Piggy Power

The power of a single piglet is greater than one might imagine. A piggy can provide for a single person or it can empower an entire village. The story of two piglets has impressed me in such a way that I simply must share the story with you.

In 2003, Christian pastor and veterinarian Joseph Olowo from the Ugandan village of Mbarara accepted an invitation from some folks in the village of Karungu, a very bumpy 2 hour drive (in a car) from Mbarara, to come speak to them about the Bible. That was the first of many visits Joseph has made to the mountain-top village of Karungu since then.

I do not know the history of the people of Karungu but I have been there and can tell you they lead an unbelievably simple life. They have very little in the way of earthly possessions and what they do have they mostly make themselves from the land they live on. Basic shelters are constructed from bricks formed from the dark red clay-like soil beneath their feet. Small stick and mud enclosures are used to create kitchens whereby crops such as bananas are steamed and mashed into common dishes like mitoke (yes, I did try mitoke!). These people literally live off the land. If they cannot make it or grow it, they probably do not have it.

The view from Karungu mountain is breathtaking, with rolling hills in every direction, dotted with farms growing such crops as bananas, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tea, and more. The land in these parts is extremely fertile. It is believed by some that Uganda itself, as small as it is, could grow enough food to feed all of Africa. Many places in Uganda, Karungu included, enjoy 3 growing seasons per year. These people are literally standing on a goldmine of crop potential! And yet, Uganda realizes very little in the way of exportation of crops. My business-minded brain cannot comprehend this loss of opportunity! I can’t help but want to fix the obstacles that stand in the way and turn potential into reality. There are many reasons why this isn’t being maximized, each of which would require at least one separate blog post of its own.

One obstacle that stands in the way is empowerment – empowerment comes with knowledge. Teaching the people in Karungu and other like villages scattered throughout this great country how to manage their resources in such a way that they not only provide for the folks living in the village but they also utilize these resources to generate more goods that can then be shared with others is a vital step in the empowerment process. This is where Joseph and Call to Africa come in.

In 2012, Joseph brought Ken Galyean, founder of Call to Africa mission organization, and his wife Renate to the village of Karungu where they presented two piglets to some widows there. Incidently, Ken and Renate were the first mzungus (white people) to ever set foot in the village. The piglets were provided by donations to Call to Africa for this specific purpose. The goal: empowerment through piglets. So simple, yet so ingenious!

Upon presentation of the pigs, Joseph and other Call to Africa team members worked with the people of Karungu to produce more pigs out of the original two, whereby they gave back one of the newly produced piglets to Call to Africa for gifting to yet another village where the same process was started again. Management of resources was taught along the way, empowering the people there with a source of revenue that could be regenerated, shared, and grown over time. Empowering a village through pigs.

When we presented the two in-calf cows to the village last week, it was the beginning of the same self-sustainment/empowerment process, only this time with cows instead of pigs. In a few months’ time, when the cows deliver calves and they are weaned and old enough to travel, one heifer will be cared for until it can then be gifted to needy folks in another village somewhere in Uganda. Along the way, milk will be provided as a source of nourishment as well as provide extra milk to sell, thus generating revenue to be invested in other ways to meet various needs.

Another valuable instruction that Joseph will provide is teaching the people how to turn cow manure, a never ending resource when one owns a cow or two, into bio gas that can then be used to create power for both cooking and lighting purposes. This way the kids can continue to do their much-needed studies even after the sun goes down. Without bio gas production, the villagers have to purchase candles as a means of providing light. Candles might be cheap, but they do cost money. Manure turned into bio gas turned into electricity is totally free! Joseph is bringing both light and LIGHT to many villages – yet another reason he needs that all-terrain boda boda!!

The money that has been generated through the pig project over the years has gone toward building a school, buying food, and purchasing land. Little by little, those two little piglets have empowered a village! And now there are two cows to help the process along even further, thanks to Call to Africa’s vision and the many, many people that stand behind it to offer time, money, and other valuable resources.

This trip has changed my life! I am excited about the work we have been so honored to be a very small part of over the past 2 weeks! What a blessing it has been to me! We are well on our way to getting that boda boda for Joseph, thanks to my friends and family that have been so very generous. To you I say, “Thank you!” You are truly helping to make a difference in the country of Uganda, a place filled with amazing landscapes, kind and beautiful people, and so many giving hearts.

The cover image above was taken just as we were leaving Karungu. Joseph got out to buy some sweet bananas being sold at a roadside stand since none of us had eaten most of the day. (I have no idea who actually comes by to purchase produce from this stand as it is literally at the end of a remote mountain road!) You can see Joseph in the background buying the bananas. This family was walking by, staring at me since I am a mzungu (blond hair and blue eyes make it even more of a novelty!). The kids were laughing and calling “Mzungu! Mzungu!” I could see that the woman was intrigued by the camera around my neck. Using pantomime motions, I asked if they would like their photo taken. The man and woman posed rigid and serious after I arranged them into place. The little guy in front bopped around, full of excitement and curiosity. After I took this photo I showed it to them via the camera’s viewfinder screen. They were so delighted! I waved goodbye, leaving them laughing and chattering in their native tongue, as Joseph returned with several bundles of delicious bananas in hand. We jumped back into the van, kicking up a cloud of red dust in our wake as we drove downward, away from Karungu. Maybe one day I will see these people again. Wouldn’t it be fun to bring them a print of their photo?! 

To view my top picks from the Uganda trip, check out the album here. Photos can be downloaded and shared by using PIN code 4618. Please feel free to share individual photos or the entire album. The more people learn about Call to Africa and the country of Uganda, the greater the reach!

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