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The Complexity of Simplicity

Tanner Roark

By Tanner Roark, 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow

Posted Mar. 21, 2016

Across Uganda, farmers are growing antsy waiting for the rains. By now you have probably heard of El Nino and the havoc it is causing in different parts of the world. The presence of El Nino can significantly influence weather patterns and ocean conditions across large portions of the globe, and Uganda is no exception. The rains normally come around the second week of March, but having only received one day of rain in the last few weeks has left farmers biting their nails. At Lubbe Farm we made the wise decision to delay planting until more consistent rains are expected. We can only hope that they come next week.

As the climate continues to change, farming practices must stay one step ahead of the curve. We must embrace change, or soon we must embrace widespread hunger. This might sound like a doomsday scenario and, yes, it can become a reality, but the good news is that there are solutions to mitigate climate change, produce more sustainable food and improve livelihoods at the same time.

Pawpaw trees provide shade for the pumpkins.Pawpaw trees provide shade for the pumpkins.

Agriculture is more than just crops and animals. Agriculture is a way of life. Around 65 percent of the Ugandan population is employed in the agriculture sector compared to 2 percent in the United States. Since so many people are reliant upon agriculture for their livelihoods in developing nations, it is vital to have a holistic understanding of what agriculture means to society on a large scale. I feel we should view agriculture as a unique combination of intertwined ecosystems that span across environmental, political, social and cultural aspects of life. Since these interconnections are so contingent upon one another, a change in one area results in a change in its subsequent parts.

One important aspect to understand about sustainability is how various interactions take place across a very broad spectrum. This isn't limited to ecological interactions between seed and soil, but it also includes how our decisions affect the livelihoods of the community around us and the environment of our collective world. Sustainable farming works based on the idea that the "whole is better than the sum of its parts." When we are forming our food systems, we must understand how all phenomena relate to the bigger picture.

Loading pumpkins to take to the Watoto children.Loading pumpkins to take to the Watoto children.

It is becoming increasingly important to view the world around us at a deeper level. It is the duty of all, and especially our leaders, to look at problems from every angle. Many misinterpretations about Africa and farming stem from a failure to look at complex issues holistically. Africa cannot be painted with a single brush stroke. Africa has its problems, but it also has vast opportunity and, right now, that opportunity lies in sustainable agriculture.

We take our lunch breaks in the shade.We take our lunch breaks in the shade.

At Lubbe Farm we are doing our best to look at what we can do to better the farm, ourselves and the community around us. Lubbe Farm can set a great example for others to follow, but there is still work to be done. We are continually seeking to employ growing practices that are not only sustainable and eco-friendly but also efficient and profitable. These practices will make us better farmers and mitigate climate change, and they will benefit the community around us. After all, sustainable agriculture is about empowering people just as much as it is about sustainable production.

Typical lunch of posho, beans, matooke, g-nuts (groundnuts) and cassava.Typical lunch of posho, beans, matooke, g-nuts (groundnuts) and cassava.

Until then, we wait for rain.

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.

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