Water System for Peace Demonstration Farm, Uganda

by Grassroots Uganda- Empowering African Women
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Fred
Fred's children with Grasroots Uganda volunteer

As many of you know, Fred, our previous partner with Peace Demonstration Farm passed away in March, leaving behind four children. Their mother passed away four years prior. The children are remaining in their home attatched to the farm with a care-giver, and we continue to monitor and support them. 

Fred and his children have been working beside us, digging, carrying bricks, planting seeds, chasing snakes, watching me being stung by angry wasps (repeatedly)(and not to be confused with the angry bees), frolicking in fish ponds, digging the well, and everything in between since we started the farm nearly five years ago. His family is our family, and we are currently setting up a benefit project for them on Global Giving to help cater for their school fees, medical costs, and other every day costs of living.

We currently have a micro-project listed under ' Water System for Peace Demonstration Farm, Uganda' which is a short term project. We intend to elevate this into its own secular project. We will of course keep you posted on these developments.

Thank you again for your continued support. It means the world to all of us here at Grasroots Uganda.

Fred cutting jackfruit
Fred cutting jackfruit

An apiary is basically a fancy word for a cluster of bee hives. As you likely remember, we recently went for a bee keeping training workshop where we learned about bees and how to keep them. (You may recal that I was stung 15 times by swarms of angry bees, but I digress...) So we bought 10 KTB hives, 2 catcher boxes, 2 bee suits, smokers, buckets, and brushes from Malaika honey.
We have had 4 hives colonize themselves which is awesome. That means that worker bees 'discover' the hives, think they would be an awesome place to live, go back to their original hive, and try to either split or move the hive to their new home. Considering we have teeny tiny colonies, I assume they split off the original hive. One training and 6 or 7 bees later I am clearly an expert.
We have about a year before we can harvest honey, so in the meantime we are keeping the bees happy as possible. We have a feeder out for them with honey water in it in addition to al the flowering fruit trees and such. We're keeping the area clean, taking softly to the bees, and basically trying to make them very happy so they do not attack us.
A man recently contacted us that he has bees in his own catcher box and would like to sell them to us. A catcher box is a very small bee hive that it set high up in trees to attract bees. To get the catcher box, it will entail Alex and I suiting up in our bee suites, sneaking out in the middle of the night, him climbing up the tree, wraping the catcher box in a big sack and lowering it down to me on the ground. We will them load it into the back of my car and transport it the next 30 miles on bumpy dirt and potholed roads (just to make sure the bees are all shaken up and REALLY mad) back to the farm without the bees excaping and trying to kill us. Then us off loading the catcher box, opening the bag, opening the catcher box, and transfering the combs into the new hive. Hmmm... this sounded much easier when we were sitting in a nice comefortable classroom. But WE WILL prevail, and eventually, WE WILL have buckets of honey.

bee feeder
bee feeder

Bees are amazing little creatures. They pollinate our crops, give us sweet honey to eat, provide wax for our candles and cosmetics, their venom for immune system booster and treatment for people with immune deficiency diseases, and even give us their propollis to use as medicine. When I was a teenager I spent a summer working for a beekeeper. I mostly did grunt work- building hive boxes, painting, and fighting with wax inserts. But when we finally went into the field it was almost magical. Montanan bees are nice! We would talk to them softly, used smoking burlap, and the bees basically welcomed us into their hives.
African bees- as I have recently learned- are NOT so nice! We were hosted by Ugandan Pearls for a three day bee keeping workshop with Malaika Honey. It was an awesome time and we were obviously extremely excited. On the third day we had our 'practicals' where we visited two different bee keeping sites. EXCITING!!! Unfortunately we had 13 trainees and only 10 bee keeping suits. Huh. As I had a bit of previous experience, I opted to NOT wear a suit and instead just keep my distance... But of course I got excited (shocker) and got too close to the hive while the guys were opening it. That was the first time I was attacked by the swarm of angry bees. I ran, swore, flailed my arms in the air and eventually they stopped attacking me.
The dedicated trainee that I was, I promptly went BACK to the hive and was attacked again. Yep. They got my arms, legs, neck, and even my upper lip! This time while I was running I decided to hide and lick my wounds at a village neighbor's house. The sight of a giant white lady running around screaming like a lunatic was obviously entertaining for them, and as I sat peeling potatoes with the mother, her children busied themselves counting my bee stings.
When we went to the next site I decided had a BRILLIANT idea! I borrowed a wide brimmed hat from another neighbor and a mosquito net from the Ugandan Pearls center. WHALLAH! A home-made bee suit! The second site we visited was a colonized hive that was left feral as the owner was afraid of the bees. The bees had been left alone for about 3 years, the hive was completely honey-bound. We were going to slash our way up to the hive (as it was in impenetrable bush) and open it for the first time. This was when I got attacked by angry bees the third time. Apparently a mosquito net is NOT adequate protection against vicious African bees and holy crimeny they got me EVERYWHERE!!! Again I was running through the village screaming with my dress hiked up and tucked into my biker shorts and a cloud of angry bees swarming around my head.
Lesson learned. Fifteen bee stings later my pride was injured but fortunately not much else. Bee suits are on order, and we plan to bring ten hives to the farm. If we can colonize the hives and care for them properly (while wearing full body armor) we should be able to make about $2,000 USD per year in profit. They will also increase our yields as bees are a HUGE help in pollinating our crops.
Moral to this story? African bees are nasty little buggers. BUT they are still worth their weight in gold, er...honey. A few (dozen) bee stings are a small price to pay for the benefits.

