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'They think food is grown by supermarkets'

21.06.2011 – posted by Charles M

'They think food is grown by supermarkets'

Charles Mulwana is a Ugandan farmer. He recently spent several weeks on farms in the UK as part of our Grow it Global project, teaching schoolchildren about food issues and life in rural Africa. It was his second visit to the UK as part of Grow it Global, which is funded by DFID.

When I heard I was coming to the UK, it was like a dream. I had never left Uganda before, never seen the sea. I have learnt so much in my two visits here – and shared so much knowledge too.

I have really enjoyed working with schoolchildren. It’s good for them to know where their food comes from: some of the children thought that food was grown by supermarkets! They didn’t know that you get carrots from soil – they thought you just buy them from supermarkets or maybe get them from trees. After Grow it Global, they all promised me they are going to grow vegetables at home or at school. And if you start with young people, then you are going to change the country!

They were also surprised when I told them that some people have to walk for 2km to fetch water in Uganda. Here, they all have piped water. People in villages in Uganda hardly know what electricity is, while families in the UK mostly have computers and TVs.

I think children here get what they want! They like going to school. I went to school up to Year 6 [A’levels] but my mother couldn’t afford the fees for more education. I would still like to go to university, and I hope my three children Eric (10), Newton Isaac (8) and Jimmy (6) can too.

I have lots of ideas to take back to Uganda which I learned from the farms I stayed on. In 2010 I stayed at the Woodland Valley Farm in Cornwall, and this year I was at the Underwood Discovery Centre and Riverford Farm in Devon.

Of course many of the techniques used here are too expensive – I can’t afford a tractor for example. But I do want to add value to my produce, like they do. I am thinking of investing in a machine to juice mangoes after I saw apple juice being made here. It was really quite simple. At home I have so many mangoes but they just go to waste.

And I am inspired by how Riverford began small but is now a big business. Currently I farm just three acres of land which belongs to my family – I don’t own my own land. I want to buy at least five acres and set up a training centre.

Send a Cow has given me the knowledge and I am already training people, even some from universities, but I am not satisfied! I want to train people from my society, my village, my country, and even from other countries – Grow it Global has given me that experience. Training has lifted my life.

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