Farming for All: Field of Hope Engages Farmers in New and Innovative Ways

There is a quote that tell us “it isn’t the farm that makes the farmer – it’s the love, hard work, and character.” 

One doesn’t need 1,000 acres to be a farmer, nor 500, nor 50, not even one. Sometimes all you need is a few feet in a backyard, or a corner of rooftop, or even just a single soil-filled container. This is the lesson that Apio Vivian Dessilah learned at Field of Hope’s latest training.

A veteran of FOH trainings, Vivian is one of 29 teachers who traveled to the FOH office in Lira for a two-day training all about urban agriculture. 

“In the first session, we covered quite a number of topics on urban farming,” she recalled. “These included the meaning of urban farming, the types of urban gardens and their establishing characteristics, the advantages and disadvantages of urban farming, and opportunities in urban agriculture such as tourism, employment for women and youth, and waste recycling and reuse.”

So, what exactly is urban farming? Well, it is simply the cultivation of crops and rearing of animals for food and other uses within and surrounding the boundaries of urban areas/cities/towns. Vivian explained the different types of urban gardens the teachers learned about, including backyard gardens, rooftop gardens, container gardens, vertical gardens, soil-filled sacks, greenhouse gardens, schoolyard gardens, and more. 

“Because urban farming is practiced within limited space, this can favor almost anybody who is willing to try it,” Vivian pointed out. “Urban farming is labor intensive since the small size limits mechanization, but this means it does not require the purchase of expensive machines, so every farmer can manage to maintain an urban garden.”

Vivian went on to share what else the group had learned at the training.

“In our second session, we learned about animal production in urban agriculture. I learned the types of animals involved, such as pigs, poultry, and zero-graze cattle and goats. However, urban livestock faces challenges like limited space for the animals and city restrictions on what livestock can be kept in the town boundaries.”

Not only did the training cover practical topics like how and what crops to plant in an urban garden and what livestock to raise, but it also included the importance of marketing.

“In the third session, we discussed marketing mix and the 4 Ps that make up a typical marketing mix – price, product, promotion, and place,” Vivian explained. “I also learned that nowadays, the marketing mix increasingly includes several other Ps, like packaging, positioning, people, and even politics as vital mix elements.”

All in all, the teachers learned valuable skills and knowledge about urban agriculture that they will be able to pass on to their students. 

As for the impact of the training on Vivian, she said, “this training has helped me gain a lot of knowledge and discover many opportunities around me in urban agriculture, including discovering sites for farming, what animals to rear on an urban farm, how to collaborate with my fellow urban farmers, and how to get a market for my products”.

With everything she learned, Vivian has big plans to put those newfound skills to good use. 

“I will use these knowledge and skills obtained from this training to start up my own urban farm, which I will also use as a demonstration site to train other farmers. I will also use this knowledge to establish a school garden to teach learners practically and provide food to the school.”

 

 

Author: Nicholas Charles Ssebalamu

Coping through COVID: A Teacher’s Story

Uganda is not facing a pandemic for the very first time; smallpox, chicken pox, Ebola among others once dominated the disease/pandemic fraternity. However, the substantial impact on the society behavior and social economic welfare of the communities, gives COVID-19 pandemic a unique status and distinguishes it from the rest that ever existed.

Do you have a hint about the challenges teachers all over the country have encountered? Certainly not unless you are a victim. Does it haunt you to think about how the nation flag holders managed to navigate through the difficult times? What about the lessons this pandemic has taught them?

The whole picture is drawn briefly right from March 2020 when the country was declared a numerous measures in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. These included the indefinite closure of schools–which was my job. I am yet to find out why, over the years, and talking about my ‘challenges’ gives me a hard time. Maybe I don’t usually want to concentrate on the past grievances, or I am simply a coward… But the point is that I am always driven by one principle “let it go”.

