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Mango madness

By Jennifer Bryant, 2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow

Posted Sep. 18, 2015

This week we continued to work on the mango seedling project. The soon-to-be-Dr. Okello Ongom (he defends his thesis next month in the Netherlands) came out to look at our progress. He confirmed that the seedlings have Anthracnose and that we are on the right track spraying copper fungicide at regular intervals.

I had a really interesting conversation with him regarding Ugandan university agricultural research. Currently, he is a horticulture lecturer at Makerere University in Kampala, the largest university in Uganda. He received his master's degree and will soon receive his Ph.D. in the Netherlands, and he conducted research in California. When he returned to Uganda, he was full of hope to really contribute to the horticulture field in Uganda but has met a lot of resistance. He is not happy with the quality of research that is conducted at the university level in Uganda. One of his biggest complaints was the lack of innovative research. He feels that the faculty needs to meet weekly to discuss current research in the field and outline the issues and problems facing Ugandan horticulture, but the interest is not there. Yet another issue is the fact that he has not been paid the whole year he has worked for the university. Government employees do not always receive their pay in a timely fashion (this could be why no one is interested in doing more work!). He has just accepted a position as a rose breeder in Kenya for a large flower producer. I think it is a shame that Uganda will be losing such a good researcher, but you can't blame him for moving on to greener pastures. I am really glad that we have such good research institutions in the United States and our government places value in research and education.

After Okello's visit, we began constructing the shade cloth for the seedlings. The greenhouses are too hot for the seedlings, so we constructed a shade structure with a 50 percent shade cloth. The shade cloth only comes in 6-meter-wide segments, so we had to sew two 24-meter-long-segments together.

godfrey and frances sewing shade clothGodfrey and Frances sewing the shade cloth

sewing clothPossible sewing the shade cloth. We had a competition of who could sew the most, and he won.

There are still more seedlings to transplant, so we also had to prepare more soil. We sterilized the soil by putting it over the fire for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This helps to prevent soilborne pathogens.

sterlizing soilBetty sterilizing the soil for the mango seedlings

While we sterilized the soil, I talked with some of the ladies who work at the farm. One of the guys translated for us because they do not speak any English. Edisa is the mother of seven children and was unable to go to school when growing up. She wishes she could have had the opportunity and makes it a priority to send all of her children to school. The money she makes at the farm guarantees that her children can have an education. These ladies work really hard to improve the lives of their families.

Edisa, Jennifer and Betty selfieFarmworker selfie: Edisa, Jennifer and Betty

On the way home we ran into some car troubles. The timing belt went out, and we were stranded on the side of the road. I waited by the car while my driver caught a ride to town to get a mechanic to replace the belt. He left, but I was definitely not alone. All of the neighborhood kids had to come to check out what this foreign lady was doing on the side of the road. We were there for a total of three hours, but I was entertained the whole time.

new friendsMy new friends and the broken down car

entertaining ourselvesEntertaining ourselves while the mechanic changed the timing belt

little guy loves sunglassesThis little guy loved my sunglasses

About the Author

Jennifer Bryant is a 2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Bryant is from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and is in her first year of the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on international agriculture development and sustainability.

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