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Root of the problem

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Posted Feb. 28, 2016


There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in.

— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I'm in my element. I'm at Lubbe Crop Farm. Don't get me wrong, I like animals, but growing fruits and vegetables is much more my style. Lubbe Farm is 207 diverse acres of one of the most beautiful farmlands I've ever experienced. Not only are the soils incredibly fertile, but the views you get when you take a break from weeding are easy on the eyes.

Lubbe Crop Farm grows a wide range of fruits and vegetables that supply Watoto's children villages. A large portion of the "casoli," or maize, is delivered to our friends at Buloba Chicken Farm, where I was last week. The maize is then milled to make feed for the chickens at Buloba or the goats at Suubi, where I was a few weeks back.

If you are thinking "Wow, Watoto has put a lot of thought into creating a closed loop system that is sustainable and profitable," you are correct; they have. These are the type of things that have made me interested in sustainable farming in the first place. Farming is a giant puzzle waiting to be solved.

Maize harvest and processing was in full swing this week.Maize harvest and processing was in full swing this week.

My first week at Lubbe has been a sort of "baptism by fire" in the problem solving department. Conservative estimates show we have lost around 4 acres of maize to looting. At first, this makes you angry; but when you really think about it, whoever is looting is doing so out of desperation. So, we are asking many questions. How do we keep people from looting? What will we do if we catch them red-handed? How do we effectively train people so as to remove the sort of desperation that leads to looting in the first place? Stay tuned.

Burning the old maize fields.Burning the old maize fields.

Secondly, how do we get a giant water tank down from a 25-foot platform with a tractor and one really long rope without breaking the tank?

Trying to lower the water tank with a tractor, a rope and manpower.Trying to lower the water tank with a tractor, a rope and manpower.

The short answer: you don't. I've mentioned in previous posts the challenges of working in situations with a lack of resources. This is where creativity comes in handy. However, creativity has its limits, and we all agree that hindsight is 20/20.

On the bright side, the tank can be sold for scrap.On the bright side, the tank can be sold for scrap.

Farming is about feeding people. Perhaps, you have heard the numbers that are drilled into farmers heads daily. How will we feed 9 billion people by 2050? Many people assume that hunger is an issue of a lack of land to grow food and overpopulation. If this were that case, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York City would be the hungriest places on earth.

It is important to understand that there is more than enough food to feed everyone in the world. The issue of hunger is an issue of distribution of food. I am continually amazed by Uganda's fertile soils, the climate and the fact that nearly anything can grow here. So why are there so many hungry people?

Preparing fields this week to have seeds planted before the rains in March.Preparing fields this week to have seeds planted before the rains in March.

Political instability, greed, war, and corruption are bigger obstacles to food security than drought or flood. One quality I am picking up from Ugandans is a refusal to sugarcoat harsh realities. Africans will be the first to tell you that corruption and greed are a huge factor in why there are still hungry people on such a resource-rich continent. The fact remains that hunger can be used as a tool to keep people subject to corrupt governments.

I think if we are going to ask questions like "Why are things the way they are?" we can't be afraid of the answers. Farming is complex, and so are its problems. When you are pulling a weed from your garden you know that if you don't pull its root, the problem will be back in no time at all. So, too, we must address the issue of food security at its roots.

Here is what I've been reading and listening to during my time off:



  • Project Zero Hunger
  • "It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Lie! It's Alright." by mewithoutYou
About the Author

Tanner Roark is a 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Roark is from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where he focuses on international agriculture development.

Tanner Roark
2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow