“Work Hard, Get Smart”: Fellow Meikah’s First Few Days in Uganda

Growing up, whenever my siblings and I left for school, my mom would always tell us to “work hard, get smart.” After she dropped me off at the airport and I began my travel journey to Uganda, I kept that phrase in my mind. Now, as I am through my first week in-country, my mom was right; I am certainly going to work hard and get smart throughout the next three months in Uganda.

 

The ways I was able to work hard and get smart varied throughout the week. After arriving in Lira on a Friday, I took the weekend to become familiar with my surroundings. Including washing clothes, buying food at the market, attending church, and talking with community members. While these tasks were important, I was ready to get to work by the time Monday rolled around.

 

And boy, Monday did not disappoint. Monday included visiting the Leyi Naa project in Dokolo. With support from Field of Hope, this village is raising four sows and one boar. The most evident aspect of this visit was the pride the village had for their production. As I walked around with my camera, one farmer, Pastor Tim, would point out which plants in his garden I should take pictures of as he carefully explained to me what each one was. As we went to visit the livestock, a woman farmer pointed out a rabbit of theirs for me to photograph. And then the star of the show – the pigs. Many people from the village came to feed their pigs, and the pigs were just as excited to see them. Afterwards, the village received training from Field of Hope on preparing for breeding, bookkeeping, and biosecurity. While the purpose of extension is an opportunity for education, it also provides an opportunity for farmers to show how hard they have worked.

 

Tuesday was another day in the field and a special day for me. Since 2021, I have been a board member of Her Mighty Hands, who has been partnering with Field of Hope to provide smartphones with video-based agricultural extension to women farmers. Tuesday was the day I met participants of the Her Mighty Hands group for the first time. It is one thing to see the pictures sent by Joseph and Agnes of how the groups are doing, versus being able to visit the gardens and hear about how bringing extension curriculum to their own field impacts their ability to learn as a farmer. Extension can come in a variety of ways, and I am looking forward to hearing more about how videos have the potential to be a tool for women to access education and ultimately be more productive.

 

While Wednesday was a (much needed) office day to catch up on work, Thursday brought the opportunity to attend another extension training on financial literacy. It was this day that I realized how prepared Field of Hope staff are for the training they provide. Walter and Agnes created an effective learning environment with an interactive lesson for the women’s group. Many smiles and laughs were shared during this time, and while I could not understand the local language, Lango, I shared the smiles and laughter all the same.

To round out the week, Friday included a visit to the second Her Mighty Hands group, with a stop at another Leyi Naa project along the way. It was a week full of opportunities to see the impact of extension. Field of Hope does an incredible job at maximizing time and resources to create a significant impact. Just from this first week, I know this summer will be an incredible opportunity to work hard and get smart.

By: Meikah Dado, FOH Fellow ’24

Impact Beyond Borders: A Word from Walter

It is quite easy to under-rate the work you do and water down the achievements you make because most times we focus on “how” big the outcome is. Over time, I have appreciated that fulfillment comes in different ways-be it just affording a meal a day or putting a smile on the face of that burdened person or inspiring someone by your deeds. For the better part of my life, I have often been so drawn into completing what is before me that I have had little time to know how many people are following the work I do. 

It is not until 2022 that I knew our work as Field of Hope is not only appreciated in Uganda, but also in the other countries, notably Kenya, because the approach we employ tended to address challenges that are equally faced by their smallholder farmers. This led to the initiation of a partnership between Field of Hope and God’s Grace For All Nations (GGFAN), a Kenyan Christian Organization with a mission: “That all the 109 tribal groups of Kenya would have access to the Gospel of God’s Love through Jesus Christ.” GGFAN is using agriculture as one of the strategies to transform these communities and spread the Gospel and being a new initiative, FOH has been working with them to develop programs under agricultural department. To track the progress and maintain partnership, GGFAN invited me for a one-week visit to their base in Nyahururu. 

