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 protected]/blog and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.
In my gardening blog today
I am looking at the different ways we can grow plants in our outdoor spaces. Not all of us have a garden with open ground, some have only a patio covered in paving slabs, some maybe only a few window sills or a passage or back yard.
I grow a lot on my patio in a mixture of wooden boxes, ceramic pots, old galvanized tanks and dustbins I have picked up at the recycling centre or down the dump. They look really great with plants trailing over the edges and climbers growing skyward up trellises I have set up behind them. I have got the local farm shop to save me some olive cans that come in bright green and red. I make holes on the bottom using a hammer and screw driver to allow for drainage, add some broken crocks or some small stones before adding a growing medium and a plant. I am always on the look out for containers with a difference. Recently I bought some old ammunition boxes for next to nothing, £3 each which I have planted up with tulips for a show in spring. These are fairly shallow but great for lettuces in the summer. The main thing to consider is the depth of the container and whether it is possible to make drainage holes in the bottom. Plants grown in pots and containers get full of roots pretty quickly so the deeper the better.
Watering and feeding
Anything grown in a container is a commitment you have to feel able to take on as the ongoing maintenance is essential to your growing success. They will need watering everyday in hot weather and every other day once they have taken a hold. Your containers will also need feeding after a month or so of planting out and every two or three weeks after that.
Keyhole gardening and grow bags
For a long time now Riverford have been supporting a charity called Send a cow who ‘provide livestock, seeds, training and on going support to help families in Africa to leave poverty behind for good’ Guy is a huge fan of this charity and has been out to Uganda several times…… to see what’s happening first hand. Some of their growing techniques are ingenious such as the keyhole garden and the grow sacks. We have built our own keyhole garden using posts and chicken wire rather than stones. The idea is you have a central shoot into which you chuck all composting materials and water. This in turn feeds the surrounding beds that are planted up with veg seedlings. It really does work and also is a boon for anyone with back problems as there’s little or no bending down. The grow sacks are great to and can be planted with up to 50 seedlings in each. These are great for that redundant corner somewhere in your outdoor space.
In my next gardening blog
I will cover preparing the ground and tools and kit you will need as unfortunately run out of space here. So look out for people selling sacks of well rotted manure and take a look at your compost heaps too.
We’ve been hosting Charles, a Ugandan farmer at our farm in Devon for the past two weeks. Join Guy as he takes a look at his creative farming methods (3 min 50 sec).
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.