Sunday, October 27, 2013

Delivering Vines II

OSP vines Below Kibare HC II 
A day later we head off to 2 more communities with a supply of vines for the community. A truck is used this time but as it will not wait for us once the vines are delivered, we travel in a special hire.  We are barely startd e with a new driver when he turns on the radio.  Angella talks to him briefly in Lunyankole and he turns it off.
“What did you say,” I ask.
“I told him we like to talk and plan on the way so we don’t have the radio on,” she tells me. 
OSP bags under tree at Kinoni
We definitely do review our planning and program and even begin to write up our notes in the car.  I often quiz her about what has been going on in my absence but I don’t actually recall ever mentioning to her about the radio.  I am thrilled that she has picked it up and recognizes its importance.  We have decided this visit that I am going to work with her on report writing.
We stop first on the highway at Kinoni Health Center IV at 10:00 am where the Volunteer Health Team members (VHTs) from Nyarubungo parish will bring their community members.  The health worker, Dennis, is located in the record room where he works.  He tells us the VHTs have arranged to come at 2:00 pm so we pile the bags of vines in the shade under a tree on the compound.  A late pickup means few of the vines will be planted today, not the best as the vines are getting drier with each passing day.  We are unable to reach the VHT coordinator so VHTs can be alerted to come earlier.  Later we learn he has replaced his cellphone.  The bags are counted and left.  We hope they will be picked up by the time we return.
Primary School Children Get Worm Tx
We head off into the hills for our second stop in Kibare HC.  Kibare has some of our best OSP farmers mentioned earlier.  Although the cell phone network does not reach here, we find our VHT OSP coordinator, Dovina, at Mulago  Primary School with her big smile and her eleven enthusiastic VHTs under the mango tree in the center of the compound.  
This parish is very extensive, so in order to decrease the distance community members have to transport their bags on foot, the group has arranged for two drop off sites.   The eleven VHTs are set up in preparation for distribution of de-worming medicine at the Primary School as well.  The VHTs assist the health worker, who has gone to town to try to get some Vit A capsules.  We off load 11 bags of OSP vines under the tree and Dovina is instructed on filling in the community members details on the forms.   We will pick up the forms on our return. 
Boy Collects His Mom's OSP Vines
Our next stop is at Kanyantura Primary School where the rest of the bags of vines are unloaded.  One of the male VHTs gets up on the truck and the others collect the bags as he off loads them.  I count as they come off the truck and then the truck leaves us.  We have a couple more bags than VHTs.  As I didn’t count the number put on the truck, I am confused but figure we must have received more bags than planned.  
One young boy has come as his mother is sick.  He is wearing a man’s shirt that is way too large for him and I wonder where his dad is.  But the VHT coordinator acknowledges him and he collects his ½ bag.  We have one bag for the Primary School teacher who is part of our School Garden project.  He arranges to have the children plant the vines right after school. A couple of teachers from the Secondary School come by asking for a bag as well.  At first we turn them away but when it appears we have a couple of extra bags we have them sign for and explain they will need to share vines with four community members when they get their harvest.
Signing Proceeds
We leave the VHT OSP coordinator to finish distributing the remaining bags and head back to Kinoni to pick up their completed forms.  Unfortunately the process has not even started when we arrive, so Angella and I start to record the names of those who are there.  As there is no photocopy or carbon, I make a second copy so we can leave it with the OSP coordinator so he can gather any signatures that we have not obtained.  We try to get as many signatures as we can.    
Boy  play with Tire
The signing process takes a long time.  Many of the "signatures" are actually the printed names of people.  Then I notice someone signing a second time and ask her why.  She says she is signing for someone else who cannot write.  I have the person put an X down which the VHT can witness.  We have to show her what an X looks like, most come out more like an +, a much more familiar symbol here.  Angella writes an X on her palm to show her how to do it.  It turns out there are many more who cannot write their names in this group.  Either that or I was not noticing it earlier.   I explain to Angella that they can also sign with a thumb print if it is witnessed, that it is legal, but someone else signing for you is not.
The VHT coordinator for this parish turns up half way through.  He tells us that 7 VHTs from several distant villages sent word that they have produced enough OSP vines that they are able to share with two community members each so will not need Harvest Plus vines.  He has communicated this to some of the VHTs that live near by who have quickly identified local farmers, many of them illiterate who seem very poor.  This, I think to myself, is the beauty of having an agriculture project with the health workers. They know who works hard and has little in their community and can ensure we reach them.