It is fair to say that I was impressed by the progress on the ground. I had the opportunity to interact with the pupils of Little Lambs Academy, who had started implementing agriculture curriculum that looks to embrace using agriculture to teach all other subjects-a model that they borrowed from MST Junior School in Uganda, a beneficiary of FOH Inspiring Students in Agriculture Grant. Their confidence and eloquence in speech were evident, their explanations of the management practices were accurate, and yet they did these with beaming smiles on their faces-a true expression of passion and excitement about agriculture. Other than just agriculture, it was so fulfilling seeing how the board, donor representatives, staff, and the children bonded together in the fellowship of our Lord. The Christian values and morals that have been inculcated in these kids are there to be desired. 

My major emphasis was on the agriculture department, which we helped formulate in 2022. I visited two of the 11 regional agriculture experts, hailing from Kipipiri and Isiolo regions. The 11 experts are tasked with providing extension services, Coops formation and linking the farmers across the regions to service providers and input dealers. These visits gave me a unique chance to offer expert opinions on how best they could strengthen their associations, encouraging them to stay united in pursuit of their goals, and deliver some fundamental recommendations to the organization regarding water crisis, seed-support to the cooperatives and a long-term buffer financial plan. One great initiative that was undertaken by GGFAN as part of the 2022 recommendations is the field days, where many stakeholders across the agricultural value chain showcase their technologies at Namelok Retreat Center. This event allows farmers to interact with these stakeholders and establish connections thus harnessing partnership and linkages. In my presence, we were able to brainstorm on this year’s event slated for 15th and 16th March. We also looked at their demonstration sites, which were doing exceedingly well. 

In effort to build the capacity of the agriculture experts, there was a one-day workshop where financial and extension officers and input dealers discussed the best practices, their products and services. I was happy to share with them about formation, principles, values, challenges, and sustainability of a cooperative, deriving examples from our work as Field of Hope with the farming communities. These discussions helped us to produce actionable solutions to the challenges they are facing. 

This visit also provided space to deepen the relationship between the two organizations-forging ways to further our partnership. We believe with God’s provision and guidance; we can continue to provide technical support to the GGFAN’s Ag. Department, offer supporting role to the primary school agriculture program at LLA, provide leadership training to Pastors and staff at FOH, facilitate exchange visits between the two organizations and collaborate on joint capacity building of organizations’ technical staff. 

I thank God for this opportunity and FOH, and GGFAN for allowing me to participate in this collaboration effort. I have learnt a lot and I believe this will only make both organizations better as we look to impact beyond borders. 

Okullu Walter 

FOH-Ugandan Country Coordinator 

Introducing Hunter: FOH’s Newest Fellow

We are excited to welcome Hunter Adkins to the Field of Hope family as our newest fellow! With a strong foundation in faith and a passion for agriculture, Hunter is eager to contribute to our mission of empowering communities through agricultural education and leadership development.

Hunter’s introduction to Field of Hope came through one of his mentors and our 2023 Fellow, Rebekah McCarty, who recognized the alignment between his values and our organization’s mission. Rebekah’s enthusiastic recommendation two years ago sparked Hunter’s interest, and now, as a new member of the Field of Hope community, he is eager to deepen his relationships and make a meaningful impact.

Hunter said his decision to apply for the fellowship was driven by his desire for personal and professional growth. Field of Hope’s faith-based approach and commitment to serving others through agriculture resonated deeply with him.

He said, “FOH’s values align with my own; from being faith based to wanting to serve others through the lens of Agriculture. I am ecstatic to be working within the Youth Agriculture Education and Leadership Development pillars. I can not wait to work alongside the Ugandan teams to help advance Ugandan agriculture and agriculture education. ”

Hunter’s journey to Uganda begins on July 8th, with his arrival in the country set for July 10th. He will be living in Lira and working with Field of Hope until September 23rd. During this time, Hunter is most excited about visiting schools and building strong, personalized connections with the youth of Uganda. He is passionate about teaching them more about agriculture and sharing his faith, hoping that this experience will foster mutual growth and learning.

