Cooking with the sun is fun and easy, so long as it is a beautifil sunshiny day! Fortunately for us, that is exactly what we had when we held our VGIF funded eco-solar cooking training workshop at Peace Demonstration Farm.
We trained about 40 women to use solar reflector stoves to cook beef stew, vegetables, pasturize water, hardboil eggs, cook rice, and even make super delicious solar cakes.
The solar reflectors are basically just cardboard which is covered in a laquer to make it water resistant, with the inner side covered in a film of mylar. The box is shaped and made adjustable so that the sides can be adjusted to focus as much of the sun's rays as possible on the cooking pots- which are just light weight metal pots painted black. The pots are contained within a special (non melting) plastic bag which contains the heat. While the stoves do not reach temperatures hot enough to bring water to a rolling boil, it DOES heat things up enough to leave burn blisters of the fingers of those silly enough to touch the pots in the oven! (Yes, that would be me.)
We also trained the ladies how to use energy efficient charcoal stoves, and cooking bags -which work similar to a crock pot as you bring the boiling food up to cooking temperature, then immediately put it into the insulated bag for 1-8 hours and the bag maintains the temperature and continues to cook the food.
The training was hugely successful with a big tasty solar cooked lunch, but the solar cake was definitely the biggest hit of the day as people in the village cook over fire, they do not have ovens. We distributed the solar cookers to some of the participants so now they can make their own solar cakes whenever weather permits!
YAYYY!!! We have a greenhouse!!!
Built from 100% local materials, our greenhouse is a model which other farmers can easily replicate at their own homes. The only supplies they need to buy are the high density plastic and durrable netting. The poles are locally harvested with the bottoms soaked with used/discarded motor oil to prevent the structure from being eaten by termites.
Growing crops in the greenhouse helps the farmer retain humidity and over all climate controll for the crops, shelter them from pests and isolate the crops from fungi, bacteria, and visuses which can easily sneak from one crop to another via air, water, and soil.
We are currently growing tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, and peppers. As you can see, they look FANTASTIC!
The coming of the New Year has marked the beginning of dry season in Uganda. The clay saturated ground cracks, and the dust sifts a red sheath over all surfaces. Fortunately the dry season marks one more thing, the massive HARVEST! Some of our crops which have been growing like crazy are now mature. Beans and peanuts are drying in the sun, sweet corn has all been picked and the husks dug down into the earth, and the sweet potatoes are being harvested daily. Mangos, pineapples, avocados, eggplants, and pumpkins line the roadsides.
At Peace Demonstration Farm, we have decided to take advantage of this harvest season and we have started a Bountiful baskets program here in Uganda. This is a way for us to help ourselves raise money for our operations instead of simply relying on outside funding and donations. Bountiful Baskets is a form of Community Supported Agriculture marketed towards the international and upper class populations in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.
Basically, families buy into the program on a monthly subscription and every Monday they get a big basket of fresh, organic, and delicious fruits and veggies delivered to their home. They don’t get to choose what is in their basket, they get what we give them. Much of what is included in the basket is harvested from our farm, and we work with other local farmers and producers in the area to ensure quality and variety for the customers, and also provide a higher price market for the growers.
This has been very exciting so far, and we currently have 13 families involved. Our goal is to have 50 families subscribed by the end of 2014 and we are confident that we will meet that goal. Clearly we still have some gigantic obstacles to overcome in the advancement of our demonstration farm (such as the irrigation system) but we are making big towards hurdling those. Sustainability here we come!
The rains are here and we have been very busy playing in the mud and planting our crops. We recently planted 50 Mulberry Trees, 50 Tamarillo Trees, 5 Starfruit Trees, 2 Guava Trees, 2 Bananna Trees, and 2 Cashew Trees, as well as a plethora of squash, cantelope, kiwano melon, sweet potatoes, and cucumber. Our sweet corn is nearly taller than I am with the ears just starting to form, and we harvested our first head of cauliflower last week.
A huge benefit to us is that when the dry season hits, which it always does fiercely, we will be able to maintain our crops through hand wattering, and our arm muscles will be AMAZING!
We recently hired a farm helper to assist us in digging and watering. His name is Alex and has so far been fantastic. He is in the field by 6 a.m. every morning and works like crazy before having a nice siesta durring the mid-day heat.
The borehole is busy as ever, usually with a line of people waiting their turn. They leave their jerry cans in a line so that they can sit in the shade of the banana plantation until their turn arises. The borehole is open for public use from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. and there is hardly a quiet moment.
As for the irrigation and water system, we are still fundraising like crazy. We have secured about $2,000 USD from outside sources, so at least we are well on our way!
Thanks again for everyone's support so far. You are fantastic!
Today we officially open the water well at Peace Demonstration Farm to the villagers of Nyenje and Budugala. It was a fantastic day filled will fun, music, laughter, food, and most importantly... WATER!
HUGE Thank You to everyone who has donated to our cause thus far. It amazing how far your generosity has brought us.
Over 150 villagers attended the opening ceremony, and we talked to them about farming, about sanitation, and water management. We discussed the purpose of Grasssroots Uganda, and of Peace Farm. We had a great time, and the people cheared at MP Betty Nambooze started pumping the hand pump and the clear crisp water started to flowing.
To see more photos, please find Grassroots Uganda- EAW on facebook!
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