How one Gardener Hopes to Influence a Community

By Rachel Simmet, Communications and Social Media Coordinator

Kato is a common name in the Buganda kingdom, as it is a name you must give to a youngest twin if they are a male. “There were eight Katos in my primary class.” Kato remarks, along with several that live in Nsasi village, where our gardener grew up and where the Birth House is located today. “So what do they call you?” I ask. “They call me Shanti Kato,” he says with a laugh.

It’s not hard to see why Kato is so tied with Shanti, having been there since the Birth House was being built and maintaining a position on staff as our groundskeeper after the construction was completed. Kato is also always one of the first to welcome new interns with a smile and ask, “How is the going?” “Have you tasted the local foods yet?”

This year, Kato’s role has changed with the expansion of our demonstration garden and increased number of workshops. This meant additional training in permaculture techniques which he learned with his recent completion of a two week long permaculture design course. Permaculture uses naturally occurring structures in the ecosystem and works with them in a holistic way. As Kato explains, “There is no waste. Everything you have to use it.”

He now has experience and knowledge in many aspects of gardening including how to make box gardens, mulching, the proper use of herbal plants, and how to make organic pesticides. All of which he plans to teach the community in his upcoming workshops. Kato has already begun making small box gardens at the Birth House to demonstrate to our participants how to grow food in a small space,“Everybody has to have a small garden, even if you are renting.” The ultimate goal of all our workshops is to teach mothers and community members how to properly diversify their diets and include plants that contain all the essential nutrients for pregnancy.

Shanti has also recently acquired two acres of land next to the existing Birth House which Kato has many ideas for. He has already planted staple foods including cassava, matooke (green bananas), beans, and other foods that all take different lengths of time to grow.  Growing a variety of foods is one of the easiest permaculture techniques to integrate with current planting practices, since the basic ideas is that if you are constantly growing crops you will maintain a proper yield and always have something to eat.

Kato’s outgoing presence in the village means the community has already shown interest in the information he has learned. He has identified the local plants that can be used as natural pesticides which many community members previously didn’t know about. Kato remembers when his grandmother used to do mulching for her garden, a skill he learned during his course and also noted how many elderly people in the community refuse to use chemical pesticides. He says the younger generation has forgotten about the more natural way to treat the land because they don’t talk to their elders. It is Kato’s hope that by teaching his permaculture knowledge to the community they will regain some of the wisdom that has been forgotten so that the future generation can benefit from this more sustainable way of treating the land.

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