Empts water bottles are fantastic. They can be re-used for liquid drinks, can be filled with sand and converted into bricks, used for drip irrigation and self wattering planters, can be re-formed into bird feeders, made into fruit fly traps, made into DIY rockets, the possibilities are really endless.
However today, we are focusing on the BIG 20 liter (5 gallon) recycled water bottles as a way to both recycle, and help improve village lives.
Water is a commodoty that most of us do not think about. It flows freely from our taps and we act like the world is ending if we don't have running water for 2 days. Where we work, most people do not have running water at all. Thankfully with help from GlobalGiving, we were able to drill a well providing safe and clean water to the nearby communities. But they still need to cary the water home. Chidlren as young as three years old start fetching water with their older siblings in small water bottles to get stronger and stronger so by the time they are 7 years old, they can carry up to 40 liters (20 in each hand) with little difficulty. Women often balance a 20 liter jug on their heads while carying additional 20 litter jerrycans in each hand.
The standard vessel used to fetch water is a jerry can. A 20 liter jug with a handle. Each empty jerrycan costs about $2 to buy new and for families that often live on less than $1 a day, this is a big expence. So we bring them bottles. Some of these bottles are donated by subscribers to our boujtiful basket program, but most of them are contributed by restaurants and vetrinary clinics. We distribute the water bottles freely, and the villagers LOVE them!

Asparagus is normally a cold climate crop, growing in the spring and throwing a few shoots up through the summer, and then enjoying a long winter dormancy period where it can rest and regain its strength. So of course we are trying to grow it year round in the tropics!

Asparagus is filled with vitamins, anti-oxidants, dietary fiber, is rumored to have cancer prevention/fighting capabilities and can help regulate blood sugar and the overall health of your heart… But more importantly, it tastes delicious!

Currently we, and a partner demonstration farm, are trying our hand at growing it here. As asparagus grows from a permanent mother rot system which spreads and matures every year, we hope to use the dry season as the natural ‘dormancy’ period (aka winter) and the wet seasons as spring time! I think this will work. We are experimenting with three different varieties of asparagus and the easiest way to get it started was to build a raised bed (out of recycled glass bottles) and fill it up with cow manure! We planted the seedlings inside and they are healthy, happy, and growing like crazy! Some recent shoots are almost as thick as my pinkie finger. It normally takes asparagus three growing seasons until it is mature enough to harvest the shoots. But if we can keep it alive, we will expand the seedlings to our nearby villagers and be the first organization/ co-op to be growing asparagus commercially in all of East Africa. Happy thoughts!!!

building the raised bed from recycled bottles
building the raised bed from recycled bottles

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Organization Information

Grassroots Uganda- Empowering African Women

Location: Mukono - Uganda
Website: http:/​/​www.ugandagrassroots.org
Project Leader:
Lee Koelzer
Mukono Town, Mukono Uganda

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