Creating a sustainable future Iowa state program is improving the lives of rural ugandans, one person at a time

Since 2004, Iowa State’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) has improved the lives of nearly 60,000 people in Uganda’s Kamuli District by improving access to clean water, nutrition and health for mothers and infants, school gardens, entrepreneurial activities, and crop and livestock extension programs. Last summer, VISIONS magazine editor Carole Gieseke and photographer Jim Heemstra spent six days in Kamuli District, visiting schools, farms, homes, and nutrition centers. Their timing allowed them to shadow Iowa State service learners and attend local-level planning meetings. Some of these photos were first printed in the spring 2017 issue of VISIONS; many are online exclusives

Located in eastern Africa, Uganda has a population of 37.8 million and has around the same square mileage as the state of Oregon. The CSRL focuses its work in rural Kamuli District, which is about the size of Polk County, Iowa. Most of the roads in Kamuli District are unpaved. Primary modes of transportation are bicycles and motorbikes. Many people simply walk.
Beth and Simon Balwana and their children proudly show a cup of the nutritious porridge that allowed their young son, also named Simon (front left), to regain his health. The child was severely malnourished at the age of 1 before his mother took him to a Nutrition Education Center run by Iowa State’s ISU-Uganda Program. (ISU-UP is the official name of the NGO established by Iowa State in 2013.)
Small-holder farmer Madinah Nabirye walks through her farmland with her young son. Agricultural crops are the family’s only source of income.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Madinah Nabirye greets visitors in front of her home.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Child with fruit in rural Uganda.
The partnership with Makerere University (located in Kampala, Uganda) is key to the service-learning component of the CSRL. Iowa State and Makerere students work together in bi-national teams in classrooms, teaching math, agriculture, science, and other subjects.
Elizabeth Garzon, an ISU senior in global resource systems, works with pupils at Nakanyonyi Primary School. CSRL works with four primary schools and one secondary school in Kamuli District; the program’s work directly impacts about 3,000 school children.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Allie Wilson, a senior in animal science and global resource systems, teaches a class in soil conservation at Nakanyonyi Primary School. “It’s a completely different teaching culture here,” she says. “Children at this age don’t ask questions. They’d rather sit there and not know than to say, ‘No, I really don’t understand.’ You learn a lot of weird ways to communicate an idea.”
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Children gather in the school yard.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Rachael Barnes, a ISU senior in biological systems engineering, at Nakanyonyi Primary School.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Pupils at Nakanyonyi Primary School find it hard to pay attention to the teacher with photographer Jim Heemstra in the room.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: VISIONS editor Carole Gieseke shows school children the digital images she just took of them.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A smiling youngster at Nakanyonyi Primary School.
Service-learning students from Iowa State and Makerere University (located in Kampala, Uganda) take a tour of a banana plantation in Uganda’s Kamuli District. The students later worked with the farm owner to prune the banana plants.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Service learners travel in a van to visit a banana plantation. The rutted roads of the rural Kamuli District are difficult to navigate with a large motor vehicle.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Iowa State and Makerere University students walk through a maize field on a plantation that primarily grows bananas.
Rebecca Kyewankamalileku raises chickens to help with her family’s nutrition needs as well as finances. ISU-UP staff members helped her establish the poultry project and make home visits, much like ISU’s county extension specialists in Iowa.
VISIONS editor Carole Gieseke met Rebecca Kyewankamalileku and her family – nine children and one on the way – during her visit to Uganda’s Kamuli District.
A young mother named Brenda, 19, and her 5-month-old infant have benefited from the ISU-UP Nutrition Education Centers. Brenda was pregnant and not eating well when she began taking porridge provided by the NEC. Her health improved, and she learned how to feed and care for her child.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Brenda with 5-month-old Anuit. Mother and baby are healthy thanks to the ISU-UP.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Pupils at Namasagali Primary School harvest amaranth. The girls prepare the amaranth for the cooks, who serve the meal for the school’s lunch along with orange-flesh sweet potatoes.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Older girls at Namasagali Primary School sort, trim, and wash sweet potatoes that will be boiled in a large pot over a wood fire and served for lunch.
