Sunday, October 27, 2013

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.



Anonymous Cat Majors said...

Wonderful work, Dr. Wotton. Your dedication is an inspiration, and kudos to health workers like Agnes and Angella!

10:56 AM  

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