Delivering Vines I – The Gift of Collaboration

Arriving with bags of OSP vines
The rains have begun and it is time to plant Orange Sweet Potato Vines (OSP).  Yesterday a truck load of vines were delivered to Ryamiyonga and stored in their mud cook shed.  Today 17 more sacks filled with OSP are heaved onto the roof of the van as we head off at 9:00 am.  The Harvest Plus agronomist follows us up the mountain in her van.  It takes just a little over one hour to reach the community high on the mountain. 
Immunization Clinic
The roads are red clay-like murram and badly rutted but efforts have been made to maintain them with stones and mud.  At the turn off from the highway, there is a huge daily matooke market.  The only traffic we see coming down are bicycles laden with huge bunches of matooke, a form of cooking banana which is a staple in Uganda.  
Members of the Volunteer Health Team (VHTs) in this area number 38, two from each village.  Each VHT has been instructed to bring two farmers from her village to receive vines.  The original plan was to have the VHTs pay forward,each one supplying two other farmers from their own crop, but the lack of rain has greatly diminished their recent crop so Harvest Plus has this time provided vines for community members.  OSP with their high Vitamin A content are targeted at children under five and pregnant mothers.     
Heading Home
Almost 2/3 of the expected 76 farmers are gathered by the time we arrive, others continue to arrive. Most are women, many with breast feeding babies. Ryamiyonga has  an active group of VHTs, a prize-winning group, with a dynamic health worker leading them.  The health worker, Agnes, has capitalized on the collection of infants and organized an immunization clinic for today. This is the kind coordination of health services and intersectoral collaboration, we only dream about!
Men use bicycles
First, all the previously deposited bags of vines are brought out to be added to the supply we have brought today.  There is a short introduction.  The Harvest Plus agronomist takes the opportunity to remind them of some information about planting the vines.  The process of registering each of the new OSP farmers proceeds.  The pleased recipients head off with bags of vines on their heads and newly immunized babies strapped to their backs hoping to be able to plant the vines today.  As we pull away, we noticed the many mother-farmers and their bags who remain lined up at the clinic, hoping to be seen today.
Clinic Line-up
 Angella, the OSP coordinator for Healthy Child Uganda, has received two extra bags of OSP vines and has designated one of the bags for the local Bushwere Primary School where a School Garden is in progress.   Funding for the School Gardens was limited and did not include OSP training for farmers so Angella has been providing all the training.  
Heading home with OSP vines
When the original OSP vines were delivered to Bushwere PS the  teacher in charge was not present, so did not learn about the need for large soil heaps.  As a result their first group of OSP vines were planted close to the ground, much as local sweet potatoes are and have not done well.  Angella visited the school last week, identified the problem and had them build larger heaps.  Knowing she had a supply of OSP vines coming in a couple of days, she organized for the Primary School, which has a large garden area, courtesy of the local church, to receive some replacements OSP vines. 
Children watch the process
Once again, here is the best of local coordination.  This Primary School is so far from the highway, on such a bad road that the cost to get vines to them would be insurmountable.  Added to that, the area has no cell phone network so coordination is very difficult.  But Angella has pulled it off!
 When we arrive unannounced at the school on our way back home, the students are off at prayers.  We can hear their singing through the trees.  A number of teachers remain in the staff room.  When the situation is explained to them, along with the need to get the vines into the ground today if possible, they join us in the garden to learn how to plant them in the rows of well-formed heaps have been prepared.  
Teachers Planting
They assist in placing the vines in the heaps and commit to teaching the School Garden Club members to complete the job today.  Angella makes sure they understand that these OSP are special because they have high Vitamin A content.  She also shows them how to plant the extra few nodes remaining when the vines have been cut to use them to produce multiplier vines rather than sweet potatoes.  I am pretty sure we are going to have lots of teachers growing OSP in their own gardens.


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