posho and beans with your hands
  10. Learn about fire ants (hopefully not the hard way that’s complimented by a I-have-ants-in-my-skirt-dance)
  11. Try Uganda’s soft drinks: Mirinda, Novida, Stoney, Krest (to name a few)
  12. Get an African dress or skirt made
  13. Enjoy living where time moves a little slower
  14. Let walking become your new favorite mode of transportation
  15. Be greeted with a big smile and a wave from passer-bys
  16. Be greeted with a big hug and “welcome back” when returning to the hotel after leaving for the day.
  17. Attempt to learn how to carry something on your head
  18. Observe an agricultural class
  19. Gain lots of new friends (trust me, it is not hard to do)
  20. Fall in love with Uganda
Katie with the Alpha staff.

I cannot thank the people of Uganda enough for welcoming me into their country, their communities, and their homes with open arms. I am so thankful for this experience, the memories made, the lessons learned, and the new friends that have been gained. Most of the people that I said goodbye to asked me when I will be returning – I will be praying for that day to come.

Last memories in Uganda.

Field of Hope Founders: 8 Year Celebration!

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10

In 2009, I embarked on a journey that I easily thought would be the greatest adventure of my life, an 11-country, 11-month mission trip experience: The World Race. Traveling around the world within a calendar year not only stamped my passport but forever etched my heart. Sure, I found adventure, but more than that…I found purpose.

Perhaps the question I get asked most often about my experience is how I chose Uganda as the country I’d return to and engage in long-term ministry. I can’t help but to hesitate…to smile…and earnestly respond…

 

Uganda chose me. 

 

Only God could pluck an Illinois farm girl and plant her heart and feet into the Ugandan soil. How could I not return?

Now looking back over the past 8 years, I can appreciate how sincere but naive we were when co-founders, Mike and Cathy Hafner committed in the faith of Ruth 1:16 to “go wherever I would go” and Field of Hope was born.

 

What has surprised me the most? I thought it would be easy. Find a problem. Insert a solution. But it wasn’t easy…the good things rarely are. Instead it was messy. It required more commitment, more grit, more resilience than I knew I had. There were cultural misunderstandings, disappointments and learnings. But you know what I also realized…God wasn’t just up to something in Uganda…he was up to something in me. I think it is easy in the West to think we have it all figured out…through our efficiencies…technology and solutions…but Uganda has given me far more than I’ll ever give. God knew what he was doing when he brought us together. He knew I needed Uganda.

Still today, I need Uganda to remind me of the beauty that comes from the broken, the value of faith over comfort and relationships over resources…at the same time reorienting my relationship with resources.

 

As I think about the success of Field of Hope over the past 8 years and our stewardship of the resources that have been provided, I accredit it to the culture and commitment to integrity and humility that is ingrained in the organization and our leadership. We didn’t know where we were going when we took that first step. And sure, we made a few missteps along the way as we dove into this agricultural development space. But if you remain humble…teachable…committed to doing the right thing…the Lord will show you who you were created to be.

I believe that’s true of a non-profit organization, but it is also true of you…of me…of each of us.

We don’t have to create our identities or the purposes that we were put on this earth for…instead we get the joy of discovering them as we walk with God. I believe the Lord destined Field of Hope to do good works, prepared in advance for us to do…and then He set us on the adventure of humbly discovering what those works were…and transforming each of us through the process.

The journey is not over. In many ways, it has just begun. The Lord has led us to new ventures and more partnerships than we could have ever predicted when we took those first steps 8 years ago…but I pray we will always have that Ruth 1:16 faith to “go wherever He would have us go.”

We are an organization…made up of people…pursuing His purposes in the world…which God prepared in advance for us to do…

Will you join us?

~Brandy

Field of Hope Founders: 8 Year Celebration!

We sat down with co-founders Mike and Cathy Hafner and asked them some questions about the great eight years of Field of Hope!

What did you expect to see eight years ago when you started Field of Hope? How does the reality measure up to the vision?

