In my last post, I mentioned that a guy named Linton was flying from Australia to help Watoto get started building a dam to hold irrigation water at the vegetable farm (Lubbe). Linton has built 4 dams before, and this is a great way for Watoto to keep moving toward self-sustainability with the ability to produce vegetables during the dry season.
Linton started with a topographical map of the farm and he got an engineer friend in Australia to come up with a plan, then after raising thousands of dollars overnight, Linton bought a plane ticket and flew to Uganda to build a dam. He arrived last Friday afternoon and found an excited Watoto Agriculture team waiting for him. Linton stayed at Randy and Judy’s house where I am staying, and I was practically his shadow for the last week.
On Saturday morning, we got started surveying and hammering wooden stakes into the ground to plan out this dam that will cover about 20 acres when it fills up. We used a laser level to find the lowest point on the farm and we staked out the embankment, the berm, the borrow pit, the standing water level, and the spillway. Most of the land where the dam will be is lying empty at the moment. There was rice planted on most of it a year ago, but the only plants harmed for this dam were in an unfortunate patch of Ntula (African eggplant) that happen to be growing right where the dam wall is being built.
The vegetable farm is surrounded by some hills and mountains. We needed to know just how large the catchment actually is for this dam, and to find that out Linton decided it was necessary to climb one of the mountains nearby. On Monday morning, a group of us set off up a mountain in our rubber boots we were wearing to walk through the swampland below.
There’s a reason there aren’t any fat people in Ugandan villages. That was hard work, but it was fun.
Watoto sent over their excavator, a bulldozer (Caterpillar D5), and a roller to start on this dam. The operators were Richard, Kasim (AKA Kim), and Busulwa (AKA Bus). It didn’t take long for the people in charge to realize that the D5 was not big enough and a second bulldozer was needed, so they hired Michael to come with his D7 and help move some dirt. Now it’s looking like a D8 will be on site soon as well! The machinery spent about as much time broken down as it did working for the first couple of days, but they have been working steadily now. Bus even let me drive the roller a little bit. ; )
It takes usually about an hour to get to the vegetable farm from Kampala in the morning, and about 2 hours to get back because of traffic and/or car trouble. Alex picked Linton and me up every morning and we would make the trip to the farm. Tuesday evening the car overheated and we stopped at a village well to get some water. Linton did the pumping, and he said it was a workout!
The whole process of dam building was entirely new to me. Linton and I shared many exchanges that went like this:
Me: Linton, can I ask a dumb question?
Linton: I love dumb questions!
Me: Oh, good! I’ll be your best friend.
When I think of irrigation, I think of a water well – a borehole. It doesn’t rain enough where I’m from to collect enough water for anything bigger than a houseplant, but Uganda has rainy seasons when it rains more than they can use at once and dry seasons when it is difficult to grow anything. (Even still, Uganda during the dry season is a lush, green, tropical oasis compared to dry and dusty west Texas.)
After the surveying was mostly finished, the machine operators got started moving dirt to make the embankment and creating the spillway where the water will be directed into a Eucalyptus forest if the dam should ever overflow. The dam wall will be 3 meters high and 3 meters wide at the top (that’s about 10 feet, for all you Americans) and about 24 meters wide at the base. Richard dug a trench with the excavator and filled it with clay to give the wall a strong core, and the bulldozers got busy pushing soil to build the wall. After a week’s work, they have mostly finished the spillway and about 50 meters of the wall’s length. There is a lot to do yet, but everyone was pleased with the progress.
After the guys finished work yesterday, Linton threw a thank-you party for them at the farm manager’s house. He bought meat and potatoes and sodas (those are Cokes, for all you Texans), and the farm manager’s wife happily cooked for everyone. Everyone was happy with the work that had been accomplished, as well as with the roasted beef and pork.
Linton left for Australia today. He has to get back and water his own crops from his 100-acre dam on his 1,000-acre vegetable farm, but he’ll be back to Uganda, and everyone knows it. The new irrigation ability from this dam will bless Watoto Agriculture for years to come, but I feel sure God has more plans for Linton and Watoto.