Life Comes Full Circle

A GAIN girl harvests two baskets of passion fruit. She was able to keep her orchard alive through the dry season by utilizing a water bottle irrigation methodology taught by KadAfrica. We would like to thank The Imago Dei Fund and Vero Water for generously making over 20,000 water bottles available for the GAIN girls!

A GAIN girl harvests two baskets of passion fruit. She was able to keep her orchard alive through the dry season by utilizing a water bottle irrigation methodology taught by KadAfrica. We would like to thank The Imago Dei Fund and Vero Water for generously making over 20,000 water bottles available for the GAIN girls!

Apologies seem to be the one thing I have become accustomed to when blogging. However I will say that apologizing for being too busy isn’t the worst thing on earth! We have had a roller coaster ride in the first few months of the year. After winning the Agriculture Award at the 2013 Young Achievers Awards it has been a very busy time. With Television and Newspaper exposure, KadAfrica has been propelled into the national scene here in Uganda. This opportunity has enabled us to develop our business in a direction that we had always hoped we would go in.

The dry season finally came to an end. Agriculture is a constant reminder that the world moves in circles—the seasons are cyclical and though at times it is hard to imagine through clouds of dust that the rainy season will come, the year progresses and it always does. It has been a relief to us at KadAfrica and farmers all across the country who have suffered through what has been recorded as one of the worst dry seasons in the past few years. Here in Fort Portal we have begun to experience the wonderful rain that this region is famous for. And I must admit while this has had its effects on many of my social activities such as golf and my two weekly football games, it has been good for the crops.

Seedlings are packed for delivery.

Seedlings are packed for delivery.

KadAfrica has always been keen on spreading the idea of passion fruit growing in Uganda. We have begun to develop larger passion fruit seedlings nurseries, as there has been a huge boom in the demand of passion fruit in the past few weeks. We have had customers from so many different areas of Uganda, including places like Mityana, Mukono, Jinja, Luwero, Masindi, Soroti and of course regionally in and around Fort Portal. This paired with the distribution of seedling to the next round of 600 GAIN girls means that our network of passion fruit growers is spreading countrywide… which we are very excited about!

This dry season came with various challenges that have taught us numerous lessons. We were able to deal with the most extreme weather conditions and also to learn how people who are not as fortunate as us with irritation are able to deal with the lack of rain. After a visit to one of our GAIN girls sites we were very excited to see the innovations and hard work that some of the girls had put into their sites so as to maintain them through the worst of the dry season. I feel that for them to be able to cultivate their orchards to the point that they are now harvesting and making money as the rains begins is commendable. It is good to know that the first cohort of GAIN girls will be pave the way for the new members who have joined.

I realize this is another post about weather; but instead of one with pictures of dust and floods it marks how excited we are to learn through the changing seasons. As the rains begin, so does the first round of GAIN harvests. And as harvest begins we are in the process of delivering seedling to 600 girls who have joined out program.

In May 2013 we launched the GAIN program with CRS. A year later it has all come full circle…

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A Lack of Foresight

Rain water floods a house built near the Mpanga River in Fort Portal. Amazingly, it usually sits 15 feet off the river’s edge.

Greetings all! I hope the week is going well. It has been an interesting couple of weeks here; busy, and with absolutely crazy weather. Like most of the world, I too have been following the US elections. This morning my daily news forecast—which I hate to admit, is my Facebook newsfeed—was flooded with election updates. Until I renew my satellite TV subscription, I have sadly become one of the many people that receive current affairs from Facebook. But thanks to the fact that I have friends on all continents who are generally quick at updating their statuses based on what is going on in their part of the world, I awoke to news of an Obama victory.

Before I delve any deeper into today’s post I would like to congratulate President Obama for winning the U.S. presidential election. We over here in East Africa wish him a successful second term as the President of the United States of America. Once, I read somewhere that when a person in America sneezes the rest of the world catches the cold. I believe Obama recognizes this effect, and I can only hope he has a clear awareness of what needs to be done to better the state of the world.

To be an effective leader and initiate positive change one must possess an ability to predict and plan for the future. From my viewpoint, foresight is a characteristic I recognize in successful men and women such as President Obama; it is also a quality that is evidently absent among many people I meet on a daily basis here in Fort Portal. Of course, I can only draw upon examples from my life and perspective, but lack of foresight coupled with the drastic rains that have hit Fort Portal have illustrated a blatant inability to predict and plan.