Mike:

Well, early on, I had a very different vision for Field of Hope.  I expected that Field of Hope would be investing in capital projects like large drip irrigation gardens and helping farmers purchase tractors, attachments and implements.  I have learned that you cannot transform agriculture by just dropping western agricultural products and practices into a developing country.  It is much more complex than that. It has been amazing how God has changed that original dream to something much different – and much better.  Our work with women smallholder farmers and students in high schools and orphan care centers is the right thing to do at this time.

Cathy:

When we started putting this together, we were really just feeling our way along. We did a lot of researching, not only to figure out where we might fit into the development efforts in Northern Uganda, but also to learn how to establish a 501C3 nonprofit. We had good guidance along the way, and as things fell into place, we were amazed and excited over every step forward. We realized that Only God could open doors for us. That became our motto: Only God.

Has there been a most memorable moment over the years with your work? If there have been several, what are one or two that stick out the most?

Mike: There are so many…

  • After Brandy, Cathy and I had agreed to form a nonprofit, we took vision casting trips to determine how Field of Hope could potentially be a blessing to others.  Armed with information and a passion to serve and realizing we could not fund all our efforts on our own, we set up a dinner meeting at Johnny’s Steakhouse in Moline, IL.  We invited friends and associates and put on a presentation of our findings.  I can remember being incredibly nervous about asking others to join us in the adventure.  To my everlasting amazement, an unbelievable number of people made donations to Field of Hope.  They really provided the tailwind to get us going.
  • One of the more memorable moments happened early in the ministry.  We were busy pursuing our tractor and irrigation strategy when I was confronted by Carol Higgins of Otino Waa Children’s Village.  Carol knew I worked for John Deere, so she assumed I knew agriculture very well.  (Carol did not realize I had spent nearly my entire career with the Construction & Forestry Division of Deere and knew very little about agriculture.)  She said that Otino Waa (an orphan care center with 350 kids) needed to have a high school agriculture class – and I was the person to teach it.  Thus began our work educating young people about agriculture and demonstrating drip irrigation.
  • Another moment that profoundly affected Field of Hope was when we were beginning to train smallholder farmers.  We desperately needed to have curriculum written and had no idea where to have that done.  A friend of Field of Hope told us about this incredible agricultural training development company called Vivayic.  We called Seth Derner of Vivayic to ask if he could help.  We fully expected to get bounced off the call, but to our amazement, Seth and Doug Kueker agreed to partner with Field of Hope in writing curriculum.  Since that time, Vivayic and all their personnel have become loving associates and friends.  We could not do what we do without the Vivayic family.
  • Several years ago, Steve Swigert, a good friend and now Board Member of Field of Hope, asked if we could accept interns from the Oklahoma State University “Masters in International Agriculture Program” for short-term assignments.  We agreed, and since that time the short-term assignments have changed to full-term internships.  The interns we have received through the MIAP program have been some of the most loving, kind, and humble people I have encountered.  To a person, they have assisted Field of Hope with their sacrifices and love for the people we serve.  They willingly work in the midst of challenging living conditions, bad roads and transportation – and a bit of homesickness – and never complain.  The internship side of Field of Hope is continuing to grow, and I could not be happier about it.

Cathy:

There are so many landmark moments!

  • Seeing Brandy on one of the brand-new John Deere tractors.
  • Navigating to http://FieldofHope.org to view our very first website.
  • Bringing the VOMAP Project Coordinator Agnes Obote (with her toddler daughter Jesiah) to the QuadCities to join Brandy in several speaking engagements – and watching them experience flight, elevators and escalators, tractors & combines, and Willow Creek Church in Chicago.
  • Mike starting each class with the Otino Waa students with singing and clapping, doing lab experiments, and developing their student gardens.
  • Hiring our first intern Alexa to be our Program Director. I could go on and on…

 

What challenges surprised you over the last eight years? Were there certain situations you didn’t expect to occur? 

Mike:

Our failures early in our ministry surprised me.  Naively, I thought that if we tried to make a difference in the world by improving agricultural practices, God would provide smooth sailing for us and clear the path.  That did not happen.  I look back on those days and realize we did not always seek God’s will about Field of Hope plans and projects; we pretty much had our minds made up about what we would do.  I look back on those days and realize how important it is to go through the crucible, not only in our lives, but also with regard to Field of Hope.  Since then, we have tried hard to LISTEN to God and not put words in His mouth.  We have learned that He will speak and direct and give guidance and raise people up in His time, not ours.

