Yesterday, our students wanted to get out in the field early to complete the bean planting. When Calvin and I arrived, they were ready to get to work on the remaining two bean plots. There are four sections of land set aside for beans, each of which will be managed by a team of 10 students. These teams are being set up to foster teamwork and mentorship between people of different backgrounds and experience levels, as well as to more easily monitor each person’s understanding of the material.
The students were even more efficient at setting up the plots this time and were able to get the remaining two planted in less time than it has usually taken for one plot. The rows have been pre-measured using sticks every three and a half hand widths. Two students stretch a string between the sticks on either side of the plot to mark a straight line for a group digging small trenches. Another group works behind them to partially fill the rows with manure. Finally, everyone lines up in a row and walks down it planting the beans and covering them with soil.
As we were working, the clouds were darkening and the roll of the thunder was nearing. We finished planting just as the first drops began to fall. Calvin and I made it back up to the primary school and waited under the awning there for the downpour to let up before continuing back to Lira.
The rain was much-needed for our new seeds and for the vines. The 40 bags of orange-flesh sweet potato vines were distributed to the students this week. Jane told us that the orange variety is actually highly valuable because the potatoes are purchased by WorldVision but are hard to find. Each bag can plant a fairly large area, so the students are sharing with their neighbors and using the opportunity to spread the knowledge they have learned about growing the vines as well. Thanks to the beautiful rain showers this week, this planting and sharing process the vines can begin today and this weekend.
Part of the program will include training on how to propagate the vines and save seeds from the harvest so they can be shared in the community. Together with the mentorship program, which teaches our 40 youth how to train others, these aspects of our project are designed to make sure the funding we have received doesn’t stop here this summer, but the gifts multiply and spread throughout the community with each season.
We are seeing the community impact of the program in the field already. Early on in the program, three of the students had to drop out for various reasons. However, we now have 41 participants due to community members seeing the training going on and asking to participate. Yesterday, our 41st student joined us, a neighbor to the demonstration garden who heard about the training. Calvin let her know that she has missed much of the information already, and due to our budget we may not be able to provide her with the same supplies. She still wanted to participate and enthusiastically agreed to the conditions.
Calvin and I were talking on the way back. He’s thrilled with the reception that the program is getting in the community, said with the relationships he’s building with the students. “Sometimes they just come up to talk to me about their lives,” he told me. “Even personal things they feel comfortable sharing with me.” Though I can’t understand Calvin’s conversations with the students in Langi, I can see from the way they interact with him and each other that the students are enjoying the community being formed through this program. When everyone is laughing around me, I often ask Calvin what was said. “These people are just cracking jokes,” he usually replies. I don’t know what the jokes are, but they make me smile too.