The pandemic tightened it’s bolts harder and harder: the monthly salary and work allowances was no longer a topic worth discussion. House rent exerted a great pressure on the wallet, even the landlords were this time more aggressive then ever. No matter the situation at hand, food was a non-negotiable basic otherwise the body can spontaneously shutdown following starvation.

Besides that, other illness like malaria, stomach ulcers, etc. never ceased, and the latter could have been geared by the much stress. Medical doctors usually explain that when the body is subjected to stress, the immune system weakens, and as a result the body succumbs to disease. All the savings reduced day by day. This was so annoying.

As the first wave gave way to the second wave, the whole situation worsened. The overwhelming number of positive patients, alarming death cases in the neighborhood and all over the media. These stimuli contributed great sources of stress to my mind. I always thought that I was the next.

One Monday evening, I held my breath deeply and sighed. I developed a business idea over the years, I had never imagined myself taking part in that business. I grew up with a mis-conception that it was another option for those who had failed in life. Nevertheless, I had to accept in order to support my wallet. I was a now set to face another challenge.

I ventured in selling Matooke (Bananas) and my family was now assured of the next meal. Unfortunately, matooke prices drastically reduced to an extent that I started recording loses most often. The price of a whole bunch fell to as low as 1,000 UGX (0.28 USD) during the lockdown. Waiting a little longer would have been dangerous, I thought about it at length and then decided to give the business a break. I got fade up this time. There was an urgent call for re-orientation in order to survive.

With time I realized the situation was getting worse which forced me to develop strategies to see me through this situation. I adopted to regular prayer which helped me gain new hope and better mental health. I accepted my situation and resorted to regular exercise, drinking enough water and increasing my association with my family.

Despite the challenges that I have suffered, I have received harsh lesson; not saving is a sin, prayer can make everything possible, and it is not healthy to have all stress on your back.

By: Anieamaani Bakatwizira

The Reality of Ugandan Teachers Amid COVID Shutdown

COVID-19 drastically challenged the education sector, and especially impacted learners and teachers. Teachers are living unsustainable livelihoods. They cannot provide basics to their families, i.e. food, medical care, utilities, etc. to live comfortably. All this is due to the state of poverty because private schools cannot pay teachers who are not working at the moment.

Teachers are challenged with lack of capital to start businesses in order to have an income generating project. As Agriculture has been one of the functioning sectors in the lockdown, teachers have tried their best to make use of their land, and those who had no land have tried to their best to find where to cultivate to grow tomatoes, green paper, cabbages, eggplants, watermelon, etc. so as to get money in short time but you could find somebody manages to buy seeds and plant them and fails to get fertilizers and pesticides for fruitful production.

We have engaged in all sorts of work as away a living. Teachers are frying snacks, for examples pancakes, cassava, chapattis, and fish, engaged in brick making, riding boda boda (motorcycle taxi), construction work, shopkeeping, and selling secondhand clothes. All that is a way to earn income to sustain our families.

We have lost our attitude towards teaching because our minds are tuned to other businesses which could help to earn a living. We are now married to those small businesses which have helped us to earn income to feed our families rather than teaching. Like most of other teachers, if we had enough capital to invest, we can leave aside teaching.

By: Mary Namazzi Proscovia, Field of Hope Agriculture Teacher

Welcome, Whitney! We have a Vice President

For the first time, Field of Hope has appointed a Vice President position to the Board of Directors. Working with Chuck Hammond this year is Whitney Thurmond. A long-time friend of and volunteer with Field of Hope, Whitney began her FOH journey in 2015. She joined long-time FOH partner Vivayic on a trip to Uganda and has never stopped doing her best to help further our mission.

“I was on that trip and was so inspired by the teachers who were paving the way for agriculture education in Northern Uganda that I asked Vivayic leaders if I could lead the curriculum writing project.  Fast forward to December 2020, I was able to deliver all four years of secondary Uganda agricultural lesson plans.  I consider it to be the most important work I’ve been a part of,” Whitney said.

Whitney volunteered for FOH since 2015, joined the board in 2019, and is now FOH’s first Vice President in 2021. With this new role comes new goals, Whitney said.

