I was recently contacted by a visionary and compassionate Ugandan, Kenneth Mugayehwenkyi, who co-founded an organization, ROTOM (Reach One Touch One Ministries) about 10 years ago to help the plight of the elderly both in his home community in Kabale District and in Mukono District.
Unlike many western countries, Uganda has no universal social security to assist the elderly. It is estimated that over a million seniors in Uganda live in poverty and often live in isolation and with loneliness. It is also estimated that over 800,000 HIV/AIDS orphans are being cared for by these elderly grandparents, whose own sons and daughters have passed away due to this epidemic.
Without an income, most of these seniors labour in their small gardens, trying to grow enough to sustain themselves and those they are caring for. Unfortunately, through the conventional farming methods they use, their strenuous efforts often produce very little.
ROTOM has had the vision to support the elderly with community initiatives such as assisting with food and income security, medical care, hygiene, improved housing, spiritual and emotional support.
Kenneth had heard about Farming God’s Way and was wondering if this might be a tool for the elderly to use in assisting them with their food and income security. After meeting with their staff, we organized two workshops for their community volunteers (many of which are elderly themselves), both in Mukono and Kabale Districts.
The workshops included both ‘classroom’ instruction and practical in-field mentoring.
The teaching included Biblical principles to assist them in their walk with God, as well as simple technology for laying out and working their gardens, and management principles to guide them in looking after their gardens and planning for sustained profitability.
Almost everywhere in Uganda people prepare their gardens with a lot of effort, turning the soil with a hoe, digging as deep as they can – a lot of back breaking labour. This results in degradation of the soils, loss of soil structure, soil erosion, excessive water runoff, and killing
many of the living organisms God created to benefit our gardens – all culminating in poor yields. In contrast Farming God’s Way uses minimal tillage principles in preparing the gardens along with mulching, which protects the soil structure, reduces water and soil runoff, reduces the amount of weeding, and helps to encourage the life in the soil that God created to help the plants gain the nutrients they need to produce healthy yields.
Stephen Bwogi, a co-trainer, joined me in the training and was of great assistance being able to translate and train in the local language. He will also be able to do follow up in months to come.
This way of preparing their gardens is so different from what they have been practicing all their lives, but it was encouraging to see them quickly learn the principles of minimal tillage.
In Kabale District, we trained against the backdrop of the beautiful hills in the surrounding area, and Jerry Amanya, also a Farming God’s Way trainer, was able to join us and help with translation and training.
Instead of broadcasting the maize and bean seeds in their fields we taught them how to plant maize in holes – 3 seeds in a straight line, and plant beans in a furrow with the proper spacing between seeds. These are new concepts for them but again they caught on very quickly and voiced excitement in wanting to try this in their gardens.
Once the planting was complete we covered the garden with a mulch covering – protecting the soil from excessive soil and water runoff, and providing an ideal environment for soil organisms to help cultivate and enrich the garden.
Their enthusiasm was great to see. One of the ladies got up at the end of the workshop in Mukono District and said, “We are giving you a new Ugandan name: Musa (the Luganda name for Moses). Like Moses, you are helping to lead us out of a life of hardship and futility to our old ways of farming, to a more productive and efficient way of working in our gardens.” Stephen and I look forward to visiting with them on many occasions to see how God is helping them use this incredible tool of Farming God’s Way to transform their lives and gardens.