Julie-Clare and Mhairi’s husband, Bill Uttley, visited the farm with the headmistress, some teachers and the members of the school board. The following report details the progress made so far, and some of the challenges ahead.
Ten acres of land had been bought earlier this year with money that School Lunches for Kamuli sent to St Theresa’s in March 2017. The land is 10km west of Kamuli but the journey involves 3 km of tarmac road then a bumpy 7km over pot holes on a mud track which is prone to flooding. Once arrived, there is currently no access to the land by vehicles and instead a short walk of 100m takes you to the farm boundary.
The shape of the land is long and thin, at the widest around 60m, and is between 45000-55000 metres squared. There are roughly three sections, the first already growing maize, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, oranges, mangos, piri piri, pumpkin and some coffee. The second section is full of sugar beet and some newly planted maize but there is one waterlogged area in need of drainage. The third section contains maize also but has two waterlogged areas. The neighbouring farm has a similar problem but has successfully drained the land and is growing rice, tomatoes and sweet potatoes so this third area has great potential. The school has already employed the expertise of land managers who are preparing a report on the best use and layout of the land, with solutions for the waterlogged areas and for irrigation. This report should be available shortly.
The amazing news is that the school have already cleared a lot of land and have been growing crops which they have been able to harvest for food already. The school board and the children have all helped in this process, with the girls learning farming skill as they go along. There are no machines to do this job though and all work is done by hand. The farm is now producing maize and beans in all but 3 areas and the school have harvested 700kg and 300kg of each respectively for school lunches.
Many of the teachers and board members grow crops themselves on their homestead so have good background knowledge and skills. They spoke knowledgeably about the challenges of the land and the great potential it has. They have already built good relationships with village and village elders who they feel would happily work on farm, ploughing, digging ditches, tending cattle, weeding, spraying and so on.
The farm requires a Farm Manager and everyone was unanimous on this. A manager on site would mean real-time advice and expertise on when to plant, spray and harvest, as well as providing security. At the moment the village elder has provided very sound advice and support and as such has enhanced excellent relationship between the school and the village. We understood that a person for the position of Farm Manager was already being sought by the school board.
There were four main requirements apart from drainage of some areas of waterlogged land:
Storage: storage on the school site is limited to 3 cupboards each of which can only hold 30 bags of 100kg. This equates to storage for only 2 months worth of maize. In addition there is no storage area as yet on the farm. There is a clear need for formal storage on the farm site as well as a shelter for farm workers.
Transportation: everyone was unanimous on the need for a more robust and reliable vehicle. The current vehicles are cars or minbuses not suted for the terrain and are wearing out rapidly. A second hand truck can be purchased for around £6500. We were told the government has an obligation to improve roads although there is no knowing how soon this will happen.
Livestock: cows will provide milk and chickens will provide eggs and meat for lunches. Oxen would be useful in ploughing and weeding and seem a wise investment as they are able to be sold at the end of their working life for the same price as they were purchased.
Fencing: perimeter fencing was required for security including keeping roaming animals out and form eating the crops. this was relatively low cost and essential.
We left the farm feeling so proud of what everyone has managed to achieve, and a feeling of great excitement about the potential of the farm in the hands of this very knowledgeable and enthusiastic group. Can’t wait to visit again in 2018!