Sunday, July 21, 2013

OSP Farmers Partner with School Garden Project

Children Exercise at School 

South-western Uganda is a productive, fertile agricultural area producing most of the matooke (banana) loved as a staple for most of southern and central  Uganda.  With Lake Victoria to the east, this area rarely experiences serious drought and sports two rainy seasons, one short and one longer.  Despite being a good agricultural area, however, more than 40% of children are malnourished and 10% of them stunted, or shorter than they should be.  Partly this would appear to be a result of the over-dependence on matooke, which is not a particularly nutritious staple. Other factors compound this including: poverty; availability of a varied diet; a perception that a pot belly and thin arms is the norm in young children and lack of appreciation for green leafy plants. 

Pumpkin & Seeds Added to Meal
HEADA- Uganda, a new, small NGO has recently been granted funds from the American Academy of Pediatrics, International Section for a School  Nutrition and Garden project in four Primary Schools.  We will be Tackling Malnutrition thru Primary School Peer Groups in four primary schools.  

We hope to explore and learn some of the traditional ways used in this culture to support good nutrition, for nutritional behaviour is complex and complicated as well as difficult to change.  I am pleased when I visit one of the more remote parishes to find the VHTs preparing lunch have included pumpkin seeds in the banana-leaf wrapping used to steam the matooke.  
The Communal OSP Garden
The community-based health workers in six of the parishes in Rwampara Sub County have a Harvest Plus project in growing Vitamin A-enriched Orange Sweet Potatoes and High Iron Beans. Their first Orange Sweet Potato crop was successful but the high Iron beans produced only enough to replant for many of the farmers.  OSP Coordinators of the Volunteer Health Teams  (VHTs) have agreed to assist with our Primary School Gardens.
Agonomy Training for Ryanmyonga VHTs
Better than that, they were excited to have the chance to spend more time at the schools. Several of the schools have already implemented Tippy Taps by the latrines in the school yard, so we are off to a good start. 
Enough Hi Iron Beans to Replant
The children often number as high as 60-90 to a classroom, so the opportunity to reach many farmers in the community through their offspring is high.  We hope also to entice some of them in to assist with some activities in the School Garden.  The teachers are definitely excited and enthusiastic.  I suspect the VHTs will appreciate the chance to share their new found knowledge about OSP and high iron Beans.  They have been receiving both nutrition and agronomy training. The VHT coordinators chosen by the VHTS seem to be the more experienced farmers who had lots of vines to share with the community and while their bean crop has not done well this season, they will have enough beans to be able to replant.  


Primary School Garden Project

Kikunda Primary School Students 
Six months into our School Gardens Project in south-western Uganda, it finally feels like we are underway.  Our Project Director, the dynamic Dr. Liz Kemigisha, and Project Cordinator,  the talented John Ssenoga, have made visits to all four schools, connected with the teachers heading the Peer Groups at Primary Schools and obtained support from our partners, the Volunteer Health Teams in these areas who are growing High Vitamin A-enrichedOrange Sweet Potatoes and High Iron Beans.
Designing Snakes & Ladders
Two training days were held for the Peer Group Trainers of the local NGO, HEADA- Uganda.  We got a chance to not only pilot a number of the sessions but to build the facilitation skills of the trainers and teachers. The training was organized to coincide with my visits in February and June so occurred during the planning stages.  The teachers were so galvanized by the idea, they identified garden sites at the schools and some even began planting.  
Filling in the Food Wheel
They have had fund making Snakes & Ladders with a Nutritional theme on ricebags and then learning out to play the game, which they had never seen before.  We have a number of interactive exercises and try to keep the cost down and thus sustainable by making them ourselves.  Rice bags are also used for out Food Wheel.  Glow foods which are Protective; Grow Foods which are Protein and Go foods which are Carbohydrates supplying Energy. Photos of locally available examples of the three food groups are photographed and then laminated, so they can be re-used.
John Uses Garden Job Wheel
A Garden Job Wheel has also been prepared as an on-going tools for use in managing the School Gardens.  We were glad we did not have to start gardening until the August planting seasons because the area has suffered from a drought with lack of rainfall so many crops are not doing well.  We hope it will have improved by August. 
Angella Tells Stone Soup Story
We had great fun adapting the African Stone Soup story for our nutrition project, emphasizing the role of iodized salt, high Vitamin A plants and high iron beans. We are using felt pieces on flannel boards.  As primary school students are unfamilair with them, we have made the flannell board metal and attached magnets to the pieces so they would be easier for primary school students to use.  Everyone had telling the story and trying out use of the magnetic board.


Friday, July 05, 2013

Prize Winning MUST Rural Student Projects

Kisoro Group
The student groups at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) who won prizes for their rural field projects in 2012 have all collected their prize money and submitted their reports.  The prizes which have inspired this blossoming of student creativity have come from the Hillman Medical Education Fund, which established 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes of $900, $650 and $450 respectively.  All 30 groups competed for the prizes and the competition was fierce.
Old Pit Latrine
When the rural placements began at MUST, the students did surveys. That is, they asked the same questions and collected virtually the same data each year.   It was the same in medical schools around the world.  On the good side, our students were learning how to collect and record data.  On the bad side, nothing was being done about problems we already knew a lot about. 
Kisoro Group Meets Community
About the same time, the World Health Organization came up with a directive to field workers of all stripes, No Survey Without Service.  At MUST, the head of the Community Health Dept at the time decided to discontinue the surveys so the students could spend more time getting to know the community.  We would ask them to find things to do in the community such as  health education at the local schools, document how schools for disabled were managing with scarce resources, talk to the community groups looking after AIDS orphans and respond to local cholera outbreaks.  More formalized community projects began a couple of years ago with the Leadership Training Program.  As there are more trained community-based health workers in communities, the students were directed to work with them to come up with their community project. 
New Pit Latrine Being Constructed
Students, often city- dwellers, arrive in their placements struck by how horrid, brutish and mean rural life is.  But they return from their placements,  often wanting to return, amazed that they have enjoyed so much working with rural people and energized by being able to give back to the community.  
Rubana Community Meeting
In 2012 all the three winning groups did projects related to sanitation.  They demonstrated how to make Tippy Taps beside latrines for hand washing, encouraged building of pit latrines and made latrine covers with community. 
The groups presented their projects to the MUST Scientific conference as well as the Medical Education for Equitable Services to All Ugandans Consortium (MESAU).  Two groups used their prize money to present projects at a scientific conference in Kampala.  They gained experience in writing up and presenting projects as well as in fielding comments and questions about their experiences.  They also learned new skills in preparing budgets and project report.
The 2nd place group who had spent time at Kibitto HC III in Western Uganda decided to use their prize money to partner with the Eco-Schools project in SW Uganda.   Eco- Schools are part of Conservation Efforts for Community Development, (CECOD) which supports a curriculum about environment sensitization and sustainability in primary schools. 

Demonstrating Tippy Tap in Rubanda
They used their prize money to plan a 5 day tour of 15 primary schools in Isingiro, Mbarara and Bushenyi districts.  At each school they took the items needed to make 2 Tippy Taps.  They did one tippy Tap as a demo for the schools and then supervised boys and girls in constructing a second  Tippy Tap.  A practical return demonstration technique of health promtoion.  The group spent their holiday time during the last week of June in the field.  They will be presenting their innovative project at the scientific conference at MUST next November.  We look forward to hearing about it.
 Photos: 1-3 Kisoro Gp; 4-5 Rubanda Gp


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