GUEST BLOG BY TAYLOR WASHBURN AND EMILY CHANDLER, GLOBAL AMBASSADORS FOR ROCKFLOWER
Uganda Community farm
Friday, July 27th marked the beginning of the end of our trip as we set off to meet our last partner, Uganda Community Farm (UCF), in Kamuli. Kamuli is a town in the Eastern Region of Uganda, about 45 miles north of Jinja.
We arrived at UCF a little after 1PM where we were met by our host Anthony. Anthony introduced us to his team - Rena, who is responsible for accounts and community outreach with farmers UCF partners with, and Viola, who is responsible for the farm equipment. Before setting out to explore the grounds of UCF and look at their current projects, Anthony gave us a little bit of background. UCF began in 2014 when Anthony organized approximately 230 local farmers to band together to grow ginger. The thinking was that if they could pool their product they would be able to sell it in bulk to a larger buyer. Unfortunately, after training the farmers in growing ginger and providing them with enough ginger rhizomes for planting, the price of ginger collapsed. This pushed the farmers back to the local market where they could get a slightly higher price.
Despite the initial setback, Anthony’s enthusiasm was undiminished and he continued to think of ways he could help those who didn’t have much. Anthony’s current idea had us excited and was the primary reason for our visit. Anthony had begun the installation of solar dryers on his property. By installing solar dryers he could access fruit grown by local farmers and dry the fruit and add value in the process. Additionally, it would help farmers with the fact that much of their crop ends up rotting on the ground or on the tree because they can’t eat it all and the market is flooded with fruit when in season. It is a fantastic idea, and we can attest to the need for it, after seeing so many overripe mangoes rotting on the ground in Bujagali. Without an adequate way to save or preserve food, lots of fruit goes to waste when it is in season here. Harvesting this otherwise wasted fruit into a product would certainly benefit the rural communities in Uganda, both by preserving food for the next season and creating a product to sell. Anthony is just getting started with the solar dryers, which look a lot like slightly modified greenhouses. He hopes to dry mango, pineapple, papaya, ginger, and other crops.
While UCF’s solar drying operation is just getting started, it was exciting to hear their innovative ideas and see them beginning to take shape. Anthony is dreaming big and looking for ways to take advantage of inefficiencies in the local community. Ultimately, that is what this is all about: looking for a need and then trying to fill it.
That brings us to the end of our travels. Eight Rockflower partners. There are numerous numbers we could attach to our trip. However, nothing could do justice to the people we met, the places we saw, and the generosity we received, and the amazing human spirit we found all around us. There are amazing people all around the world with incredible ideas and energy focused on improving the lives of women and girls and by extension the world. Rockflower is but a catalyst to help get these ideas off the ground and connect these people to create a network of changemakers. We truly feel privileged to have been able to travel on behalf of Rockflower, meet the partners who are making our mission a reality, and at the most simple level be inspired by the compassion and humanity we witnessed every day.