Nov 20, 2017

Bananas, cabbage and coffee: a new sprinkler system at Rwampala is improving learning & crop yields

Voluteers and Rwampara staff with the sprinkler
Voluteers and Rwampara staff with the sprinkler

Teddy, a teacher at Rwampara Farm Institute in Uganda, sent us an update this week on their new irrigation system  and we wanted to pass on the news. Rwampara is the first Farm Institue we have partnered with and it faced serious issues relating to soil erosion and low crop yields. Working with the school, we determined that their irrigation methods were exacerbating the problems and we together we investigated how this could be improved. We invested in the installation of an industrial sprinkler irrigation system, one of the very first in the area. This was one of six projects supported by the Innovation Fund and enabled by your generous donations.

Students completing the National Certificate of Agriculture (NCA) learn how to cultivate crops and maintain livestock. As part of the course, each student is responsible for four metres squared of land. Before the sprinkler, students used jerry-cans to water their crops. This irrigation technique, commonly known as flood irrigation, resulted in many problems: inefficient use of scarce water resources; waterlogged soil; and spread of waterborne illnesses to name just a few. Critically, students wasted time watering the land instead of being in class. Many of the stakeholders we interviewed said the problems were exacerbated by climate change, mentioning noticeable changes in the productivity of the land, pointing out its dryness and reporting that they were struggling to irrigate it efficiently. Flood irrigation requires a lot of time and water - resources that were in short supply in the school. Something had to change.

We invested your donations in a 28-metre radius sprinkler, which could irrigate several thousand meters square of land in one go. The sprinkler now irrigates crops, such as bananas, cabbages, eggplants and coffee, without the need for cumbersome, manual work. Students have more time for study, and the soil has become more productive, resulting in higher yield. The school is now able to sell surplus crops and earn an additional revenue which they hope to invest in getting internet access. This is something the Principal Mugisha has always dreamed of doing, but could not afford. Your donation continues to open up new possibilities and opportunities for the school community.

Rwampara has embraced the sprinkler. Staff and students are proud to own and use a technology that they have learnt about in theory but, until now, not had the opportunity to use in practice. It has become a source of prestige and a symbol of the school embracing modern farming technologies. We hope the success of the project will give other farmers and farm institutes in the region the confidence to invest in more productive agricultural technology and will inspire a new generation of farmers.

We would like to thank you for making this all of this possible. We could not have done it otherwise.

The sprinkler in action
The sprinkler in action
Teddy's update
Teddy's update
Aug 22, 2017

Music and bees - EPAfrica innovates!

Students helping with the beehive installation
Students helping with the beehive installation

Many of the schools that we have worked with East Africa have few creative outlets for their students, focussing instead on academic achievements. Students often report suffering from exam related stress and anxiety, but lack sufficient extra-curricular channels to relieve this, and express their emotions in a fun and constructive way.

Two EPAfrica project workers, Vince and Chloe, have spent this summer volunteering with EPAfrica at St Joseph’s Shibinga High School, to pilot a new type of EPAfrica project that hopes to address this situation. They have invested £200 of the money donated to the Innovation pilots fund on our GlobalGiving platform, and supplemented this with their own project funds, to set up a small music studio in the school. The hope is that this will help improve the mental wellbeing and academic performance of the students, and also allow those talented in the arts to flourish creatively.

The project will be completed in the next two weeks, allowing Vince and Chloe to see the students’ initial reaction before they leave Kenya. EPAfrica will be maintaining contact with the school and monitoring the impact of this project, to see if this innovative idea is something that might be beneficial to more EPAfrica schools in the future.

This project is just one of six new and exciting EPAfrica projects that your money has funded this year.

Another project was set up by EPAfrica volunteers Donya, Evan and Hiu Min, who have spent the summer at St Benedict’s technical institute in Mbarara, Uganda. Technical institutes in Uganda often struggle to provide their students with the practical experience necessary to pass their exams. To address this, Donya, Evan and Hiu Min have come up with a project that can equip agricultural students with valuable experience, while also providing an additional source of income for the school: beekeeping. Under this project, £200 of your innovation pilot donations were used to purchase five beehives, along with a full beekeeping suit and harvesting equipment.

