He smiled and waved off the question, as if that information was insignificant to the overall goal of escape. So I sat back… and waited.
Once we were out of the city, traffic cleared considerably and our main worry (outside of road conditions, that is) was passing by slower vehicles and trying not to knock down boda-bodas (motorcycles) that popped up out of nowhere like deterrents in a video game. Occasionally, our road to Masaka was nothing more than a broken down, dirt and gravel mess. I swear I had a layer of dust on every part of my body, since I was in the back seat and Ugandans refuse to drive with the windows up. Michelle grinned at me from her position next to me, seemingly unworried at the filth we were accumulating. Our mutual lack of concern is one of the many reasons I love her.
As it was on the way to the safari the week prior, the further we traveled outside of the city, the more I loved it. The road was a different one from our earlier travels, and brought new scenery. There was more agriculture than open land, although valleys smiled wide at us as well. My favorite was the fields of banana trees. Those huge leaves blew so carefree and happy in the wind, and the maze they created just begged me to come and explore!
The buildings became sparse as we traveled. Instead of row after row of shacks and fruit stands, huts and homes, or business blocks, it was more like a field of corn or banana trees with a few buildings peeking through the crops. Maybe they were the homes of those who owned the land? Maybe a place for workers to rest or a shed for storing supplies? I had no idea, but I wondered plenty at all the possibilities.
I also loved the sections of land that popped up sporadically that resembled more the jungle. The trees in these sections were taller, towering, almost teetering in height. Draped across the thick branches were blankets of vines and something I thought might be ivy… but I was sure to be wrong. I would daydream about the adventures I long to have in the jungle. In them, I always have a native guide and a spear, traversing the unknown wild.
Before too long, however, excitement brought me back to reality and the fact that I was heading to the farm! With every rotation of the tires, we were brought closer to the goal that had been simmering for months. Countless amounts of energy had been expended for this day, so distraction was a short-lived mistress.
To elaborate, my best friend Michelle and I had spent the last year using every extra moment, every ounce of elective effort, and a considerable amount of money fundraising to build a piggery as part of a model farm in Uganda. The farm was a place not only to train people, but also to be a source of income and food for the villagers. As the catalyst to changing so many lives, we were overjoyed to be able to travel there and see it first hand.
After about 3 hours, we rolled into Masaka district, where the farm is located. There is a larger town of about 500,000 called Masaka town, but Peter’s land is further off into real farmland. The smells faded from exhaust and pollution (I often wonder how long it took my body to dispel the massive amounts of toxins I must have breathed in) to the sweetness of crops and earth. The air practically dripped with the freshness of growth, and I loved it!
We turned onto a narrow road from a little village town. Peter looked to us and said, “Only about 5 kilometers, my friends.” All three of us held our breath.
Out here, this far, there is no trace of electricity. No lines, no poles, and no sign of it any time soon. The headlights of the car reflected off of small houses boasting the flicker of a candle or the glow of a lantern. I wondered what it would be like to be in darkness when the sun goes down, at the mercy of the burning star. There, you learn to rise and fall with the sun.
The darkness meant we had to wait until the next day to explore. Once at the farm the next day, Peter started in right away with the tour. And thankfully, the piggery – our piggery – was the first stop. I could hardly contain myself as we walked to the cleverly constructed pens. The floors were lined with beautiful stones, kept relatively clean by the tidy animals. The walls and doors looked almost like driftwood, but were woven so tightly and expertly that I doubt anything could crash through them.
The pigs were HUGE! One big massive male, dozens of slightly less massive females, and a few new litters of tiny little squealers playing around or vying for food. They all had a fuzzy layer of hair and big flapping ears, with tiny eyes that trained on us as we approached. As we became more familiar, the grunts increased, the curiosity faded, and they went back to scrounging for food.
All I could do was stare in awe. These were the pigs we paid for. This was the piggery we bought with hard work and dedication, with countless hours of planning, preparation, and love. This was the project that, over time, will change the lives of thousands of people. We gave each other a hug and just chuckled in disbelief. We have done it, I remember thinking. We have really done it.