At Field of Hope, we are delighted to have Hunter join us on this journey. His commitment to our mission and his eagerness to learn and serve inspire us all. Stay tuned for updates on Hunter’s adventures and experiences in Uganda—his journey promises to be filled with growth, discovery, and impactful connections.

Introducing Meikah: Our Newest Field of Hope Fellow

We are delighted to introduce Meikah Dado, our newest addition to the Field of Hope family! With a passion for equitable agricultural education and a heart for empowering women in agriculture, Meikah embodies the values and vision of our organization.

Meikah’s journey with Field of Hope began during her first year of her master’s program at Texas A&M University in 2020. Intrigued by the stories shared by individuals directly involved with Field of Hope, she was drawn to our mission of creating equitable opportunities within agricultural education. Since then, Meikah has actively participated in our events, including the Walk for Women 6K, and has been a dedicated supporter of our annual Sowing Seeds of Hope campaign.

What inspired Meikah to apply for the fellowship was our organization’s commitment to supporting agricultural education through three key pillars: Inspiring Students in Agriculture, Smallholder Farmer Advancement, and Leadership Development. As she delved deeper into our work and witnessed firsthand the impact of our initiatives during a visit to Uganda, Meikah’s resolve to contribute to our mission only grew stronger. Particularly drawn to our efforts in empowering women in agriculture, she eagerly anticipates the opportunity to learn and contribute in this area. She expressed this by stating, “Field of Hope is empowering individuals to choose their own path in the agricultural industry and have the skills and resources to overcome barriers they may face. Throughout my experience interacting with Field of Hope, I have admired their commitment to their values and how they have exemplified them through their sustainable work within the Ugandan agricultural industry.”

Meikah’s journey to Uganda will commence in early June, and she will be staying until the beginning of September. Throughout her time there, she looks forward to immersing herself in Ugandan culture, building meaningful relationships, and working directly alongside farmers, teachers, and students. She sees this experience as a chance for personal and professional growth, driven by the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of those she encounters. Meikah said this experience will provide her with, “hands-on learning regarding tropical agriculture and smallholder farming that I cannot learn through a textbook. I am looking forward to the early mornings and long days, working in a field or in a classroom, trips to the market, building relationships, and asking questions.”

At Field of Hope, we are honored to welcome Meikah as our newest fellow. Her passion, dedication, and commitment to our mission inspire us all, and we cannot wait to witness the impact she will undoubtedly make during her time in Uganda. Stay tuned for updates on Meikah’s journey as she shares her experiences through future blog posts—we are certain they will be filled with both challenges and moments of profound growth. Together, let us continue empowering individuals and supporting agricultural development in Uganda and beyond.

 

Introducing Kaitlin: Our Newest Field of Hope Board Member

Field of Hope could not be more excited to introduce Kaitlin, the newest addition to the Board! With her unwavering passion for faith, agriculture, and education, Kaitlin brings a unique blend of experiences and expertise that perfectly aligns with our organization’s mission to make a positive impact on communities around the world.

When asked why she wanted to join the Field of Hope Board, Kaitlin’s response was resounding with enthusiasm. “I am excited about joining the Field of Hope Board because it is an organization that combines three of my biggest passions – my faith, agriculture, and education,” she shared. Kaitlin’s journey to this point has been shaped by her experiences, including a transformative month spent in Uganda (with us and TeachAg! Uganda), where her dedication to serving others blossomed even further. She sees her role on the board as a chance to allow God to work through her, utilizing her talents to expand the organization’s reach and enhance its impact.

As she embarks on her tenure as a board member, Kaitlin is particularly excited about the opportunity to delve deeper into the stories and foundations of Field of Hope while bringing a fresh perspective to its ongoing initiatives. “I am most excited about the opportunity to learn more about the story and foundation of the organization while hopefully bringing a new perspective to the current initiatives being implemented by Field of Hope,” she expressed. Drawing from her background in agricultural education, Kaitlin hopes to contribute valuable insights and ideas that will further support the organization’s goals, especially in garnering support from communities in the United States and promoting agricultural education.

