by Kiran Sharma
Jambo Honors! I was lucky enough to participate in a service learning trip to Uganda over spring break and I’m still rocking the massive watch tan (watch in Lusoga is saawah…pardon the spelling) from spending a little over a week on the equator (see picture below). The Iowa State Uganda Program (ISU-UP) is in its 11th year and normally is a six week service learning summer program for students in the College of Ag. This was the first time they took a group of students over spring break and to top it off, we were from all different majors and colleges across campus.
Ten students and ten days to plant almost 4,000 seedlings, visit Murchison Falls National Park, drive through Kampala a few times (the capital city), and spend a lot of time by, in, or on the good ol’ Nile River. Of course we couldn’t have done it all without our two awesome professors and the awesome ISU-UP staff in Uganda.
We got to work at one of the five primary schools ISU has a presence at: Nakanyoni. The ISU program works with five schools in the Kamuli District and the surrounding area. We got the chance to visit all five schools, speak with students, meet with local farmers, and visit one of the NECs or Nutrition Education Centers, which help educate young mothers on how to care for their children and feed them. All of these people have benefited from ISU-UP and its efforts in the community.
In addition to the nearly 4,000 seedlings that will be planted in the summer to create “living fences” for some of the primary schools, ISU-UP has increased the quality and calories these students get at school lunch by initiating better school gardens. It has brought clean drinking water to the schools and community. It has created an all-girls dormitory to ensure girls stay in school and get a quality education, and it is teaching these students how to be sustainable farmers now and in the future.
The best part about the program is not only does it benefit the students at the primary schools, but it benefits the entire community by improving quality of life through sustainable agriculture practices. It is a reciprocal relationship between the community and ISU-UP, and it is a truly amazing relationship. Everyone comes together to help and that’s what makes this such a successful program, and I was lucky to help with a small part of it. Hopefully someday I can go back and put all the Swahili and Lusoga (the languages the primary students taught us) to work!