Tag Archives: Uganda

guy’s newsletter: hand-ups, hunters & arses

I’m typing this in the shade of an acacia tree in Guru-Guru, northern Uganda. It’s midday and nothing will tempt the chickens and goats from the shade; all activity has stopped bar the crickets, yet five years ago this was a war zone. With the village destroyed and the ravages of HIV, former farmers were left dependent on handouts until the arrival of farming charity Send a Cow who have been rebuilding communities through sustainable agriculture here for three years. I’m visiting with one of our harvesters Jon, and Dale who works in quality control at Riverford, to learn how money raised by our staff and customers has been spent.

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The backdrop is a depressing one, with widespread and senseless bush burning. Seeing hundreds of mature trees killed and organic matter lost to help hunters catch giant rats for supper has, at times, reduced me to tears. There is also the added threat of Indian and Chinese land grabs lurking in the background. Yet there is also hope, energy and immense determination to rebuild lives through social change and improved agricultural practice. Send a Cow is at the heart of it.

Most farmers, whether in Devon or Uganda, don’t pay much heed to experts. The best way to influence them is to show a farmer like them, on land like theirs, doing better than them, and this is Send a Cow’s approach. There are no hand-outs, only hand-ups; farmers have to demonstrate commitment over at least six months before they receive seeds, livestock and training. I have seen lives transformed by the patient application of composting, water conservation, mulching, integration of livestock management with soil improvement alongside mixed, multi-canopy cropping.

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Send a Cow techniques of mulching and careful preservation of organic matter can make a farm from little more than bare soil. Here the beds are prepared, mulched and waiting for the rains. Last year these beds earned £1200; enough to buy a pig, goats and for the farmer Lallam send her children to school.

The results are permanent and being copied by neighbouring farmers. Far from being the net food importer it currently is, with these techniques I have no doubt Uganda could export large quantities of food without a grain of fertiliser, drop of pesticide or single GM seed. The spirit of the people is certainly helping the recovery process too. My favourite story is of a bunch of Indian ‘investors’ who were promised land by central government. They were seen off by the elder women of the village who blocked the road by stripping and baring their arses, and have not been heard of since.

 Guy Watson

If you’d like to help us support the work Send a Cow are doing in Africa, you can add £1 to your next order (or set it up as a regular donation) here.

A visit from uganda

Charles Mulwana, a farmer from Uganda, is staying with us at our Riverford Farm in Devon for the next two months. In 2005, aided by charity Send a Cow, Charles received his first cow, Helen. Send a Cow helped him learn about sustainable organic agriculture, looking after livestock and how to grow a variety of crops to feed himself and his family.

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Charles has come to the farm at Riverford to learn how we grow organic crops on a larger scale. He is passionate about passing on the knowledge he has gained, particularly on the importance of organic farming and having a balanced diet. To do this Charles is hoping to raise enough money to build a community centre in his village in the  Nakifuma Mukono district of Uganda, to educate young people in his area on agriculture and running a business. He has become a Peer farmer trainer for Send A Cow, helping to train other farmers, and has passed on a gift of a calf to other farmers in his community from his first cow.

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This is Charles’ second visit to Riverford. During this stay he will be spending time with our picking and farm management team learning how we plan and produce our seasonal veg. So far our farm team have kept him busy learning a variety of larger-scale farming techniques. It’s also been very hands on and Charles has been helping us with our everyday farm work – from picking and bunching spring onions to go in our Riverford boxes, to harvesting our lettuces and spinach. A useful agricultural tip he said has learned while working in the fields here is how we harvest our spinach. When harvesting spinach in Uganda they traditionally leave part of the plant remaining, in order for it to grow back. Here Charles has found that if you cut off all the leaves, the plant will grow back quicker (within 2-3 weeks). Charles is also interested in the different varieties of fruit and veg that he doesn’t currently grow at home. In particular, he is hoping to grow more varieties of tomato on his return to Uganda, including beef and cherry tomatoes, which he feels will be popular. He’s also keen to grow cherries and green peppers.