Cathy:

We knew circumstances in Uganda would be challenging. Joseph Kony and the LRA had done terrible things to the people in Northern Uganda; there was widespread poverty and disease. We had heard that for every two steps forward, there was generally one step back, often more. What surprised me the most was – and is – the attitude of the Ugandan people. They are filled to overflowing with joy, gratitude, and warmth, and their deep and unwavering spiritual foundation continually inspires us. So instead of letting frustration rule, we learned it was important to stay positive, focused, and persistent, and to praise God.

What does it take to keep an organization like this running for almost a decade? 

Mike:

Passionate, loving people.  From our Ugandan trainers, to our Ugandan partners, our dedicated Field of Hope board members, the terrific, enthusiastic interns, and our wonderful, passionate, caring volunteers and donors, we could not do what we do without them.  God was instrumental in bringing every one of these people into our Field of Hope family.  Cathy has also been crucial in keeping us on track and being diligent regarding our “back office”.  She is tireless in her devotion to Field of Hope and the inner workings and those things that are less fun than front line work.

Cathy:

We have discovered that each person involved with Field of Hope brings special talents and gifts that are crucial to the care and feeding of this nonprofit. Brandy had the vision and the passion to set things in motion. She is an engaging speaker and a wonderful relationship builder, and her excitement about the people and the programs has always been contagious, motivating people to partner with us. Mike’s experience with John Deere prepared him to be an outstanding executive director. He thrives on “doing the doing”. He is able to connect with people of all ages, and his enthusiasm and sense of fun also inspire and build relationships. He loves teaching and helping people. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes role of office director, managing information, planning and proofreading, communicating with donors, taking care of other details that some might find tedious. I love seeing an idea become a reality, marvel when I observe how God connects us with the very person needed to solve a problem. I thrive on watching how our Ugandan team and interns are changing the world – at least in the part of the world we are privileged to serve. As we step up our involvement in India, I am eager to see what new stories will be written.

 

To what do you accredit the success of FOH? 

Mike:

First and Foremost, it has been God’s favor that helped us fail quickly and get our paths reoriented.  It was God’s favor that brought us partners at just the right time to help us expand our work.  It was God’s favor that brought us Agnes Obote and the right loving trainers in Uganda to take us to the next level in reaching women farmers for critical training areas.  It is God’s favor that brings new partners and initiatives almost daily for us to consider as we move forward.  As I mentioned, our early plans were not the correct path.  God got us reoriented pretty quickly in the way forward.

Cathy:

Answered prayers. We frequently had to get out of the way, pray about situations, and wait for guidance. We are all amazed at the “divine intersections” that have occurred, when we would meet someone with the expertise to help us with a dilemma. All our Board members fall into that category. Each one has brought something essential to this work: wonderful attitude, knowledge, skills and talents, experience.

If you each could pick one word to describe the last eight years, what would that word be? 

Mike:

FAVOR!

Cathy:

RELATIONSHIPS!

Adventures in Agriculture: Adventuring in the Pearl

One of Field of Hope’s core values is adventure — having fun and being challenged on the journey. Which my time in Uganda has had no short coming of adventure along with some challenges. From long car rides on rough roads that make my stomach turn to almost (unknowingly) eating a gizzard, this usually results in a good laugh or a sweet moment to follow.

Some of my favorite memories I have made so far are at the trainings we’ve had with the smallholder farmers groups in very rural parts of Uganda. The purpose of training is to better understand what a cooperative group is and how the group dynamics work within them. The leaders of the trainings, Patrick and Walter, went through various activities that covered topics such as being stronger in numbers, thinking outside of the box and learning how different personalities work in a group. “Knowledge is power” is a phrase that has also been reiterated throughout the training. Taking advantage of these learning opportunities will empower these groups, strengthen them and eventually create economic growth within their communities.

