One of the many wonderful things that Field of Hope does is offer agriculture curriculum to secondary schools. This curriculum has been developed so that students receive the information needed to pass national exams and get excited about agriculture so they see it as a field of work full of potential for a better life and a more productive Uganda.
In the United States, this initiative came about in 1928 with the creation of the Future Farmers of America, now known as the National FFA Organization. Almost a century later, Uganda is among many countries in the world where leaders are anxious about the future of agriculture because of the lack of youth involvement and innovation in the field.
A few weeks ago, Field of Hope hosted a training session for agriculture teachers who received this curriculum so they could better incorporate the lessons in their classrooms. While four teachers were invited to the training, word spread and 16 teachers excited about the initiative attended.
Because Alexa Major, a former MIAP-Noble Fellow who now works for Field of Hope, was not expecting so many teachers to want the curriculum so soon, she had to bring more books with her when we came two weeks ago. Last week I had the privilege of joining Alexa and Ryan Danker, a Field of Hope intern, in delivering those books to the teachers who came to the training but did not receive the curriculum.
We visited several schools, but two stood out to me. First let me tell you about Skyland Secondary School. Moses, the director of the school, greeted us and shared his excitement about plans to grow its agriculture program by building 10 fish tanks, a hydroponics garden, a plot garden and a beehive.
Moses is passionate about the future of agriculture in his school and in Uganda. "The students that we reach are poor," he said. "But just because you may be poor in hand does not mean that you are poor in mind or in heart." It's evident that he has instilled that same passion in the three agriculture teachers at the school.
The second standout school, Mount Olive Academy, is best described as a district school. The only power source is a solar panel and it does not even have a borehole for water. We met Dalom, the agriculture teacher, a few miles from the school as he was traveling from the other school where he teaches. That's right – Dalom teaches at two schools with only a bicycle to carry him between the two. And I thought American ag teachers were overworked!
Despite the lack of resources available to Dalom at this school, I could sense his excitement for this new curriculum to be brought into his classroom. He was thrilled that we showed interest in his work and invited Ryan to visit his other school.
Just like Moses said, it is not the things in our hands that tell us who we are, rather it is the things in our heart. My God is the God of the universe, and I've come to learn that material things pass in and out of our hands for a purpose that is only really understood by God.
I am thankful for the passions of people like Moses, Dalom and those who created the agriculture curriculum. I am also thankful for the support from the partners God has used to move those books into the schools and for the future Ugandan agriculturalists.
Ryan Danker, Field of Hope intern, decided to get a whole tilapia, eyes and all!
The engineering professors at Gulu University were excited to show us a planter they built that can be run by oxen.
Students at Gulu University designed this small, inexpensive dryer.
This is the new building for Gulu University Agriculture! The building they are currently in is one story and just a little bigger than a portable building.
We made a stop at a partnering school, Village of Hope, where we shared the curriculum with the agriculture teacher and saw some of their operations.
One of the operations that Village of Hope is most proud of is their piggery! It was the most clean and pristine piggery I have ever seen. The pens get washed every day, and the pigs are bathed once a week. To top it off, they even keep record of each pig's date of birth and weight (which is very impressive in Uganda).
Catherine Rutan is a 2018 MIAP-Noble Fellow serving in agricultural development roles in Uganda. Rutan is from Spring, Texas, and is a student in the Master of International Agriculture Program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on international development. This fellowship is sponsored in part by the Noble Research Institute.