The St Benedict’s students have until now only learned the theory of beekeeping, but now they can finally see how it works in reality. In fact, they have already been getting stuck in with the hive installation (see the photo above). The beehives are a ‘natural’ style of beekeeping, allowing bees to build their own comb of honey that the school will then harvest for themselves. The school staff have already been trained in setting up and managing the beehives, as well as in marketing the honey. In addition to this new source of skills and income the bees are expected to have a positive impact on the school’s agricultural production, on which it relies for food, and the students and teachers are looking forward to the honey’s nutritional benefits (and great taste!). EPAfrica will follow the project’s progress carefully to see whether this idea could be used in other partner technical institutes in future summers.

This snap-shot of two of our innovation pilots gives an idea of how a small amount of money can be used in very different ways to enhance the learning environment of students in East Africa. Our four other projects are just as diverse and exciting: a sprinkler irrigation system for enhancing water efficiency in a farm institute, a laptop-based system for improving school administration and formalising the payment-in-kind of school fees by poorer families, a novel way of designing girls' washrooms to improve sanitation, and an income-generating passion fruit farm.

Our teams in East Africa have reported that great progress has been made so far this summer on the projects supported by this fund. Each project is tailor-made to suit the needs of the school, but each has the potential to be applied to other similar schools in the future. We are hopeful that these projects will not only create a great positive development impact now, but will also help EPAfrica to learn what works best to continually improve our impact.

We have not forgotten that you, the donor, are making these exciting projects happen! Thank you so much for giving so generously to EPAfrica’s project on GlobalGiving - none of this would be possible without your support.

Agriculture teacher models the beekeeping outfit
Agriculture teacher models the beekeeping outfit
Jun 6, 2017

Preparing to provide water for learning!

The completed Water Project at St Elizabeth Bumia
The completed Water Project at St Elizabeth Bumia

Many schools in East Africa do not have access to enough water for drinking, cooking and washing. This time last year, St Elizabeth Bumia secondary school in Kakamega, Kenya, was one such school. It relied on a borehole to provide water, but this dried up regularly, forcing students to miss class to undertake the time-intensive manual pumping of water. Making matters worse, the water they did get was often not clean, meaning that students regularly fell ill. What was the result? Even more class time skipped - all because of the lack of a clean source of water at the school.

Fortunately, two EPAfrica project workers, Bella and Hayden, volunteered with EPAfrica at St Elizabeth Bumia last summer. Together with the senior management of the school, they decided to do something about this situation. They invested money in the school, hiring local workers to deepen the borehole, install an electric pump and a new water tank. They hoped that this would ensure that the school always had access to enough water, and would also simplify the process of treating this water to make it safe to drink.

The project was completed in a few weeks, allowing Bella and Hayden to see the impact before they left Kenya. The project had enabled students and teachers at the school to focus their efforts on realising their potential and enjoying their education, rather then worrying about or dealing with potential problems with the water source. Beyond this direct positive impact, the head teacher of St Elizabeth Bumia was grateful for the fact that the school would now be able to share its improved water source with the local community, increasing goodwill and support for the school, and hopefully encouraging more students to attend.

This is just one example of the sort of impact that we can make through water projects in under-resourced rural secondary schools in East Africa. The good news is that this summer, thanks to your support, EPAfrica will have the funds to engage in water projects to improve the water situation in eight more schools, which will directly impact the health and education of at least 4,000 students!

Over the past few months, as donations have been received, we have been gearing up to the imminent arrival of project workers in East Africa later this month, so that once they are there, we are in the best position to effectively invest the money you have donated, and bring about the largest impact possible. Great progress has been made in recruiting almost 60 project workers, and selecting the schools they will be volunteering in in East Africa. These project workers have been trained on how to effectively collaborate with school leadership to identify areas of need, determine whether and how their school could benefit from an EPAfrica water project, and develop proposals for these. At the same time, EPAfrica has also been refining and improving the criteria we will use to chose the 8 projects that we will be able to invest in this summer, so that the money you have donated goes as far as possible. It has been a busy few months, and we are all really excited to see the water projects commencing soon, so that we can see the fruits of this labour!

All along, we have not forgotten that you, the donor, are making this happen! Thank you so much for giving so generously to EPAfrica’s project on GlobalGiving - none of this would be possible without your support. The project is now being deactivated on Global Giving because we have hit our fundraising target for water projects this year, but you can find updates on the progress that is made this summer by checking our blog at http://epafrica.org.uk/blog/.

An EPAfrica water project in progress
An EPAfrica water project in progress
 
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