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At home in Uganda, Charles grows a range of crops to feed his family, with a little extra to sell. These include onions, spinach, kale and sweetcorn which are prepared daily by his wife Barbara for their four children. Sadly his first cow passed away, however his new calf (also called Helen) produces approximately 12 litres of milk each day and he grows bananas and coffee which he sells.

It’s been great to welcome Charles to the farm to spend time with the team at Riverford.

If you have any questions for Charles on farming in Uganda and the UK, please send us a message at help@www.riverford.co.uk/blog and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Riverford farm-off – uk vs uganda

We’ve been hosting Charles, a Ugandan farmer at our farm in Devon for the past two weeks. Join Guy as he takes a look at his creative farming methods (3 min 50 sec).

sustainable farming

At the beginning of last week, a Ugandan farmer appeared on our doorstep. Charles Mulwana was trained by Send a Cow (the charity whose excellent work Riverford supports) in 2004, and is now so involved with the charity’s work that he has come to Riverford to teach schoolchildren (and us) about sustainable agriculture.

Back in 2001 I took a two month sabbatical to visit farming friends in Africa; I wanted to see for myself whether organic agriculture could feed mouths where it really counted. I was truly inspired by what I saw in Uganda; here the Kulika Trust (who we have worked with for several years) was training farmers at a very local level. Central to their teaching was a highly intricate method of mixed cropping, involving livestock and crops grown in multiple canopies, in a system as sympathetic to nature as we can get without reverting to being hunter-gatherers. I estimated the best examples to be 20 times more productive than the environmentally destructive monocultures next door.

Since then we have tried to support these projects through staff exchanges, sponsoring a training centre (the Kasengi Riverford Farm), importing their vanilla and through our involvement with Send a Cow. Unfortunately our ‘no airfreight’ policy makes it hard to trade with a landlocked country, but the hope is that by opening up the channels of communication through activities like Charles’ visit, we can show that the farming toolkit is not limited to GM and sprays.

Guy Watson

Margaret’s last day

As part of our work with Send a Cow, Ugandan farmer Margaret Kifuko visited our farm in Devon for two weeks (see our original post about our events here.) Today is her last day with us, so here are some photos of Margaret during her time at Wash farm.



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goats, cows and giant carrots

Guy Watson, Margaret Kifuko and Martin Geake

Martin Geake (Director of Send a Cow) receiving a carrot-shaped cheque from Riverford for £10,000

We’ve been working with Send a Cow since March last year, organising joint events promoting sustainable farming practices globally and offering vegbox incentives for donors to the charity.

As part of Send a Cow’s Grow it Global project we gave our visitors the chance to see the workings of an African farm here at Riverford in

Margaret Kifuko Ugandan Farmer

Margaret Kifuko – our guest farmer from Uganda

Devon on Monday 3rd March with our guest Ugandan farmer Margaret Kifuko. Margaret taught everyone about keyhole gardens and bag gardens and we had farm walks and goats for everyone to meet.

On Tuesday 4th May we held an evening hosted by Guy Watson (Riverford Founder) and guest speaker Margaret at the Field Kitchen on Wash Farm, Devon. Martin Geake (Director of Send a Cow) received a carrot-shaped cheque from Riverford for £10,000 which was raised from various initiatives over the last year.

Huge thanks to all of our customers who have helped raise this, by buying garden fleece,  boxes to share and referring friends to Riverford.

a goat at Riverford

Along with farm walks, keyhole gardens and bag gardens, we had some goats on the farm for everyone to meet

Margaret will be with us until 14th May and in this time we are hosting 11 school visits at when Margaret will teach children about sustainable farming in Africa. Margaret joined a Send a Cow group in 1998 and received training in agriculture. The group gave her a cow, which has calved 4 times. Margaret practices sustainable organic agriculture, which has improved her soil’s fertility. She is now a peer farmer trainer and has turned her farm into a training centre.