Kaitlin’s journey toward advocating for food security began long before her involvement with Field of Hope. From her early participation in initiatives like the 30 Hour Famine by World Vision to her experiences in countries like the Dominican Republic, Malaysia, and Uganda, she has been driven by a deep-rooted desire to create a world where everyone has access to nutritious food. Her trajectory, from hosting fundraising events to studying international agriculture, has uniquely prepared her for this pivotal role on our board.

In reflecting on her journey, Kaitlin humbly acknowledges the seeds planted in her heart many years ago. “The seed for trying to develop a world where everyone has enough nutritious food was planted a long time ago in my heart,” she shared. Now, as a member of the Field of Hope Board, she is grateful to be part of an organization actively working towards this mission.

Kaitlin’s commitment to serving others and her dedication to our cause make her a valuable asset to the Field of Hope community. We are excited to see the positive impact she will undoubtedly make as she brings her passion, expertise, and heart for service to our board. Please join us in welcoming Kaitlin as we continue our journey of hope and transformation together.

Harvest Money Expo: What is it, and Why did We Attend?

What is it? 

Harvest Money Expo Conference is Uganda’s biggest agriculture and agribusiness annual exhibition event that always takes place at Kololo Independence Ground in Kampala. The event is organized annually by Vision Group in partnership with Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF). The Expo started in 2017 following a successful selection of the 10 best farmers in Uganda that allowed them to travel to the Netherlands for farming exposure. The event brings together model and smallholder farmers, non-governmental organizations, agricultural government agencies, financial institutions, and agricultural private sector actors like agro-input companies, mechanization, and farm equipment dealers, agro-processors among others. The Expo takes three days and different exhibitors showcase their innovations, technologies, and new products to farmers, students, agricultural extension workers, and aspiring entrepreneurs to take farming as a business. During the event, several training sessions such as urban farming, piggery, goat rearing, dairy, poultry production, and vegetable production are always conducted by experts to equip participants with practical knowledge and skills related to agriculture.

Why do we go?

Field of Hope and Harvest Money Expo share the goal of improving farmers’ livelihoods through access to financial services, technology, and knowledge. Therefore, the Harvest Money Expo Conference provides a unique learning opportunity, creating a network and collaboration with actors in the agriculture value chains, and sharing knowledge, skills, and experiences on best practices to empower the smallholder farmers, youth, and students that Field of Hope works with. The Expo also provides a path where the Field of Staff working with schools learn about new agricultural technologies, and techniques, such as urban farming and school gardening that can be shared with partner teachers.

What did you learn? 

Harvest Money Expo presented many learning opportunities for Field of Hope staff. “During the three days at Harvest Money Expo, I was able to learn and improve my knowledge and skills on farming as a business through diversification of enterprises, value addition, marketing strategies, and risk assessment and mitigation. Exhibitors and experts demonstrated innovation and skills in a modern intensive system of growing crops and rearing animals that are climate change resilient. With this wealth of knowledge and skills gained, I hope to be in a better position to build resilience among the smallholder women farmers and youth that Field of Hope supports” Joseph Apea – Program Associate

 

“As a person who heads the Youth Agriculture Education program, the Harvest Money Expo allowed me to acquire knowledge and skills that will improve my service delivery to the teacher, the students, and the farmers. I have acquired knowledge and skills in aquaculture, poultry, goats’ management, and vegetable production. All those skills will help me in giving technical advice and monitoring the Inspiring Students in Agriculture Grants and training of farmers. I have also created connections with different companies and other private sectors that will provide genuine agricultural inputs to both partner schools and farmers” David Obong, Program Associate

What can we use for Field of Hope this year with what you both learned? 

