It's been long three-month stay here in Uganda, but at the same time it feels like I only just arrived. So it's with bittersweet sentiments that I must finally say, "I'm heading home."
Both Watoto Church and Child Care are great organizations to have been able to work with. The Church reaches out to many and has a great vision for spreading into the entirety of the country of Uganda. And Child Care's impact is constantly growing to raise more and more children in need of a good home. The farms are incredibly productive and have great vision, especially considering they are only four years old. The most optimal production and efficiency is still being discovered, value-added projects are still being created. While the system is not perfect, Watoto farms are an incredible example of income generation for an organization that previously did not have any. It is to be commended for its entrepreneurial backbone.
Food distribution to the orphanage's homes.
This trip has greatly impacted my personal and professional life, though it's hard to differentiate the impacts that will carry themselves out in either the long or short term. My experience with Watoto Child Care Ministry and the department of sustainability in Uganda, Africa, has been, in most ways, much different than I expected. And because of that, the most evident personal impact of this experience has been to be even more than flexible: to be fluid. Though my overly structured mind has fought every moment of last-minute change of plans and unfulfilled promises, I've been mindful to remind myself to be fluid in each situation I've been placed in. I'm no master at it yet; I'll always be learning the art. But I hope the skill will transfer to the United States, where even a small change of plans can cause uproar. I'd like to keep this mellow mentality that Africans hold so well.
The most obvious professional impact this experience has contributed is to think in terms of sustainable, business-minded growth. I have been lucky enough to work with many agricultural entrepreneurs who donate their time and intellectual resources to Watoto's sustainable agriculture efforts. I've learned to compare inputs and outputs to determine the profitability of a current project. I've researched potential projects to help make informed decisions concerning the realistic parameters of the project in this setting. I've begun seeing how agriculture is more than just a way of life; it can be a diverse, strong and successful business.
Goat milk provides essential nutrients to the infants of Watoto.
Agriculture outside of Watoto is outdated compared to the Watoto farms.
The long-term impacts I had on the organization were helping the agriculture become more modernized. I contributed to fixing and installing the automated machinery for the chicken house and was in conversations with the supervisor and workers to help them understand the automated process. I also helped expand the irrigation capability of the vegetable farm in order to increase productivity and save labor for more intellectual, less mindless work. I researched the nutrition of the goat kids in order to ensure that their maturity is on time in order to keep the goat farm cycling in new, productive animals into the herd. And lastly, I contributed to conversation about beginning the new value-added project of grafting fruit trees to sell to the country government, hospitals and universities.
I'm so grateful to the Noble Research Institute for creating this opportunity and for their support, both financially and intellectually. Having the agricultural consultants on my side while I have been on site in Africa has been extremely helpful to me to be fully informed about the farms there. This experience has motivated my pursuit of agricultural development in developing countries!
Emily Jost is a 2015 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Jost is from Edmond, Oklahoma, and is in her final semester in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on sustainable development.