Thoughts from author: jojo oldham

get a bit more veg into your dinner

A few small changes to what we eat can be really good for the planet (and really good for us too). Next time you make spaghetti bolognese try swapping a bit of the meat for some seasonal veg. Find out more and download some tasty recipes on our website here.

how to get more veg in your spag bol

Thanks to Dabble With Your Dinner for the seasonal veg tips and the great photos.

making the world (a bit) better

What we eat has a massive impact on our health and the health of the planet, and in the UK the food we eat (growing, producing and importing it) is responsible for 30% of our carbon emissions. But the good news is thata few small changes to what we eat can be really good for the planet (and really good for us too). Our friends at WWF UK have developed the five Livewell principles to help make our food choices both healthy and green, and the best part is that there are no complicated rules to follow, no need to chop everything up into tiny pieces, and no need to start eating lettuce soup (unless of course you really like lettuce soup). Find out more and download some tasty recipes here.

5 steps to a healthier planet

the one and only anna grace

Hope Greeners Farm in Ngora is a training centre for farmers run by Helen Kongai, the Send A Cow Zonal Coordinator for eastern Uganda. It is here that I meet the remarkable Anna Grace, a woman like no other I've ever met before.

It’s 8am, I’ve just had breakfast, and I’m trying to shake off the ants that collected in my shoes and are now running up my trouser legs, when out of the corner of my eye I see a woman bounding towards me and waving her arms wildly, her face obscured by a huge grin. That woman is Anna Grace. She’s 64, and despite the fact that she left school at the age of 10 to get married, she greets me in English. She says she might not get the chance to see me again and she can’t let me go without giving me a message for everyone back at innocent. jojo talking to anna grace at hope greeners farm
Anna Grace is one of Send A Cow’s Peer Farmers and a member of one of the groups funded by the innocent foundation. Just listening to her speak makes you feel as though you could do anything in the world if you wanted to. The way she talks reminds you how exciting it is to be alive, and if I'd had internet access I wouldn't have been at all surprised to find myself signing up for the London Marathon, registering an Astrophysics degree at the Open University and booking myself in for a tattoo once she'd finished talking.

Here's what she had to say:

“When you go back to innocent I want you to tell all your friends that I, Anna Grace, love them. I LOVE them. I used to be so poor I didn’t even have clothes. When I went to the well everyone would leave me to pump the water by myself because I was so smelly. I only had one item of clothing and it was in tatters. I was disgusting and everyone hated me.

Noone would help me. Not even my husband, or his family. They left me to rot. But Send A Cow taught me the rules by which to live a healthy life. They taught me how to look after myself and be hygienic. To take pride in my body and keep it clean. They taught me to plant trees and crops to feed the cow and feed myself. They taught me to eat vegetables so I could be fit and strong. 

Look at me. I’m 64 and I am strong. I can do whatever I want. I can run, I can dance...anything. Thank you, thank you all.” 

And with that, she skips off back to her farm, laughing away to herself and leaving me to get back to the business of removing ants from my trousers. What a woman.

gifts galore

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). oranges from resty

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.

janet giving me a pumpkin
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.

oranges from joyce
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.

cassava from rose

groundnuts from rose

balancing 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.