February in Uganda – hot, hot, hot!

I left a very cold Scotland on Friday 1 February, bound for our annual Uphill Trust visit to the small primary school we support in rural western Uganda. The three Scottish-based trustees completed their journey without any problems, but the fourth member of our party was snowed in at Bristol airport and arrived two days later, requiring a mad dash back to Entebbe from Fort Portal (6 hours drive each way) to collect our young travelling companion.

Whilst that was going on, I took the opportunity to re-visit the Tooro Botanical Gardens in Fort Portal, for a guided tour with Field Manager, Andrew.

Andrew has a great deal of knowledge about native plants, fruits and vegetables that grow well in Uganda and medicinal herbs that can be used to prevent malaria and all sorts of other ailments and we immediately booked him to come along to visit the school site to help with the planning of the new school garden that will form part of the Uphill School Farm Project. These were some of the highlights of this visit to the Tooro Botanics:

This unassuming shrubby plant is Stevia – the sugar plant. One leaf in a cup of tea is all it takes!

Papaya fruits growing on a year-old 1.2m tall plant – one plant will provide up to 50 plants over the course of a year. Definitely one for the Uphill school garden!

Arabica coffee cherries ripening on a 2m high shrub – many small farmers grow coffee cherries and sell them to local co-operatives for further processing.

Artemisia (wormwood) drying in the sun before being made into Artemisia herbal tea – a local remedy for the prevention and treatment of malaria. As I can’t tolerate pharmaceutical anti-malarials, I will be trying this on my next trip to Uganda.

The plant nursery is an important income source for the botanical gardens, providing indigenous trees and shrubs, as well as ornamentals. Some of the plants on sale were very familiar…

Back at the school, we were delighted to see the progress with the school buildings – we are paying for the construction of the school, amongst other projects. A new set of latrines will be finished by the end of February and four more classrooms will be built this year, completing the primary school. We can’t wait to get all the children out of the temporary wooden classrooms and into a cleaner, brighter learning environment.

With the final arrival of the fourth member of our party, we could begin a new venture for the children of Uphill Junior School – and introduction to Shotokan Karate (and I got to ride the school boda motorcycle!)

With the temperature over 30 C and the sun blazing – each karate lesson was restricted to half an hour. Phew, it really was hot, hot hot!

It was another brilliant trip and we have come home with another raft of project ideas and fundraising needs. But first, it’s back to Garden Design and the imminent start of the planting season…

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