Charles Mulwana, a farmer from Uganda, is staying with us at our Riverford Farm in Devon for the next two months. In 2005, aided by charity Send a Cow, Charles received his first cow, Helen. Send a Cow helped him learn about sustainable organic agriculture, looking after livestock and how to grow a variety of crops to feed himself and his family.
Charles has come to the farm at Riverford to learn how we grow organic crops on a larger scale. He is passionate about passing on the knowledge he has gained, particularly on the importance of organic farming and having a balanced diet. To do this Charles is hoping to raise enough money to build a community centre in his village in the Nakifuma Mukono district of Uganda, to educate young people in his area on agriculture and running a business. He has become a Peer farmer trainer for Send A Cow, helping to train other farmers, and has passed on a gift of a calf to other farmers in his community from his first cow.
This is Charles’ second visit to Riverford. During this stay he will be spending time with our picking and farm management team learning how we plan and produce our seasonal veg. So far our farm team have kept him busy learning a variety of larger-scale farming techniques. It’s also been very hands on and Charles has been helping us with our everyday farm work – from picking and bunching spring onions to go in our Riverford boxes, to harvesting our lettuces and spinach. A useful agricultural tip he said has learned while working in the fields here is how we harvest our spinach. When harvesting spinach in Uganda they traditionally leave part of the plant remaining, in order for it to grow back. Here Charles has found that if you cut off all the leaves, the plant will grow back quicker (within 2-3 weeks). Charles is also interested in the different varieties of fruit and veg that he doesn’t currently grow at home. In particular, he is hoping to grow more varieties of tomato on his return to Uganda, including beef and cherry tomatoes, which he feels will be popular. He’s also keen to grow cherries and green peppers.
At home in Uganda, Charles grows a range of crops to feed his family, with a little extra to sell. These include onions, spinach, kale and sweetcorn which are prepared daily by his wife Barbara for their four children. Sadly his first cow passed away, however his new calf (also called Helen) produces approximately 12 litres of milk each day and he grows bananas and coffee which he sells.
It’s been great to welcome Charles to the farm to spend time with the team at Riverford.
If you have any questions for Charles on farming in Uganda and the UK, please send us a message at email@example.com/blog and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.
At the beginning of last week, a Ugandan farmer appeared on our doorstep. Charles Mulwana was trained by Send a Cow (the charity whose excellent work Riverford supports) in 2004, and is now so involved with the charity’s work that he has come to Riverford to teach schoolchildren (and us) about sustainable agriculture.
Back in 2001 I took a two month sabbatical to visit farming friends in Africa; I wanted to see for myself whether organic agriculture could feed mouths where it really counted. I was truly inspired by what I saw in Uganda; here the Kulika Trust (who we have worked with for several years) was training farmers at a very local level. Central to their teaching was a highly intricate method of mixed cropping, involving livestock and crops grown in multiple canopies, in a system as sympathetic to nature as we can get without reverting to being hunter-gatherers. I estimated the best examples to be 20 times more productive than the environmentally destructive monocultures next door.
Since then we have tried to support these projects through staff exchanges, sponsoring a training centre (the Kasengi Riverford Farm), importing their vanilla and through our involvement with Send a Cow. Unfortunately our ‘no airfreight’ policy makes it hard to trade with a landlocked country, but the hope is that by opening up the channels of communication through activities like Charles’ visit, we can show that the farming toolkit is not limited to GM and sprays.
Our organic salad pack is made up of a mixture of seasonal leaves, freshly picked from our farm. In the summer the leaves grow quickly, usually being picked around 24 days after being drilled.
To drill them, we make a raised bed, with a level surface and go over it with the cheesewire to get the bed clear of weeds. To find out more about the cheesewire, go here. The earlier crop is fleeced to keep it warm and later we use a net to protect it from flea beetle damage and to create shade. We weed it by hand, which can take a lot of effort, but we use an ortomec (belt harvester) to pick it, making harvesting quicker and easier.
Our salad pack is made up of 5 or 6 different leaves, these could be pak choi; ruby streaks mustard; baby leaf lettuce; mixed chard; golden streaks mustard; rocket or tat soi.
Martin Geake (Director of Send a Cow) receiving a carrot-shaped cheque from Riverford for £10,000
We’ve been working with Send a Cow since March last year, organising joint events promoting sustainable farming practices globally and offering vegbox incentives for donors to the charity.
As part of Send a Cow’s Grow it Global project we gave our visitors the chance to see the workings of an African farm here at Riverford in
Margaret Kifuko – our guest farmer from Uganda
Devon on Monday 3rd March with our guest Ugandan farmer Margaret Kifuko. Margaret taught everyone about keyhole gardens and bag gardens and we had farm walks and goats for everyone to meet.
On Tuesday 4th May we held an evening hosted by Guy Watson (Riverford Founder) and guest speaker Margaret at the Field Kitchen on Wash Farm, Devon. Martin Geake (Director of Send a Cow) received a carrot-shaped cheque from Riverford for £10,000 which was raised from various initiatives over the last year.
Huge thanks to all of our customers who have helped raise this, by buying garden fleece, boxes to share and referring friends to Riverford.
Along with farm walks, keyhole gardens and bag gardens, we had some goats on the farm for everyone to meet
Margaret will be with us until 14th May and in this time we are hosting 11 school visits at when Margaret will teach children about sustainable farming in Africa. Margaret joined a Send a Cow group in 1998 and received training in agriculture. The group gave her a cow, which has calved 4 times. Margaret practices sustainable organic agriculture, which has improved her soil’s fertility. She is now a peer farmer trainer and has turned her farm into a training centre.
Fleece is a godsend to growers and gardeners; its use not only brings crops forward but also excludes pests like carrot and cabbage root fly and cabbage whites. After the local deer, badgers and my dog have run over it we can seldom use it again on a large scale but it is still fine for garden use and a number of locals collect it for their gardens. We will supply a vegbox of pre-used fleece (roughly 30-40 sq m) with a few tips on use for £4.99. Any margin we get after cutting it up we will donate to Send a Cow.