On the train again- I’m actually turning into one of those people using a lap-top at sixty miles an hour through the Leicestershire countryside. Oh dear. But the day is set fair for an expedition- through Waterloo Station down to Basingstoke to visit the friend whom I met in Karamojo, Uganda in 2009. Very gutsy person- retired nurse who has just been over there again for four months.
I am going for an update and to see how /if I can help organise something for the street children from the North who are living on the streets in Kampala.
Penny is also an enthusiastic promoter of veg gardening for health and vits. – the Karamojong don’t have a gardening tradition. In that huge country you have to almost create your own soil if you want to grow crops. Thorn bushes and cattle are the traditional landscape. But they are slowly having to change or face starvation. The Ugandan government has been stopping the Karamajong from keeping cattle, claiming it caused rustling and violenc,e so the old warriors were left without their traditional culture and livelihoods. One development “intervention” was to encourage them in rabbits keeping instead! I remember an old man walking into camp and initially being appalled that he should be expected to turn from great horned cattle to bunnies. But times were desperate and the drought was a killer anyway. He came back a few days later and said, “Hmm, well tell me a bit more about these rabbits . . . “ (obviously, in Karamojo language! )
It is a story which has an affinity with one from Chatsworth. The stud farm for Shire Horses in the early 1950s had more than fifty magnificent shire horses and a wonderful reputation. All of them were slaughtered in one go, when the estate farms turned to tractors. The stud farm was closed, and in a later reincarnation is now a farm shop and restaurant. The stud manager was obviously devastated. DDDof D told me she talked to him and said, “I’m really keen on starting a Shetland pony stud.- Could you manage that for me?” You can imagine the reaction, but later he came, and said, “Hmm, well tell me a bit more about this Shetland pony idea. . . “ An animal is an animal after all, and a stockman is always a stockman. Before long, the Chatsworth Shetlands were winning prizes in the big shows across the country.
But oh, what a loss of those wonderful great horses! I have a photo of my grandfather harrowing a field in Somerset in about 1902 behind two of them. He would have been about thirteen at the time.
One of Penny’s initiatives was to pay children a penny if they found her a termite queen, and she soon had a thriving business. Termites destroy the people’s little huts and grain stores at an alarming rate, and also devastated the cassava crops. The queens, roasted like shrimp, also provided much needed protein for the semi-starved children. The little children dug into the termite mounds with their mattocks and produced thousands, despite the ferocity of the insects’ responses on their bare feet. Okello and the other workers promoting the farm site reported a significant decline in the pest attacks and termite cities built on the cassava fields.
Penny grew tomatoes, greens, and beans under structured shade canopies and the camp workers would water them at dawn before the heat came up. As all the water had to be hand-pumped up and carried a hundred yards or more, this needed some persuasion, but the resulting crops were worth it. UK farmers don’t know the half of the struggle. She was also very involved in promoting artemesia as a malaria medicine. Malaria is a terrible killer of children in Africa. The local people had great enthusiasm for trees and tree planting. The tree nursery at Irere inspires me still.