Thursday, November 8, 2012

How do you hide something from a Ugandan?

t's a joke that often comes up as I teach Farming God's Way in various communities -- "How can you hide something from a Ugandan?" The answer to the query --" by putting it in a book!"

Don't worry, I'm not laughing at the expense of my African brethren. They, too, tell this joke to poke fun at themselves. 

The point is this: there is not a reading culture here in Uganda. People don't commonly read books as a past time or for pleasure or even to gain more knowledge. In fact, if you say "reading" here in Uganda it is synonymous with "cramming for an exam". "I am reading my books" says a secondary student, meaning, that she has been cramming for an exam.

As I teach farming I realize that my job, at times, needs to go much deeper than just covering my material. I need to teach people how to study; the value of reading to educate themselves. Even the great Apostle Paul requested for his "parchments" when he was in jail. Many of my students suffer from a lack of some simple knowledge which could be easily acquired if they would (in some cases, could) read. Spare time is spent reading newspapers and listening to the radio -- which may keep them up on current events but may not help them find solutions for the problems they face in their every-day lives.

Modern literacy started with the printing press first used for printing the Bible with the goal of putting the written Word of God into the ordinary farm workers' hands. In our day we (those who have access to libraries and the internet) have so much to read. And read we must --  in order to stay educated and informed. But in all of our reading we need to remember that the ultimate reason behind reading is to be able to understand God's Word which has been preserved and kept within the sheath of written languages.

So, as I teach people to farm, I also encourage them to pick up the habit of reading -- and most importantly reading God's Word. Here they will find not only information but power and truth to lead them to the Author of The Book and the Author of Life.

"It is foolish to go to human puddles and forsake the clear crystal stream" Cecil J. Blay

What do you read? Why do you read? How does reading enhance your professional knowledge? Leave a comment below...

Posted via email from The Sperling's blog

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Farming God's Way at Amazima (

MAY 31, 2012

Farming God's Way

Earlier this year, Amazima had the opportunity to host a very unique training seminar at our land in Buziika called Farming God's Way

Although Uganda has seen much urbanization in the past few years, the majority of Ugandans are still subsistence farmers - working tirelessly to provide only what will feed their family. Uganda's two rainy seasons and plentiful sunshine should mean that these families can grow plenty of food to sustain them throughout the year.  Unfortunately, poor farming practices and a loss of motivation has left many fields in poor condition, and families are struggling to find enough to eat. Amazima's sponsorship and feedingprograms are doing a great deal to relieve the current crisis, but we are always working towards making a more lasting impact by empowering the people of Uganda to participate in changing their lives and their community.

Farming God's Way (FGW) is not an organization, but a resource to teach improved and sustainable farming methods to local farmers based on Biblical principles.

For three days, a certified trainer came to Buziika and instructed 12 local farmers in the methods taught by FGW. The largest component of the training is minimal or no tillage (turning/plowing the land). Like in America, farmers in Uganda typically completely turn over the soil before each planting season - the only difference being that they use a hand-powered hoe rather than a gas-powered plow! FGW leaves the soil unturned and only digs holes at precise intervals where the crops will be planted. The weeds and crop residue from the previous planting season are simply cut down to maintain a mulch cover on the field. This not only drastically improves water retention but over time also injects critical biological matter back into the soil. 

There are three pillars to the Farming God's Way methodology: 
          1.  Management
                    Do everything on time
                    Do everything to a high standard
                    Do everything with minimal wastage
          2.  Technology
                     No plowing
                    100% mulch covers (referred to as God's Blanket)
                    Practice crop rotation
          3.  Biblical 
                    Acknowledge God and God alone
                    Consider your ways
                    Understanding God's all-sufficiency
                    What you sow, you shall reap
                    Bring tithes and offerings to God
                    Stake your claim

The final day of training included the planting of a demonstration garden. A ten-by-ten meter plot was laid out prior to the seminar and all the participants were able to practice the skills they had been taught the previous two days. It was a great time of learning, both of new farming techniques and about the Gospel. Many of the students were not regular church attendees and one student was actually a practicing witch doctor!

An average Ugandan farmer produces 280 kg of maize (corn) per acre. Utilizing FGW techniques, that same farmer can produce 3,000 kg of maize per acre!


Our garden was planted next to a pathway leading to the next village so that as many people as possible can see the results and become interested in FGW.

