A couple of days ago I travelled to Ngora in Eastern Uganda to visit the Send A Cow projects the innocent foundation has funded. I'd been told the journey would take around 3 hours. It took 8 and a half hours, because roads in rural Uganda aren't so much roads as never ending farm tracks riddled with giant potholes and sneaky speed bumps. The journey was akin to going round and round on the Grand National at Blackpool pleasure beach in the baking sunlight, discovering every so often that pieces of the track are missing, closing your eyes and hoping for the best.
Luckily for me though, meeting the farmers from the innocent foundation projects was well worth the bone-rattling ride. And because they were all so grateful for our support, I got the VIP treatment and 50kgs of organic gifts to take back with me. Sadly they're not going to fit in my backpack, but I've been so inspired by their wonderful farms that one thing I will be taking home is the desire to start growing food of my own.
I got green oranges from Resty (that's her fame-hungry dad in the background).
Four years ago Resty became a widow, and as a consequence was rejected by her husband's family and the rest of the community. With no friends and noone to help her out, Resty was, in her words, "a nobody". Now, thanks to Send A Cow, Resty is a successful farmer who can afford to send her 8 children to school and who's thinking about setting up her own juice business. She's also found a group of lifelong friends in her project group who get together regularly to share ideas and advice, to talk through their problems and have a good old gossip. Resty is one happy lady nowadays.
Next I got a nice plump pumpkin from Janet. Janet joined Send A Cow back in 2008 as well and lives with her husband Otai and their 7 children. Janet and her husband are currently building their third home (considerably bigger than homes 1 and 2, and with a corrugated iron roof to collect rainwater) and now eat 3 good meals every day (they could only manage 1 before) and send all of their children to school. They're also planning to get solar power installed so their kids can do their homework at night without having to use a candle.
Next up was more of those lovely green oranges, this time from Joyce and her husband Edait. When we arrived at their farm Catherine, one of the extension workers, was there training them and the rest of the project group on sanitation and hygiene and gender issues, something which all participants in the Send A Cow programme get in addition to agricultural training.
Then I visited Rose and her husband John. Rose was desperate to express her thanks for the helped she'd received from innocent and Send A Cow, jumping up and down and shouting "All my bones and all my heart is happy to see you". Greetings don't get much better than that.
And her generosity seemed to be in direct proportion to her excitement, as I got cassava (fresh and dried), sweet potatoes, aubergines, groundnuts and even more oranges.
We had a great feast that night thanks to the kindness of all the farmers, and there was so much left over that my friends at the Send A Cow head office in Kampala will be feasting for many weeks to come.