Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Lifestyles

March 30, 2010

Spreading the knowledge

Rural Shumway farmer travels to east African nation of Uganda to teach residents about grain storage and drying techniques

SHUMWAY — Southeastern Uganda is like the Biblical Garden of Eden, says a rural Shumway man who spent nearly three weeks in the eastern African nation last month to share some of his agricultural knowledge.

“It’s a very delightful place,” said Norbert Soltwedel, who visited the country from Feb. 4 to Feb. 22 to work with local farmers on grain storage and drying techniques. Soltwedel, who farms east of Shumway, was previously in Uganda last summer.

Soltwedel was in Africa as part of the Farmers to Farmers program under the auspices of Citizens Network of Foreign Affairs, a non-governmental organization funded by USAID.

With Uganda straddling the Equator, one might think of humid jungle. But Soltwedel said that’s not the case at all.

It’s almost on the equator, but very delightful,” he said. “It’s a great place to be in February.”

Subsistence farmers in southeast Uganda grow a variety of crops, including white corn (maize), bananas, potatoes, cassava, yams, coffee, pineapple, millet, sorghum, mangoes, oranges, passion fruit, eggplant and sugar cane. But Soltwedel’s reason for being in the Kamuli District was centered around corn storage and marketing.

Soltwedel created and delivered one-hour presentations that dealt with grain handling and drying techniques, proper storage and maintenance and post-harvest grain quality. Seminars would be held either in thatched huts similar to those used as residences, or in schools or community buildings.

Soltwedel said the satisfaction derived from his trip was two-fold.

“I feel like the people I worked with truly appreciated somebody coming and sharing information,” he said. “But I also just like to learn.

“I get enjoyment out of learning new things and meeting new people,” he said. “In this case, I learned a lot of different ways of farming and running a business.”

One major difference, he said, is the scope of farming operations. While family farms in the United States have increasingly adopted a large-scale corporate model, Uganda farms are much smaller.

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