“This year will be about defining the role of the Vice-President/President Elect. I’ve made it a goal to continue learning from Chuck’s leadership.  He is a strategic visionary who is excellent at engaging the entire board and valuing every person’s ideas and contribution,” Whitney said.

She said her central goals this year are to connect others with a cause she believes in.

“I believe that people want to be generous with their abundance and it’s my goal to connect others with a cause that I know truly builds independence and positively impacts education, food security and alleviates poverty in a sustainable and dignified way. Specifically, I want to grow our monthly donors, which we call Constant Cultivators because they are constantly cultivating our mission and our programs. A reoccurring monthly donation in any amount supports our ongoing programming for those we serve,” Whitney said.

Meet Chuck Hammond, our new Board President

Chuck Hammond will be serving as Field of Hope’s Board President this year, but his involvement with Field of Hope began a few years ago. Hammond became a donor to Field of Hope in 2018 after moving to Reno, NV, and becoming acquainted with co-founders, Mike & Cathy Hafner.  He and his wife and also had the chance to meet Brandy Young and Alexa Wilcox in 2018 and continued to grow his knowledge of, and relationship with, FOH.
“It would be impossible to meet four FOH people who are more enthused about the mission of FOH than the Hafners, Alexa and Brandy,” Hammond said.
Although Hammond was inspired by the passion of those involved with Field of Hope, he was not yet ready to commit to the organization, until joining the Board last year.
“Mike and Dan asked me to consider joining the board of directors in late 2019.  I wasn’t quite ready to commit, my wife had passed away in 9/19.  I finally said yes in April 2020 and was elected to the board in May 2020,” Hammond said.
Hammond is a retired financial advisor and was a partner in a business in Seattle for 30 years before retiring and moving to Reno, NV in 2017.  His time  served on several corporate boards of directors, and a non-profit board, have given him ample experience to lead Field of Hope’s board.  Additionally, he has  served on several advisory boards and on fundraising event planning committees for four non-profit organizations in the Seattle area.
“I’m excited to be involved with FOH because I was quickly able to see how much good we were doing with a very small budget.  I am drawn to the idea of teaching and training people on how to become more successful.  I fully subscribe to the old saying that if you give a person a fish you feed them for a day, but if you teach them how to fish you feed them for a lifetime.  Although I have no agricultural background, this old saying directly applies to the area of agriculture.  I am also impressed about how carefully FOH has been to be sensitive to local area customs and values rather than trying to force our western ideas and values onto others,” Hammond said.
Hammond’s primary goals for Field of Hope are to be a “wise leader and steward of God’s resources, and to find ways to grow our donor base and revenues in 2021,” said Hammond.

‘Tis the Season for Giving

Christmas is often referred to as ‘the season for giving’, and who would we rather give to than our family and friends? I would like to use the acronym GIFTS to help you consider who else you might help this Christmas.

Go. Go for a walk or get in your car and look around your neighborhood or community. See who or what organization might need a helping hand. You can also go on the internet and check out organizations that are serving people in your community, country or in the world.

Inquire. Once you have identified some individuals or organizations, inquire about their story and needs. Check to be sure that their goals and objectives are ones you can support.

Focus. Focus on a few of these people or organizations rather than spreading yourself too thin.

Time, talent, or treasure. Decide whether you have the time, talent, or treasure required to support the people and organizations you have identified.

Serve. Serve faithfully as you connect with the individuals or organizations. The best gift you can give is the gift of yourself. And a hidden benefit, nothing feels better than giving!

God is With Us: A 2020 Review

Matthew 1:23 ESV “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means God with us).

Prior to Jesus’ coming, the Jews were looking for the long-awaited Messiah to deliver them from Roman oppression and bring back the glory days of King David. They had waited, and waited, and waited. Then, one night, angels appeared to shepherds in the field and announced that the Savior had come as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. A baby? How could a baby free them from Roman rule? But this baby grew up to be a perfect man, and instead of just freeing the Jews from Roman oppression, he freed all people from sin, death and the devil. Immanuel was with all who believed in Him.