Amazima staff member, Patrick Ouma, will be following up with the class participants to see how they are doing with the implementation of the training in their own fields.  

We sincerely hope and pray that the seeds that were planted - in our garden and in the students' hearts - will grow and flourish!

To learn more about the Farming God's Way resources, 
visit their website here.

Special thanks to our FGW trainer, Chris Sperling.  Without his heart for the farmers of Uganda and his mastery of the local language, the class would not have been able to take place!

Posted via email from The Sperling's blog

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A day in the life

I woke up early and was out the door by 6:30am. I made my usual stop at Igar which is a petrol station just east of the Nile. I put some dieselin the Isuzu and ran inside for a coffee and a couple muffins. Not quite Tim Horton's but the coffee woke me up and the muffins filled me up. I started my 100km drive on the highway that heads west from Jinja towards Kampala. It is called a highway but it is difficult to get over 60km/hr let alone 80 as there is so much truck traffic with hundreds of big trucks carrying containers and fuel from Mombasa and Eldoret on their way to Kampala or through Kampala on their way to South Sudan, West Uganda eastern Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and even Western Tanzania. Many are overloaded and in rough shape so the going is pretty slow if you get stuck behind one. Given that many of the drivers are on a local drug called mailunji or marijuana and are overtired and rune trucks in pretty rough shape there are a LOT of accidents involving large trucks ( I calculate one truck off the road/accident per trip to Kampala). So I try to balance speed and caution as I head west. 
As I near the urban sprawl of Kampala I head North west on a dirt road that I found on Google maps the other week which cuts of a few miles of traffic plugged road as I head to Kira farm just north of Kampala. 17 minutes later I am back on a tarmac road heading north where i will meet another winding paved road that takes me through a rural area just north of Kampala. I enter Gayaza and head north again at the round-about and after a few kilometres if nice tarmac I turn off Zirobwe road onto a bumpy access road which takes me up to the beautiful gate of Kira Farm. It's 8:30 and two hours after leaving home and 100km of driving I am ready to help over 25 students plant theirexperiential gardens that we had prepared a couple weeks ago together. Kira farm is the location of Amigos Worldwide which gives technical training to disadvantaged youth, most of whom have come fr

om the region where Kony was active or were even child soldiers or slaves under him. They are a pleasant group of students on the whole but not without the usual attitude struggles of young people everywhere. Each student is taking a technical course (carpentry, mechanics, tailoring,etc) in addition to being taught Farming God's Way. The idea is that they can go back to their home area and create their own wealth through having self employment and farming the rich land where they are from.

The students are mostly eager to plant their gardens with a few dragging their feet and trying their best to find somewhere on the campus to hide. But they know farming is important and most will have grown up on a farm or near one. Farming to many youth is just a a lot of hard work with little income. With FGW we are trying to change that. Farming definitely is hard work; but we want that hard work to result in higher yields grown on better soil so that farmers can have a sustainable profit! We are teaching them how to take care of their soil so that their soil will take care of them -- and their grandchildren!
We first plant one sma
ll garden together so that each step can be observed carefully. Then, all of the students disperse to their own 6 x 6 meter plots. With each student having their own garden it is very quickly evident who listened and who didn't and wh
o is lazy and who is diligent. Through the simple process of these experiential gardens we will be able to disciple the students through their strengths and weaknesses meanwhile guiding them to learn the basic principles of all farming. The gardens are soon planted and just a few of the slower students are left out in their plots. Mulch is brought in, covering the garden, completing the last step of planting. 
After a nice late morning tea break with some of the British staff I am off to a nearby research station to collect improved seed. Most of the staff at Namalonge are friendly and willing to supply me with free samples which I willingly wait for like a boy i

n a candy shop choosing his favourite sweets.

 At the end I leave the extensive farm property (which a colonial era golf course) with samples of improved cassava, sweet potato, a plethora of bean varieties and some maize. I am very happy with my treasure and start my 2 1/2 hour journey home thrilled that we have starting stock for our seed bank project.

By the time I get home it is getting dark and I am happy to see my wonderful family -- but it has been a full day and I am happy to be part of such ordinary yet profound work as we train people how to farm and how to depend on God in simple and practical ways. Even the seed we have obtained is part of God's all sufficiency that He will express to the farmer as it reproduces "after it's own kind" for many years to come!

Posted via email from The Sperling's blog