The local language of Luo is used for communication at these trainings and most of the community members know little to no English. Learning a foreign language has never been one of my strengths and I have pretty much only learned the word “Apwoyo” which luckily for me doubles as a greeting and a thank you. Even though communication can be a challenge, it has all been part of what has made this trip even more of an adventure. I have loved to see how much can be communicated without words and I have learned that a smile can go a long way.

In between these trainings, I had the opportunity to go on a safari adventure. This country continues to amaze me with its beauty. I am trying to soak up every minute I’m blessed to be living in the Pearl of Africa.

Fulfilling a Dream – Attending University!

Walter Okullu is Field of Hope’s inaugural Ugandan scholarship recipient. A long-time friend and trainer of Field of Hope, we are beyond excited to witness and encourage his development!

Walter with Mike Hafner, Co-Founder and Executive Director. 

Walter was raised in Aduku of Apac District in Northern Uganda. He was the first-born of seven (all boys but one!), and his family accommodated five other relatives along with both of his parents. In Walter’s words, his family was “God-fearing and church active”. His father is retired from teaching secondary school (high school) and now works in the church and on the farm. Walter said he was younger than most of his cousins, who lived with him, but he was very active with them in football (soccer) and church. He also was fond of scientific innovations.

“Given the extended family together with the little financial resources, it was hard to balance education and other basic needs for the family. But my parents, being so passionate about education, figured out how to ensure everyone studied with the meager resources they earned. This meant all the financial resources went towards education. However, one means that bailed us out was farming. This meant we could have food all year round, and the surplus could be sold to meet other essential needs in the family. This allowed my relatives and me to study all through to the college level. Nevertheless, we would always be involved in garden work during off-school time, even at this young age.”

Walter said that seeing his parents providing for his cousins and relatives gave him “an understanding and appreciation of different people, not necessarily my own blood brothers or sisters…” This gave him a “heart of sharing and the belief that everyone has a right to living a fair life.” This fair life, though, was only made possible through agriculture.  A fair life means having access to food, and food could only be made available through agriculture.

“With farming providing that much support in our family, everyone, including me, came to appreciate that it was at leveled terms with the job my father was doing, since both were a means of living. This made me appreciate and treat agriculture as my bread earner. Every garden work from land preparation to harvesting I was part of.”

Walter invested in agriculture early on. After receiving one hen from his cousin, he multiplied that to 60 hens. He then traded those hens for goats, a profitable business in Uganda. Walter now serves as an agricultural officer for the Dokolo District. He also works for Field of Hope as an agricultural trainer. When asked where his passion for agriculture comes from, he responded:

“I would attribute (my passion) to many factors:

  • First and foremost, God tells us a lot about agriculture in these readings: Proverbs 20:4, Deuteronomy 28:8, 28:12, Genesis 1:11-12.
  • I come from an agricultural background where it is the sole earner for most of the community members, including my family. In fact, my late grandfather was an agricultural officer who instilled that discipline in our family.
  • From my parents: they struggled with us due to the little resources they had. I started appreciating right from a very young age that agriculture is just not for food but a means of living. So many people are not having formal jobs, but from my family experience, I know for as long as one can go into agriculture, he can live a happy life.
  • Nationally, given the fact that there are few extension officers in the country compared to the number of farmers, it makes me feel compelled to bridge this gap of lack of extension services that our rural community cannot access.
  • The change in global peace. There is a lot of war in the world. It is so touching to see children, adults, mothers starving, due to these insecurities, which can’t allow them to farm or have access to food, and yet this is a basic need. I feel indebted to do something about this, but neither do I have the means to go and fight to bring these to an end nor traverse the world to distribute food aid to them. But, hey, I can help increase production and improve the standard of farm products that can contribute to the overall global food requirements that may help cater for the refugees, as well.”

After four years of University, Walter hopes to graduate and elevate from his current employment position. He also said he hopes to “empower the community more, so that they take agriculture as a modest way of life”. He also hopes to increase his own personal agricultural enterprises. He strives to impact the industry by empowering youth and women and encouraging his country to tap their potential. Walter would also like to contribute his voice to policy creation on a government level and work with communities to attract funding for advanced agricultural projects.

Walter leading a training for smallholder farmers through our Women’s Group program. 

