One of our many projects at the farm is Growing Mushrooms!
We have started growing a local variety of oyster mushroom using a mixture of cotton husk and coffee cherries as the growing medium. Both are common agricultural waste products here in Uganda so they are readily available. The medium is mixed with mycelium (the growing starter for the mushrooms) and hung vertically in plastic sacks to make hanging gardens.
The mushrooms can be harvested twice per week and are PACKED with vitamins so besides being delicious, they are healthy to eat, and anything that does not get eaten or sold can be dried in the sun for future use.
If out mushroom project is successful, it will be something that other local villagers can easily grow inside their own homes both for personal use, and to sell.
Having your period in the village is an inconvenience to say the least.
Most rural women cannot afford the luxury of disposable pads, so they resort to stuffing their knickers with old rags, dried grass, and even rubbish they pick from the roadside. This is inefficient and unhygienic. Young girls have an even harder problem because if they are in school all day they are constantly worried about leaking and odor. Life is hard enough as a teenage girl, and the added threat of embarrassment is enough to prompt the girls to play hooky from school during their periods. This causes them miss about five days of classes per month and as a result, their grades drop.
To help combat this, we in partnership with VGIF have been working on an initiative to teach our ladies and beneficiaries to make and use their own re-usable menstrual pads. Yes- this sounds kinda gross, but with proper care the pads are clean, hygenic, and FAR superior to stuffing your knickers with grass!
We brought in our own councelor, trainers, and training materials. Each woman was taught to make 2 of the reusable pads, and we also sold pre-made pads to the ladies at a subsidized rate of half the cost of making the pads to encourage their use.
It was a fun day filled with laughter, gossip, and chatting about other 'women's issues." It's wonderful when we can intigrate ourselves deeper into the community with a healthy mix of education and laughter.
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!
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