Things I’m learning in Uganda #1 – Fresh, organic food is best and it’s not hard to grow your own

                In light of my last post where I mentioned having the humility to be able to learn from other cultures, I thought it would be fun to write a few posts about things I’m learning in Uganda….
Our garden from last season
              First, I’m learning that fresh, organic, local foods are best and it’s not hard to grow your own.  I know Muigai is going to laugh when he reads this title because he recently pointed out that I have yet to eat anything that I have personally planted (in my defense, I did help with the weeding and harvesting of our sukumas, beans, tomatoes, and maize last year.  And I did have cilantro and basil plants in the US that I harvested once or twice before they died).
            I love the idea of growing as much of my own food as I can, and some days I have grandiose visions of turning our 1/3 acre compound into something like this:
                But I’m still working on the basics for now.  My first attempt ever at gardening was an abysmal failure.  When I was a student at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School in Nairobi, Kenya, the school had small garden plots for the students.  A colleague convinced me that in Kenya, land = wealth and there was no way I could turn down an offer of free land, regardless how small.
                Then the semester started, work piled up, and my small plot lay fallow for several months (there is some Biblical value in letting land lay fallow, right?).  Finally, I grabbed a friend from church who had gardening knowledge and we spent several hours tilling the plot (it had been overrun with grass and weeds) and planting some sukuma, spinach, and onion seedlings.  Unfortunately, that night there was torrential rain and almost all my seedlings were washed away.  My final harvest was one sukuma leaf.  Not one meal or one bunch of sukuma, but a single leaf!  Sad.
Some of our chickens with the chicken house in the background
Then, while in Kenya in December, I found broccoli seeds.  I love broccoli and it is hard to find and expensive here, so I was thrilled.  Even though Jan/Feb is the hottest time of the year, I was too excited to wait for planting season and decided to plant a few of the seeds in a pot.  I figured I could keep them watered and out of constant direct sunlight and they would be ok.  Well I put the pot in the back of the house where I forgot about it several days (out of sight, out of mind!) and then we had a huge rainstorm that flooded the pot and now my broccoli is just a mess of water, dirt, and some green algae growing on top…at least something is growing there!
An integrated organic farm we visited in Masaka
  But gardening is one skill that I am determined to learn while I am in Uganda, and there couldn’t be a better place for me to learn.  Kampala is an incredibly green city and the land is some of the most fertile land in the world.  The fruits are vegetables here are unbelievable.  Ugandan pineapples are amazingly sweet, and papayas grow as big as watermelons.  Most produce is sold in markets and eaten within a week of being harvested.  Because the land is so fertile, many farmers rely on traditional methods of farming which means many fruits and vegetables are organic.  Genetically modified foods are currently banned in Uganda (and hopefully will stay that way!)
A sack garden for people who don’t have much land
I read in a recent article that 40% of the food eaten in Kampala is grown within in the city.  Many Ugandans who have even a small compound are growing something, and those without land even grow vegetables in sacks or tires.  Most children here grow up knowing the basics of growing food and keeping animals, something that I think is lacking in our American educational system.
So the rainy season is about to start which means it’s time to plant again.  This season I am determined to keep learning and improve my gardening skills, and hopefully in a few months I’ll have some pictures of my successful attempts at growing my own food.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s