I know we have posted about this rainy season since our return from the United States. But, while I hate to sound repetitive, the weather here is so pervasive it becomes hard not to discuss it as exceedingly relevant to our daily lives. As rain pours down, Fort Portal’s Mpanga River has rapidly begun to rise—and while Becks and I took the rushing river as a sign to further prep the farm for the storms, it became seemingly apparent that those conducting business on the river banks had decided to ignore the Mpanga’s upsurge and allow the river to slowly creep up to the banks. As if turning a blind eye to the rushing river behind them provided a better option to the work necessary for relocating their businesses. Obviously the rising water levels presented the potential for disaster.

After an excessive rain last week, a group of men and women who sell tree seedlings along the riverbank looked at their inventory in despair. Inevitably, the river finally broke though its banks last Friday completely flooding the entirety of what usually sits on the side of the road.

As I drove back to town from the farm, I came to find one of the bridges over the Mpanga River completely flooded. The scene was the true stereotypical scene of Africa pulled from a Hollywood movie—panicked boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) drivers and their passengers trying to cross this “lake” and the usual herd of cattle attempting to swim through this insane amount of water that somehow no one had seen coming.

The road to the farm looks more like a river at this point!

As I managed to cross this reservoir of water in my car, I decided to stop near one of the tree nurseries that I noticed had moved their seedlings up to higher ground. It was only after I pulled over that I realized why this particular woman caught my eye; shockingly she was the only person amongst maybe thirty or so tree farmers whom had moved her nursery to higher ground. Curious as to what had influenced her, I got out of the car and stated—in a rather joking manor—“Wow, you are clearly the lucky one! What made you move up here?” She replied quietly, “I saw that the river was rising so I thought I’d rather be safe than sorry and move to higher ground.”

As the words rolled off her tongue one of the other tree farmers angrily yelled out at me, “What about us who have lost all our businesses?” I looked at him and asked, “Why are you coming at me as if it’s my fault that it rained so hard?” He gazed back, speechless. I asked him whether at some point during this rainy season he had planned on moving his business off the riverbank as he could see the rapidly increasing volume of water; that it was always just a matter of time before it flooded. He had no response.

While at KadAfrica we have taken precautions by terracing the fields to protect our young crop from the rains, it is disheartening to watch as many allow their businesses to be, literally, washed away. Especially among those involved in agriculture, Ugandans seem to be accepting of the notion that they have little power to change their situations. And while the world has watched as Sandy ravaged New York City—again thank you Facebook!—it becomes fascinating to juxtapose the preparation and response to weather between the two nations. While Mother Nature is ultimately uncontrollable, I personally feel that when something has the power to affect your livelihood, you must try your level best to minimize the damage. You must exercise foresight.

I cannot think of the people of Uganda as incapable of such thought and action, but rather lacking the know-how to think in such a way. We must educate people to think ahead so that they are not left behind, blaming others for their mishaps. Here at KadAfrica we hope our precautions can help lead by example.

In the words of another great American president—

The time to fix the roof is while the sun is shining…

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Go Barrack!

Terraces and drip line now criss cross the KadAfrica Estate; preparation for all kinds of weather.

Good to the Last Drop

Rain clouds loom over the KadAfrica Estate.

Since Eric and I moved to Fort Portal it has never rained like it has this past month. Without fail, the midday clouds come around accompanied by thunder, lightening, and an absolute downpour. I remember dreading such weather and the inevitable rainy day lunch back in elementary school; the rain was a hindrance to my beloved recess and a sign that summer vacation was a long six months away.

After two years of relying upon an elusive rainy season, Eric and I are finally experiencing the rains we have endlessly stressed about. The irony of it all—it is the first time since founding KadAfrica that rain is not necessary. Three thousand meters of pipe later, I am beyond excited to announce that the KadAfrica Estate is fully irrigated!

A view of the rain from our front porch. It only takes a few minutes to flood to yard at this volume!

While the drip lines that traverse our fields lay inactive, they provide an immense source of pride and relief. For someone who can spend countless hours stressing over the necessity of each drop of rain, this seasonal change is now a welcomed façade of winter rather than an income-generating lifeline.

It is ironic to juxtapose the buckets of rain hitting Fort Portal to the simplicity of a single drop of water. Yet, as we turned on the new irrigation system for the first time and watched as drops of water fall from carefully regulated holes, I felt a true sense of accomplishment. Knowing that, rain or shine, each passion fruit vine on our plantation will be delivered a precisely calculated amount of water is a notion I never would have imagined could be so meaningful.

I appreciate rain. I look out my window through sheets of rain and think back to those winter days cooped in my classroom at Dave’s Avenue Elementary. But instead of feeling the dread of a missed recess and a distant summer, I relish this African winter—it provides a sense of familiarity as I read people’s Facebook updates about the changing seasons back in California. That I can now enjoy weather rather than depending on it.

A drop! Excuse the blurriness, this picture was a bit challenging to catch.