  • Implementation of Leyi Naa Piggery Project. With piggery training sessions and a training manual from National Animal Genetic Resources Center & Data Bank during Harvest Money Expo, Field of Hope will effectively and efficiently implement the said project.
  • There are opportunities for partnership with other organizations working or supporting similar activities like Field of Hope.
  • Inspiring Student in Agriculture Grant (ISAG). Through network and collaboration, we created value chain actors like Uzima Chicken, and Grain Pulse among others, implementation of ISAG projects in different schools will be easy as these actors will provide necessary services like good breeds of chicken, feeds, seeds, and other inputs.

By: Joseph Apea & David Obong

 

 

Welcoming Our Newest Board Member: Chris Hafner

Welcome to the Field of Hope family, Chris Hafner! Chris, the son of Field of Hope’s co-founders Mike and Cathy Hafner, brings a wealth of passion, insight, and dedication to our organization as he joins us as a board member.

Chris’s journey with Field of Hope began long before his official appointment to the board. Having admired our mission and the impact we’ve made in Uganda for over a decade, Chris’s admiration grew exponentially after he had the opportunity to travel to Uganda with one of our founders, a former board member, and a Fellow. During this trip, Chris had the chance to meet and get to know our Ugandan staff, gaining firsthand insight into the universal significance of agriculture among Ugandans and its pivotal role in improving lives across the country.

Impressed by our long-term approach to building knowledge and expertise within Uganda, Chris was particularly drawn to our commitment to improving food security and economic opportunities for smallholder farmers. Witnessing the dedication and impact of our Fellow program and the response of Ugandan farmers to Field of Hope’s initiatives solidified Chris’s desire to become actively involved in supporting our efforts.

As Chris embarks on his journey as a board member, he said he is most excited about the opportunity to learn and grow alongside our organization. Chris brings invaluable expertise in business and talent development, which he hopes to leverage to contribute fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to our operations. He is eager to immerse himself in understanding how our organization operates and to explore new avenues for organizational growth and effectiveness.

With a focus on being inquisitive and open to learning from his fellow board members and our dedicated team, Chris is poised to make a significant impact in shaping the future of Field of Hope. We are honored to welcome Chris to our board and look forward to the invaluable contributions he will bring to our mission of creating sustainable change and improving lives in Uganda.

Welcoming Our New Junior Board Member: Sarah McCord

We are thrilled to announce the newest addition to our Field of Hope family: Sarah McCord! Sarah has been an integral part of our  organization since her fellowship with us, and we are delighted to welcome her aboard as a junior board member.

Sarah has been diligently working towards completing her Master of Science in Agriculture at Missouri State University while also juggling part-time work at a bank and serving as a graduate assistant for the university. Her dedication to her studies and her passion for making a difference in the world are truly admirable.

Currently, Sarah is in the final stages of collecting research for her thesis and is set to graduate with her degree in May. Following her graduation, she will embark on an exciting 10-day trip to Germany with MSU, an opportunity she is eagerly looking forward to.

Despite her busy schedule, Sarah expressed her eagerness to join the Field of Hope board to provide youthful opinions and stay actively involved in supporting our organization. She believes that Field of Hope brings immense joy, light, knowledge, and learning to her life and others, and she knew she wanted to continue her involvement since the day she flew home from her fellowship.

One of Sarah’s greatest aspirations is to show other fellows and friends that they can stay connected to Field of Hope in a variety of ways. She is incredibly honored to share her voice and experiences with the board and is determined to contribute wholeheartedly to our mission.

We are beyond grateful for Sarah’s dedication and enthusiasm, and we are thrilled to have her leadership, insights, and faithful commitment on our board. Welcome back to Field of Hope, Sarah! We are grateful to have you with us on this journey, and we look forward to the positive impact we will make together.

Volunteer Stories: A Word from Timber

I always have a little chuckle when I find myself in places I would have never imagined going. coming from the girl who never got on an airplane till I was 20 years old, and it was to Kenya, Africa. Life begins at the end of our comfort zone!

This trip to Uganda, was to help me gain experience in International Agriculture to help pursue a career in the industry. Although, 10 days before I left, I was hired as the Texas Organic Program Coordinator. I was still determined to go to Uganda. As I wandered myself to Uganda, I really had no idea what to expect other than we were going to be hosting Agriculture teacher training.