“I am deeply indebted to God Almighty and Field of Hope. What Field of Hope is doing is a one-in-a-million chance. Thank you for being considerate to me and the Ugandan community at large. You are such a blessing. I forever will be grateful to you all. I look forward to more unity for this cause, as there are many people who are desperate, not necessarily because they don’t have where to grow crops and keep animals, but because they lack the knowledge on how to utilize God’s gift of natural resources. This is the gap we have to come in and bridge so we can have a happy population.”

Congratulations, Walter! We are so proud of you and look forward to your bright future!

Adventures in Agriculture: Making Friends in Unlikely Places

One thing that has come pretty easy in Uganda is making friends. The people here are so kind and welcoming. I was walking back to my hotel from a local cafe, one day, when a woman greeted me and started talking to me. I quickly realized that she only knew a handful of English words and she could only speak in the local language of Luo. We carried on a conversation with hand gestures. She was making a gesture like she was writing and I could figure out that she was asking me if I was a teacher. I replied, “No, agriculture”.

She said, “Oh, agriculture! Apwoyo! Apwoyo! (thank you, thank you).”

She was so genuinely excited and grateful that I was here working with agriculture, and I have to say I am too!

My excitement for Ugandan agriculture heightened this past week. We started off the week with having 11 leaders from different communities throughout Northern Uganda, come to Lira for a subject matter expert training (SME). They learned a variety of different topics from soil management to sunflower agronomy to managing pest like the fall army worm. These community leaders are trained then expected to train the members in their community. It was so inspiring to see lively discussions (even though they were mostly speaking in Luo), about bettering their small communities through agriculture.

Then later in the week I had the opportunity to go to the Harvest Money Expo in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala. There were hundreds of vendors and thousands of participants, all interested in the future of Ugandan agriculture. I had the chance to sit in on sessions about urban agriculture, bee keeping and vegetable growing. One of these biggest takeaways for me was from the bee keeping presentation. The speaker said “be open to fellow farmers because we are all trying to meet customer demand.” Such a great simple reminder that we are all in this together.

The lady I met on the road was right to be excited about agriculture – there’s a lot of exciting things happen in Uganda agriculture!

Adventures in Agriculture: A Trip Long in the Making

The time has finally come, I’m in Uganda! I have preparing for this trip since I first started my graduate program at Oklahoma State a year and a half ago.

Prior to this trip, I was often asked, “Why Africa?” or “Why Uganda?”. Over time, I have realized there have been many different parts that God has perfectly pieced together in my journey to the Pearl of Africa.

I have always had this desire to travel to Africa, I think it dates to before I was a twinkle in my father’s eye. My parents honeymooned in Kenya in 1989 and that has always been a part of my parents’ story that I have deeply admired. While I’m here for much different reasons, it is almost exactly 30 years later I’m one country over to the west. In many ways my parents have inspired me to go on this trip but mostly, they have always encouraged me to work towards my goals. I would also like to think my childhood dog named Jambo (hello greeting in Swahili) was part of my inspiration, too.

Katie’s parents in Kenya on their honeymoon thirty years ago. 

There have been many attempts to travel to Africa throughout my undergrad – for various reasons they just never worked out – but none of those would have been to Uganda or with an organization like Field of Hope. My first two weeks in Uganda have shown me why God saying “no” to your plans just means He has something better in store for you.

I am very fortunate to get to be in a country where God is so present, as well as intern for an agricultural and faith-based organization. Field of Hope’s mission is to work towards empowering people through agriculture to gain sustainable solutions towards food security. In my first two weeks, I was also fortunate enough to be accompanied by a team of people that have challenged my way of thinking and inspired me with their passion for agriculture and education.

I am so excited to meet more amazing people and to see what work God has planned for me in these next few months.

Maybe one day I can inspire someone of the next generation to travel to east Africa through having a dog name Apwoyo (hello greeting in Uganda’s local language of Luo).

Uganda. 

Like the Rains – The Curriculum Cycle

Field of Hope Curriculum Cycle

We have feet on the ground in Uganda! Those feet belong to the Field of Hope and Vivayic teams, including so many people of great talents and knowledge, all of whom we are honored to host!