Pupils at Nakanyonyi Primary School eat lunch in the schoolyard. In the past, school lunches might have consisted of a cup of 50-calorie maize porridge, but today’s lunches are packed with nutrition and provide the children more than 800 calories. Much of what is served for school lunch is grown in the school’s own gardens. On this day, each child got a big scoop of amaranth greens cooked with fortified cooking oil, onions, iodized salt, and curry powder, plus two orange-flesh sweet potatoes.
Rachael Barnes, a ISU senior in biological systems engineering, serves lunch to school children during her service-learning project in Uganda’s Kamuli District last summer. Her bi-national research project focused on maintaining the nutrient content of maize through improved grain storage practices.
Vendors sell their fruits and vegetables in the market in Kamuli town.
Boreholes (deep wells) improve sanitation and access to safe drinking water in Kamuli District. This borehole at Nakanyonyi Primary School is used by nearby communities, providing drinking water as well as water for cooking, washing dishes, and watering livestock. The entire community invests in the borehole and takes on responsibility for making minor repairs.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A local business man fetches water from the borehole at Namasagali Primary School. He bakes bread for a living and sells it in the local trading center.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Volunteer workers at a Nutrition Education Center (NEC) mix freshly milled ingredients for the nutritious porridge served to pregnant women and children. The flour contains millet, grain amaranth, soya bean, maize, and silver fish powder, and it will be combined with sugar, milk, and water before serving.
ISU-UP staffers demonstrate the final preparation of a nutrient-dense porridge at one of eight Nutrition Education Centers in Kamuli District.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: An ISU-UP staffer holds a healthy, pajama-clad baby at a NEC.
Young children drink porridge from cups at a gathering at a local NEC.
The Nutrition Education Centers provide a location for family-planning experts to meet with the women and men of the community, offering birth control options and other services.
Samantha Kanselaar, an ISU senior in dietetics, holds a baby while working at the NEC. Kanselaar completed a global resource systems internship in Uganda last summer. Her research project was titled “Nutrient Adequacy of Food Consumed at Household Level by Children Attending Nutrition Centers in Kamuli District.”
Residents attend a gathering at a local Nutrition Education Center. In addition to receiving nutrition education and family planning advice, today the families are entertained by a music, dancing, and drama at the NEC.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A child at a local Nutrition Education Center.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A baby takes porridge from a cup during a NEC gathering. The porridge provides needed nutrients for growing infants.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Agnes Nanangwe, 25, shows a pawpaw fruit from the farm she shares with her family in Uganda’s rural Kamuli District. Agnes was part of her school’s entrepreneurial club.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Entrepreneurial activities are encouraged through the Nutrition Education Centers. Every Wednesday at the Naluwoli Field House, women gather to making crafts with brightly colored beads, patterned cloth, and natural raffia. “The mothers feel they own this – it’s theirs,” says Laura Byaruhanga, a community nutrition specialist with ISU-UP.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: The crafts program aims to provide life skills for mothers who arrived at the NECs seeking nutritional advice, and the outcome is additional money for the family’s budget.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Students in the Entrepreneurial Club at Namasagali College learn about bee keeping from a Makerere University student. The ISU-UP helps older students with life and career skills through its youth entrepreneurial programs.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Paul, 24, has been involved in the youth entrepreneurship program through the ISU-UP. He has planted eggplants and other crops on his 2-acre family farm and wants to start a poultry project. Martin Lukwata, ISU-UP youth entrepreneurship specialist, offers Paul advice on how to deal with a nematode infestation on his eggplant crop. Martin, a Makerere University graduate, completed a 2-month internship program at Iowa State in 2014.
Lydia Abwin displays one of her craft projects at her home. Selling handcrafted items allows Lydia to earn money to pay for school fees.
David Waiswa purchased a weed trimmer with the money he earned raising poultry, and the weed trimmer, in turn, helps him earn more money. David was involved in the Entrepreneurial Club at Namasagali College, managed by the ISU-UP.