I wouldn’t say my job was on the front lines, but maybe more behind the scenes. A little hint from the Lord to let me see the bigger picture. I was behind the face of the camera. Trying to slow time down in a glimpse of a memory. Being behind the camera in Uganda, I witnessed my favorite people dancing and singing to the beat of the music. I was able to catch the love on their faces when they received new material for teaching their children. Capturing the hard work and determination to make sure their students were able to receive all the opportunities they could give them.

My time with Field of Hope at the teacher training was sweet. I met so many sweet faces sitting behind the camera. I loved being able to meet with the teachers on a real note and see their real-life stories. To hear their highs and lows of being a teacher in Uganda.

Traveling to new places can broaden our perspective and help us learn about different cultures and ways of life. It’s amazing how much we can learn from exploring new parts of the world. And even if we don’t travel far from home, trying new things and challenging ourselves can also be a great way to grow and learn.

If you’re remotely curious to hop on an airplane and go to Uganda. Do it! You never know where it will take you!
-Timber, Volunteer ’23

Our ISAG Journey: St. Gracious Secondary School

Hi; I am Emmanuel Opio, a teacher and Head of Department for Agriculture at St Gracious secondary school Lira. In today’s era, practical learning is absolutely necessary, especially in the vocational and pre-vocational subjects which includes agriculture. In my homeland, Uganda,
agriculture rings the loudest bell, being the back bone of the economy, due to its ability to employ over 80% of the citizens and uphold food security. So, it is in the best interest of many schools to have many agricultural projects that support hands on learning. This may present shortcomings in different ways but most commonly, finances. The good news is that some schools including St. Gracious secondary school were able to get a lift financially and that is what I would like to share with you today. At “SAGRASS” we now have a fully running poultry project where our learners freely interact with and are able to see and touch everything they learn about poultry and this was made possible by the grant given by Inspiring Students of Agriculture Grant (ISAG) under Field of Hope. The ISAG grant was to the tune of 1000 US dollars from which we were able to buy the stock, feeds, equipment, medicines and vaccines. I got to know about Field of Hope through a social media forum after which I applied for teacher training program. During the training, we were guided on how we could apply for the Field of Hope ISAG grant.

That was in the year 2023. We wrote our project proposal which was approved after scrutiny by Field of Hope staff . We later wrote a business plan, submitted and were approved by Field of Hope followed by a feasibility visit (assessment of the school readiness to host the project) by their staff. This was followed by signing of the memorandum of Understanding between school and Field of Hope. The grant was released into the school account. At St. Gracious secondary school, we started rearing 254 chickens from chick stage that provided a comprehensive learning experience for our students. The breed we keep is a mixed, dual-purpose. We are having a steady progress with a few challenges which are learning areas for the students.

We hope to have a 20% increase in the number of birds by the next stocking. The success of the Field of hope project funded by ISAG at our school is basically attributed to the strict observation of rules by the students in the management areas of feeding, parasite and
disease control, biosecurity and general housing conditions. The project has changed a lot if things already, from making learning easy and real to igniting interest of students and even teachers to practically take up poultry farming. All poultry related lessons are all being conducted from within the premises of the poultry house. The project has enhanced hands on experience and has encouraged practical learning.

The students are self-motivated in doing the project work and surprisingly we have already witnessed a rise in the number of students leaving other optional subject for Agriculture. It has stimulated some students to start their own at home which has greatly impacted the community like on one occasion the deputy of the school requested for the breeders contact and ordered his stock immediately, since he already had the structure.

On behalf of St. Gracious secondary school I would like to acknowledge the support of Field of Hope ISAG grant and confirm that it is really helpful to the learners, staff and the community out there and for the first time I feel like a great teacher. You are really doing a big job in the move to ensure sustainable agriculture for a stable global food security.

BRAVO, Field of Hope! BRAVO, ISAG.