The piggery wasn’t even the most amazing thing about the farm. I could write a hundred pages on the projects Peter has created to fuel his people. Orange trees to pay for orphans to go to school, a mill for the community to grind their corn, a well that hundreds of people come to each day for clean water free of charge! There are beehives to cultivate honey, banana trees because they are always in demand, goats, chickens, cows, beans, potatoes, plans for a seed bank, and sugar cane. Everything is designed to give to the community, and to build them a better life.
Farmers borrow from him on structured plans, and after attending training classes to learn how to farm efficiently. This is true for all of his projects; you are only allowed to participate after completing training. There are even sewing machines for people to train on, then they are given the machine on the stipulation that they teach another 10 women to sew and get certified.
The list goes on and on and on and on. It is dizzying to think of the thousands of people influenced by Peter and his farm each day. His entire dream, passion, and goal, is to change the world around him. And it’s not just his world… it’s everyone’s world. Make life better, he says. But do it the right way, without cutting corners and without holding back. It’s so inspiring that I couldn’t even begin to describe it. He even took some donated money to build a community center for the village to gather in, and learn from him in.
The well was especially inspiring, as Peter requires nothing in return for its use. I saw the children lining up and filing away with the heavy burdens on their heads. Can you even imagine living life like that? Having to haul jerry cans across the village on your head, just to retrieve clean water? How desperately close we all are to oblivion, and how sad I felt at the things I am ignorant to because of convenience. As we wandered through the rows of corn, past stalks of sugar cane, plucking papayas as Peter instructed, and I couldn’t help but choke up.
We sat beneath the shade of a few trees and chatted as we ate sugar cane and oranges. We kept talking about Peter’s dreams of expansion, which were too many and too great to describe. We got on the subject of coffee, so the girls and I ended up buying Peter nearly 1,700 coffee trees, then spending the afternoon and next day planting them.
Each tree will produce about 1,000 seedlings in a few years. Each seedling will be given to a farmer who has completed Peter’s training program to take home and cultivate. Since coffee is always in demand, that farmer, with patience, will have an income to support his entire family.
1,000 families supported from one original tree. A tree that cost me about 20 cents. Mind blowing. That means that someday, those trees have potential to reach millions. To make even a slight difference in the lives of millions of people is a privilege I can never comprehend fully. Even if only half of them, one quarter of them, a fraction, stick to their training and change their lives, we have changed the world. Be it ever so slightly.
We would be passing out about 40 piglets to group members to take home and begin the journey. Groups were formed of about 8 farmers, and one farmer from each received a male to service the rest of the group’s sows. They are to form a co-op, rely on each other, and help each other. Within a year, a business will be started that will launch them into the middle class. We’re talking – being able to pay for food, school, supplies, medicines, and savings. We’re talking about a new life.
The day we left to go back to Kampala, we finally got to pass out the pigs to the first wave of farmers to receive. Those farmers had already been trained and had been eagerly awaiting our arrival so that we could be a part of the first gift. I would say close to 100 people showed up for this humbling experience. Again, I cannot begin to describe it to you. Part of me doesn’t want to, and the other part doesn’t know how. I watched all of those people so eagerly breaking into groups and following Peter’s structure; so willing to change their lives.
When it came down to it, I handed that first farmer his piglet and I cried. I cried because every one of their eyes conveyed what their words could not translate to us; thank you. It was a thank you for caring, for being aware, for working to accomplish the goal, and most importantly, for changing their lives. An honor, for which I will never, ever, not one day in my life, be able to deserve.
The first farmer looked at me and smiled as he brokenly said, “We love you.”
I will never be the same.
If you ask me (Jo Wulffenstein) who I want to be, I’d say a woman of passion, adventure, culture and aspiration to be greater. If you ask me who I am, I’d say a woman on the path to obtaining those things. I grew up in a small town as a country cowgirl, and have since lived abroad, traveled the world, built farms, and influenced change. On the daily side, I work in tourism in Alaska, which happens to be my favorite place on earth. Age 30 comes for me this year, and I couldn’t be more ready!