Ugandan Students Experience ISU Service Learning Program

By Kayla Greiner

Two students from Uganda learned agricultural practices and entrepreneurial skills at Iowa State this fall as part of a program with the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods and Uganda’s Makerere University.

George Kiwanuka and Moureen Mbeiza

George Kiwanuka is from central Uganda, a fishing community of about 600 people with high rates of illiteracy, HIV/AIDS and poverty. Moureen Mbeiza comes from a farm in the Luuka district of eastern Uganda. The district is home to about 25,000 people, who depend on agriculture as the sole source of food and income. They grow a diversity of crops and raise a little livestock and poultry under subsistence farming.

They both studied at Makerere University’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in Uganda where Kiwanuka earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and rural innovations and Mbeiza earned a bachelor’s degree in land use management.

In 2012, they interned with the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihood (CSRL) through its service learning project operating in Kamuli district of eastern Uganda. This field training was a requirement as part of their studies at Makerere University.

In 2013, they were selected for a CSRL service learning project to attend agricultural business classes with a focus on entrepreneurship. They have participated in various activities including entrepreneurship roundtable discussions, farm visits, seminars and presentations to organizations and middle and high schools.

In October, they attended the World Food Prize celebration in Des Moines and agreed it was a valuable experience. 

Mbeiza’s favorite part was discovering the knowledge, innovations and technology available to overcome the food shortage and hunger problems. Kiwanuka said he enjoyed hearing the inspirational talks about recycling waste products and raising fruits and vegetables organically. They both enjoyed the opportunity to meet and interact with professionals from other countries.

Plans include grad school, farming

Kiwanuka and Mbeiza have learned new skills including ways to start a business, farm management practices, soil management practices and how best to use new technologies, and are excited to take the information back to Uganda. They plan to share what they have learned with community members and various agricultural groups.

“I want to set up my own farm to grow carrots, tomatoes and bananas and transfer my knowledge obtained at Iowa State to be a model farmer.” Mbeiza said.

“I plan to continue to read about different concepts in agriculture and entrepreneurship and share this knowledge to members in my community.” Kiwanuka said.

They have enjoyed their time as participants of the program and appreciated the support of the center. Both said they have seen the positive impacts that CSRL has provided for the people of Uganda especially passing on the knowledge and skills of modern agriculture.

“CSRL has given opportunities to Ugandans like me to come to the USA and get exposed to how things are done differently and make lifelong friends,” Kiwanuka said.

“CSRL has greatly contributed to reducing hunger, poverty, malnutrition cases and the illiteracy level resulting from the knowledge, skills, materials and the creation of a nutrition education center they provide to the people in the communities of Namasagali and Butansi,” Mbeiza said.

“The Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods is very pleased to support the ongoing efforts within the College of Agriculture and Life Science to promote cross-cultural experiences between ISU and Makerere University students. As with all students initiatives we support, we look forward to seeing Makerere students George and Moureen build upon their experiences as service learning interns to become leaders in their chosen professions. Their success is the very heart of our mission," said Mark Westgate, CSRL director.

Kiwanuka and Mbeiza returned to Uganda Nov. 18. They plan to apply to graduate schools to continue their education in agriculture.