As we look at 2020 in the rearview mirror, what do we see? Social unrest, a contentious election, or a world-wide pandemic and uncertainty? Or do we see new opportunities to connect with people via video conferencing, less hectic schedules, and more completed home projects? Chances are, it is a little bit of both. Our prayer is that you felt Immanuel in your lives this year. That even in the midst of challenges, you felt His presence and direction. We pray God was with you!

Initially, here at Field of Hope, we wondered how our mission would proceed during the pandemic. We hadn’t tried distance learning with the Ugandan staff and secondary teachers before. We hadn’t done a virtual fundraiser or a virtual annual board meeting. How was God going to move us forward during a pandemic?

But Immanuel, God with us, came through as He always does. Because we were not able to travel, we were able to take recommendations from a consultant and put them into practice in short order. We also realized that the pandemic had forced the world into a virtual world that would have otherwise taken years to attain. So, we went ahead with virtual teacher training in Uganda, which came off without a hitch. Our executive director, Alexa, did an amazing job of engaging the board virtually for three days as we set goals and a budget for 2021 and beyond. The virtual fundraiser exceeded our goal thanks to gracious donors. God was with us!

On a recent Zoom with our Ugandan staff members (Walter, Nikolas, and Agnes), we prayed together.  While there were definitely health and economic concerns expressed, there were even more prayers of thanksgiving for God’s presence and provision. They were thankful for the success of the virtual teacher training and a new Ugandan office. They thanked God for the Field of Hope staff, board, and donors in the U.S. They asked Him to protect us all. They knew God was with them!

We invite you to join the Field of Hope family as we share Immanuel and agricultural knowledge and enthusiasm with Ugandans and Indians. To those of you who have partnered with us in the past, we say thank you. May we all experience ‘God with us’ in 2021.

 

Faith Meinzen

Field of Hope Spiritual Director

A Tribute to Dan Strempke

It was the fall of 2013.  Field of Hope was a very small nonprofit, but we had made the commitment to bring Agnes Obote from Uganda to the US to take part in the WomenReach events at several John Deere facilities in Iowa and Kansas.  Agnes was in charge of a church agriculture program in Uganda that had partnered with Field of Hope on many occasions.  For each of the events, our co-founder Brandy Young would lead a Q&A interview session with Agnes, asking about her upbringing, agriculture methods and practices, and what life was like during and after the 20-year civil war in Uganda.  The presentation was very impactful and emotional.

We were in the John Deere facility in Olathe, KS, for one of the events, and I can distinctly remember one of the John Deere senior executives coming up to me after the meeting and sharing how meaningful the meeting had been to him.  He asked for more information about how he could get involved with Field of Hope.

We talked for a short time and after the meeting finished, Dan invited us to his home, where we met his wife Anne.  We had a great discussion, followed by another meeting later on at a restaurant in Des Moines to discuss their further involvement. Shortly after that last meeting, Dan and Anne both joined the Field of Hope Board of Directors.

I can very well remember how excited Brandy, Cathy, and I were to have Dan and Anne involved in Field of Hope.  Even though I did not know Dan well while I was working at Deere, I knew he was held in high regard by the folks with whom I worked – he was universally liked and appreciated.

Shortly after Dan joined Field of Hope, he accepted the position of Board President, and the rest is history!  Dan’s contribution to Field of Hope is nothing short of amazing.  His steady hand and humble spirit were exactly what the organization needed.  As I have said so many times, he was the adult in the room to guide the Field of Hope board through the period of growth in our ministry and outreach.

One of Dan’s unique gifts is the way he can take sometimes disparate thoughts and ideas and distill those into cogent work plans and action items.  He always treats everyone with respect, and he possesses a unique way of listening to everyone and letting them know their ideas are worthwhile.  He asks the pivotal questions and spurs progress while considering all options and visualizing the bigger picture. Dan is steadfast in his support and is a strong representation of steady faith. He truly represents Micah 6:8 in that he acts justly, loves mercy, and walks humbly, as demonstrated through his actions as Board Chair.

