Spending the last few weeks visiting DIGs projects happening in Kenya and Uganda have not only been an affirming experience for me but even more so, an inspiring one.
After incredible fundraising events in Southern California and Colorado, my month of May has been committed to seeing what DIG has been doing first hand and sourcing out the stories of inspiration that best reveal our work. Having photographer/videographer, Bob Miller, along to capture DIG’s story on the ground has made this time even more exciting (Thank you to Simon Cyrene and the Slaughter Group for sponsoring Bob’s time here).
The stories we’ve captured and the people we’ve spent time with have inspired my passion for this work anew and I look forward to continuing to share DIG’s growth with our supporters.
Catherine Magill and Olivia Nyaidho along with our 6 local facilitators (Tobias, Sarah, Paris, Otieno, Vincent, and Issaya) have stretched DIG’s program far and wide in the Nyanza province of Western Kenya. Patrick and his incredible team in Budondo, Uganda have humbled me in the ways I never expected. They have now known as experts in their field of organic agriculture and have been contracted out to facilitate gardens from the highest levels of government to the modest homes of their neighbors. I have seen DIG’s program transform homes, communities, and entire regions and my words can only scratch the surface of my excitment for where this organization is going.
Permaculture School Gardens: Through a collaborative partnership with the Lwala Community Alliance (LCA) and the Permaculture Research Institue (PRI), DIG has established3 permaculture school gardens that function to improve student performance by providing food on school grounds, providing scholarships for qualifying students through the income generated by excess produce sales, beautifying the grounds with lush productive gardens, and promoting sustainable agriculture to the larger community. I was so impressed by Kuna, Tuk Jowei, and Sumba Primary Schools which have been our pilot projects for developing this program. With 15 schools in the area serving over 9,000 students, DIG has a long way yet to go before we meet the demand for this program but we are committed to seeing an expansion of this program over the next few years.
Farmer Field School Extension: After hosting a series of successful farmer filed school trainings at LCA’s Demonstration DIG garden, we were excited to hire promising graduates as local DIG facilitators tasked with expanding DIG’s program and horticulture training into the Rongo area through a partnership with our Kenyan partners YACREN (Youth and Child Rural Empowerment Network) and the Ministry of Agriculture. These incredible new staff have been moving out into the larger community working with organized groups of youth, women, and HIV affected individuals. They have the opportunity to learn and test the taught skills in demonstration gardens but take the tested skills gained home where they improve their garden yields and family nutrition. DIG’s first YACREN groups graduate on May 20th.
Producer Groups: In an effort to explore, how DIG can help small holder farmers improve their earning potential, DIG has also been developing a “Producer Group” program. To date, DIG has formed 5 groups with between 15 to 25 DIG trained small holder farmers who are increasing their production collectively for sale in local markets. The idea is to pull their harvests so they can save on transport costs and supply more consistent yields to the market. While you won’t see the diversity of produce in the producer group plots as compared to the schools you will find a motivated and progressive group of farmers who are changing their perspectives to seeing farming as a job.
Thank you to the Segal Family Foundation, MAZON A Jewish Response to Hunger, and the many individual supporters who have contributed to these projects and others in Kenya.
I’ve been especially inspired by the recent work and independent growth of Kaima Patricks group, the Budondo Food Security Group/DIG Uganda. After starting a CBO (community based organization) they have really grown their program. Their group has expanded to take on a variety of diverse projects including:
- Bee keeping
- Agriculture extension and consultancy
- Fruit drying
- Seed banks
- Fabric card production
- Animal husbandry projects
- Restaurant produce supplliers
Their vision is to collectively improve the lives of their group members by emphasizing the individual talents and interests of each member. While their activities are diverse, their group is rooted in agricultural, always going back to the practices and teachings they learned from DIG. Each member has a home garden with staple crops like matoke and maize, as well as a variety of fruit trees, horticulture crops and, in many members’ homes, the group’s animals like chickens, pigs, goats or cows. I’m both proud and inspired by this group of people who have found a voice through challenges of incredible stigma and isolation. Sincerely, Sarah