Some work and some play...

This is a post from my trip in 2012 where I spent 5 months in Bunambutye, Uganda. The purpose of this trip was to learn and understand about the development challenges facing these communities and other rural communities in Africa and to explore potential ways that we can support development here....

In the last month I have spent 2 weeks in Uganda and 2 weeks in Tanzania and I am now back in Uganda and ready to start work!!

The timing of my arrival in Uganda couldn’t have been better, In my first two weeks I was fortunate to be invited to attend some community consultation sessions in the local villages. The government have asked each Parish to discuss and establish their priority needs and to feed it back to them through their community development officer (Mary). Mary and the parish chief Robert have welcomed me as part of their team and included me fully in this process. During these initial consultations a wide range of issues were raised and discussed from the development of a road and improved infrastructure to increased numbers of boreholes, improvements to the health centre (which is very basic and underfunded but that’s another story!), more schools, improved agriculture and income generation. From all of this it was very hard to determine priority needs as there were evidently so many as this area has very limited service provision or intervention from government and NGO’S.

I have explained my role here as an observer at each of these sessions and also addressed the parents at the school’s AGM. I have been very well received and the communities seem enthusiastic and keen to work with me, it is evident that they want to be given the opportunity to reduce the poverty they experience and to be able to meet their basic needs.

I was in two minds about conducting a more thorough formal community consultation but after spending some time in the area have decided to go ahead with it. I feel it will give a much more detailed picture of life in the villages and will be a good resource in the future for applying for funding and for monitoring and evaluation. We will choose 20 families at random and will examine many issues through the standardised questionnaire including health, education, agriculture, water and sanitation and income generation. My initial view is that a holistic approach with attention given to each of these areas would be the best approach to tackling the development challenges in the community, however this will of course require large scale funding which we unfortunately do not have. A few other interventions which have used a holistic approach and have implemented an intense whole village approach are the Guardian’s Katine project and the United Nations Millenium Villages programme, both of these projects are a great source of inspiration and guidance.

I have already organised to meet with several organisations to discuss potential partnership work and have my first meeting tomorrow with ‘Send A Cow’. They are a large organisation who started in Uganda and now work in many countries in Africa. They aim to reduce poverty by helping people to grow enough food to eat, sell their produce and develop small businesses that last. They have a strong training element and have been very successful in their work. I will also meet with Jenga, a local community development organisation, Opportunity International, an organisation which offers financial services to people who would not traditionally be able to access them and the Ugandan Red Cross who offer a wide range of interverntions.

I will stay at the school whilst in Uganda and have already settled in well to life there. There is no electricity or running water so it is pretty different to home but I love it nevertheless. To prepare me for living in Bunambutye I have recruited some help off the children and teachers, they have been fantastic in giving me daily lessons in Lugisu (the local language) and also teaching me how to cook the local food (matooke, beans, chapatti) using a paraffin stove and how to hand wash my clothes and collect water from the borehole.

Thank-you to everyone who donated or raised money prior to me leaving the UK and to those who continue to give on a monthly basis. I could literally spend all of the money everyday but at the moment none of the money has been spent as I think it is important that it is spent on things which  have biggest and longest lasting impact and this will take a bit more time to determine!

For anyone who is interested in learning more about either Uganda or development and poverty reduction I have read two great books recently which I would recommend. The first is Muhammed Yunus, Banker to the Poor: The Story of the Grameen Bank which map’s the journey of microfinance, the giving of very small loans to enable people to set up business and work their way out of poverty . The second is the autobiography of Janet Museveni, the wife of the president of Uganda who has been involved with NGO’S and development for many years and gives a nice, clear, easy to read account both her life and the ongoing development of Uganda.

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