I believe God has been exceptionally instrumental in the history of Field of Hope, giving us exactly the right people to lead and serve at exactly the right time.  Brandy was obviously the visionary and the person so critical to help birth the organization.  Others nurtured it early on, trying to breathe life into it and bring it fully into being.  Dan’s tenure as Board President provided just the kind of leadership needed to begin building the structure to a new level of professionalism.  His willingness to complete the Ministry Venture training paid huge dividends to Field of Hope.  Said another way, Dan was exactly the right person to lead Field of Hope through our formative years, and I can’t thank him enough.  I will always be indebted to him.

Anne has also been a tremendous blessing to Field of Hope.  We love her and are grateful for her generous heart.  Anne’s donations of her Noonday commissions have made an enormous contribution to the resources of Field of Hope, and her work through Noonday has touched many people who otherwise would not have known about our organization.  We would say that God has equally yoked Dan and Anne.

I am always amazed how God can orchestrate and arrange circumstances to bring about His will.  We had no idea that Agnes’s trip to the US would also bring us into contact with Dan and Anne Strempke, who have played such a vital role with Field of Hope.

I could go on and on, but this is just a way to let Anne and Dan know how much we love them, and how grateful we are for their humility, their servant leadership, their contributions of time and resources, and their love and dedication to Field of Hope.  There is no question: our organization could not be where it is today without their efforts.

 

With admiration and love,

Mike and Cathy and the Field of Hope Family

Learning Through Leadership: The Story of Nicholas Ssebalamu

In June 2019, Nicholas had just completed his bachelor’s degree. While his peers were looking for full-time employment, Nicholas stumbled upon a Field of Hope blog and reached out regarding an internship.

“The Spirit of God instructed me to contact the organization,” Nicholas shares. I didn’t know what to say or write, and I didn’t have a peace of mind for the following two weeks until I sent an email to Mike Hafner, then
Executive Director – a decision I am proud of today.”

The greatest highlight of his internship was facilitating the Agriculture Teacher’s Training at Gayaza High School.

“I was not supposed to be actively involved in the workshop,” said Nicholas, “but the lead US facilitator was unable to travel, so the training was left to me and Mike.”

The workshop was a huge success!

Today, Nicholas is a full-time employee of Field of Hope leading several
programs. He attributes much of his success in his role to the experience he had as an intern.

“Being able to contribute as a facilitator did a lot to boost my self-confidence and learning,” said Nicholas.

Financial Freedom: The Story of Sylvia Emar

Before the Field of Hope’s Women’s Program, Sylvia remembers life being very difficult. She had little knowledge of how to improve her farm and limited ability to borrow money, as most lenders need securities and have significantly long processing times. Sylvia would hear about saving money, but never imagined she could save 500,000 UGX (roughly $140). In addition to these challenges, she did not have proper housing.

That was before she became a founding member of the Arwotceck Women’s Cooperative.

According to Sylvia, the trainings have helped her improve her farming practices; she no longer casts seeds but plants them in rows, weeds her garden in time, and harvests on time. The trainings on finances have also helped her improve the saving culture within her family; her savings has been growing every crop cycle.

Her living conditions have drastically improved, and now there is always food for the family. She is able to pay school fees for the children and pay for health services when needed. Sylvia loves being part of the group because it has allowed her to create friendships and learn.

Sylvia has been able to borrow from the group’s Village Savings and Loans Association, which has helped her purchase farm inputs, pay school fees, build a house, buy a cow, and start a piggery project, which will further increase her household income. Over the past four years, she has been able to borrow and pay back eight loans from the cooperative.

“The VSLA has saved me from the shame and scorn of borrowing from friends and neighbors,” shared Sylvia. Sylvia also improves her community by sharing her knowledge with her friends and neighbors.