The team arrived in time to be greeted by the rains. If you haven’t experienced the African rains, there truly is nothing quite like watching the clouds roll over the Nile River, seeing lightening crack across a sky with zero light pollution, and listening to the drops pound on an old tin roof.

Toto had it right to bless the African rains.

Like so many things in nature (and agriculture for that matter), the water cycle is just that — cyclical.

The rains will come.
They will nourish.
They will gather.
They will evaporate, build back up, and come again.

The team in Uganda is both wrapping up the curriculum development cycle and beginning a new cycle just like the rains.

We will come.
We will nourish.
We will gather insight.
We will head back home to build, but we will come again.

This trip has two goals.

  1. Deliver and train teachers on the second year of the Ugandan agriculture lesson plans
  2. Collect content from teachers to begin development of year three’s lesson plans

This week, the team is delivering 482 pages of lesson plans, experience guides, quizzes, essay questions, and supplemental materials designed to equip Ugandan teachers with the resources to teach agriculture through experiential learning. The team is conducting a two-and-a-half-day training that will set these teachers up for success this next school year which begins in one month.

The training marks the end of developing the Senior 2 lesson plans, but also the beginning of developing the Senior 3 lesson plans. Here’s a glimpse into our year-long process.

Template Design — March and April 2017 (one-time process)

  • Lesson Plan Design — Vivayic reviewed the lesson plan design of other Ugandan subjects, then used those examples to develop template options. Four template options were reviewed by native Ugandan teachers and professors as well as Western teachers who had taught in East Africa. The template went through multiple iterations until we determined the layout, icons, and language to be used during the writing phase. The layout has since been reviewed and approved by the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) as it closely mirrors the layout and design of other NCDC materials.

Essential Knowledge — January through June

  • Content Collection — While in Uganda, the Vivayic team collects content from multiple Ugandan teachers and government officials at the NCDC. Usually this means snapping photos of handwritten content the teacher has been using for years. These first-hand sources are critical for our U.S.-based team to ensure that we have cultural context.
  • Crosswalk to the Ugandan Syllabus — Vivayic aligns the content collected to the Ugandan agriculture syllabus then identifies and fills in gaps to ensure all objectives are met.
  • Essential Knowledge Profiles Developed — The team then builds what we call essential knowledge profiles (EKPs). These extensive documents get into the nitty gritty of the content. We aren’t yet focused on how to teach only what to teach. For example, if one of the objectives focuses on the breeds of poultry, then the breeds relevant to Uganda are identified along with breed characteristics, uses, and other information.
  • Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) Review Content — The EKPs are sent to native Ugandan agriculture teachers and trainers for review. They review for gaps, cultural relevancy, and accuracy.

Design and Develop — June through November

  • Write Modules — In June, once the content has been confirmed, Vivayic identifies how best to teach the content through blueprinting and storyboarding the lesson plans. Once we have identified the learning strategy, we begin the writing phase utilizing the entire team to develop 90 lessons.
  • Review and Pilot — Lesson plans go through four rounds of reviews.
    • Two rounds of internal feedback from Vivayic teammates — focused on learning design.
    • One round of feedback from Field of Hope staff, board members, Ugandan teachers and trainers — focused on cultural relevancy and accuracy. During this time, teachers have an opportunity to pilot lessons in their classroom and provide feedback.
    • One round of editorial review — Vivayic’s editor reviews the lesson plans for grammar and consistency using British English and with an eye toward Ugandan cultural norms.
  • Implement Feedback and Deliver — Vivayic implements feedback after each review. Together, Field of Hope and Vivayic package, print, and deliver the curriculum to teachers.

Support Utilization — December and January

  • Train the Trainer — Vivayic and Field of Hope conduct an optional teacher training with the goals of 1) equipping teachers to use an experiential approach to teaching and 2) allowing them to practice delivering the lesson plans.

The rains are welcomed by Ugandans in January, as it is their hottest — and usually driest — month of the year. The dry ground is ready to soak up the precious resource. Our desire is for our curriculum resources to nourish Ugandan agriculturalists as the African rains nourish their crops.

 

~Written by Whitney Thurmond, Vivayic