John took us to three village information centers, one of which was supported by the GROW team last year, the Kidoko Village Information Center which is directed by a man named Paul. The GROW team last year installed a solar panel at the VIC in Kidoko which has been incredibly successful. The solar panel has drastically increased the viability of the center in the local community (which according to Paul serves between 10,000-15,000 households) as members visit the centers daily to see the daily crop prices and charge their cell phones. One of the many NGOs that Paul is partnered with is Agrinet, which accumulates crop data and formulates it into indexes, which it sends to Paul via mobile phone. Paul then posts the prices of the crops (groundnuts, maize, cassava, millet, rice, soya, sugarcane, and others) on the board outside the VIC. At around 4PM each day, the farmers congregate to buy and sell their crop. Health NGOs such as Plan-Uganda, Taso, and Theta as well as the government health ministry run programs at the VICs, seizing on the large numbers of community members that frequent the centers daily.

Services provided include education on family planning, nutrition, sanitation, HIV/AIDS, and neglected tropical diseases, medical care, vaccinations, and health discussions. Paul is the focal point for monitoring the community members that are receiving treatment and vaccinations, providing data and information for the local health NGOs mentioned. We visited two other centers that Paul has started in two local communities which are not as developed, but are promising. Two of the leaders at the Merikit VIC were ready to expand their outreach programs, with a focus on delivering health care information to as many members of their community as possible. All the VICs still maintain a basic principle as agricultural information centers, for all community members are linked to agriculture either through their own small shareholder farms, buying crops for their family, or as traders. With this basic reality, the community is widely mobilized, allowing VIC leaders to coordinate with health NGOs to effectively educate, treat and vaccinate a significant percentage of the community. Paul and other VIC leaders (Vincent, Charles, and Pius) all reiterated the drastic improvement the VICs have had in improving the health of their communities.

We are planning on visiting the final 8 VICs in Tororo on Monday and Tuesday. After which we will meet with John as a team and, then, with the VIC directors, develop a targeted project for the remaining time we are here, and how we will spent the money GlobeMed raised this year. We have a number of promising ideas, but we want to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment first to ensure what we decide to do is the most sustainable and effective project. We are looking forward to catching up on sleep this weekend, hiking Tororo Rock, going to a church service Sunday, and watching the UEFA Cup Final –

We were deeply pleased by a number of random horticultural gifts bestowed upon us by Paul, pineapples, mangos, and avocados. We bought a knife, bathmat, a large water jug, a metal pot, plates and forks, and dish soap – all of which we struggled to carry home on bodas but managed quite well – we were shocked at their ability to navigate the muddy roads, though some of us were sprayed comprehensively by mud. We have been without water but it has not dampened our spirits, as we are planning on watching a movie in the larger cottage tonight all together, eating our Indian inspired lunches and chippati (millet bread).

Loving you all from our somewhat grimy beds,
GROW 2011.