Students in the Entrepreneurial Club at Namasagali College inspect their high-value crops on a plot of land near the Nile.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Rose Namuyomba has raised pigs since 2004 as one of the first model farmers through ISU-UP to construct a piggery. At one time she has had as many as 60 pigs, and she says she has sold more than 250 pigs to local butchers and to buyers in Kampala, the country’s capital.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Rose Namuyomba’s piggery is clean and odor-free. (Here’s a behind-the-scenes story: This piglet’s mother was extremely unhappy that this baby pig was taken away for the photo. Mama was squealing loudly the entire time, but the piglet was most cooperative. Mama pig settled down as soon as the baby was returned. Also noted: Baby pigs run really fast.)
“Tip-taps” make it easy for school children to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating lunch. Water comes from boreholes located near the schools. Bi-national service learning teams have helped with construction of permanent tip-taps at the schools.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Bridget, a Makerere University student, mixes concrete to make pillars for tip-taps at Namasagali Primary School. The tip-taps help promote hand-washing and improved sanitation at the schools.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Sanitation is a major focus of the ISU-UP. A sign at Namasagali Primary School reminds pupils to wash their hands before eating.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Batanda Bulayimu, 72, raises goats and cattle on his small-holder farm.
Batanda Bulayimu has one cow, from which he sells milk. “Without the cow, I would not have money,” he says.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Service-learning students from Iowa State and Makerere University head out to the school garden to plant orange-flesh sweet potatoes.
In the sweet potato field: “On days when you’re working in the [hot] field and you think, ‘I could have studied abroad anywhere else and I chose here,’” says Hannah Schlueter, senior in global resource systems, “and then you go and see these little kids and you see the smiles on their faces and the food in their hands, and you know that we played a part in that, and I think that’s just really special.”
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth Garzon, an ISU senior in global resource systems, and Tom Brumm, an ISU professor and faculty leader for the CSRL student service learning program, are hard at work planting sweet potatoes in a school garden. The tool of choice – for all agricultural activities, Tom says – is an African hoe. “I’ll probably cry when this field is done,” Elizabeth says.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: After the school day end, school children often work in the school garden. “I think the school gardens are amazing,” says Shana Hilgerson, an ISU junior in animal science, “because when we get the pupils out there to be involved, they’re running back and forth hauling water and they’re smiling and they’re happy and they’re just so excited to be out there working with us.” Here, Allie Wilson photographs a group of children with her cell phone.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Residents of Uganda’s Kamuli District walk along a hilly dirt road.
Local staff and volunteers of the Iowa State University Uganda Program (ISU-UP) often travel by bicycle.
Laura Byaruhanga, community nutrition specialist, and Yvette Nikuze visit with Kitimbo Saabi. His home served as the first nutrition center in the area, started in 2010. He and his wife, Jane, often host more than 50 people at their home for four hours a day, with assistance from ISU-UP staff.
A parent-teacher meeting at Nakanyonyi Primary School gives the staff and faculty of ISU’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods an opportunity to discuss the school lunch program and other issues with parents and teachers in the district.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A young woman on the road in rural Uganda.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Aisha Kawudha received goats through the ISU-UP livestock program in 2010. She sells goats to get money for school fees and household supplies. Aisha has 10 children and several grandchildren.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Sanula Nakisige shows off her poultry enclosure. Sanula’s son was severely malnourished before she learned about proper nutrition through the ISU-UP’s Nutrition Education Center. She now trains other mothers, teaching them about nutrition, agriculture, and sanitation.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Small-holder farmer Paul Baabi stands in a soybean field.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: A young pig in the garden.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Gail Nonnecke, ISU Morrill Professor, Global Professor in Global Resource Systems, and an associate director for the CSRL, addresses a group of student service learners from Iowa State and Makerere University one evening last summer, along with a few ISU-UP professionals, at the compound facility in Uganda’s Kamuli District. A new residential training center is currently under construction; when completed, it will relieve the overcrowding at the current site and serve as a year-round community training and demonstration center.
Gloria Ishimwe, a Makerere University student, talks to Tom Brumm, an ISU professor and faculty leader for the student service learning program in Uganda, before heading out to work in a school garden.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Eria, a Makerere University student explains the construction of live fences, his bi-national project at Namasagali Primary School.
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: The streets of rural Kamuli District.
All of these photos were taken by VISIONS photographer Jim Heemstra. Here he is with a group of school children at Nakanyonyi Primary School. The kids loved Jim, with his white hair, white beard, and ever-present camera equipment.

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