Category Archives: Communities for Development

‘Thousands have lived without love, no one without water’

‘Thousands have lived without love, no one without water’
W. H. Auden.

I have recently been involved in a potential shallow well construction project. This came on the back of a UK donor visit in February this year and her assessment of the exsiting wells in the Bukhalu area (Eastern Uganda). It was discovered that the failure of constructing a borehole in Busukuya community a few years back has left the local people with a very limited access to water. A few months back the donor has contacted me with the great news of having money available to construct a new shallow well over there.

The work has been initially stalled by the rainy season, however we have now started the pre-construction work. This is the actually the most crucial part : ensuring community involvement from the very beginning. We held an introductory meeting together with the head of the project – Masindi Juma – local engineer from Muyembe, whereby we have informed the community about our plan. Full and enthusiastic involvement of the community in all phases of the water supply process including operation, maintenance and management is the key to a long-term sustainability and success.  We are now working on identification of the possible location of the shallow well, which involves work of a local district water engineer. I am hopeful we can start the construction phase in the next few weeks.

While it’s the first of such type of projects for me, being involved only with micro-finance and community work previously, I have been thinking about water a lot recently. The world is still not fully aware of the water crisis many of these countries face as a result of climate change. The scarcity of water can lead to conflicts between communities and countries (already present in India, for example).

Worldwide, sourcing of water is rising faster than the growth in the world’s population. The rise is not just due to higher human consumption of water but is also the result of an increased supply and expansion of existing economic activities. One example is the rising demand of animal protein which is highly water intensive. Food insecurity will likely lead to social unrest, as has been the case in the past.

Speaking to communities in Bulambuli – Nabbongo, Simu, Bukhalu and Muyembe in particular – frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of river and expanding population mean sever water shortage and poverty since the crops here depend in 100% on the rain water. Our work is to make them aware of these problems and encourage them to rely more on animal rearing and conduct skill trainings to make them less dependant on farming to sustain the families. If we are to end hunger in Africa by 2025 we need to encourage farmers to move away from cash crops and fragile cropping systems and to adopt sustainable and climate-resilient practices. Apart of moving more to rearing, we could also advocate the mitigation of climate change impact through the use natural systems such as drought-resistant varieties of crops, inter-cropping,more crops variety and more efficient methods of water storage. 

Below – assessment of local water sources in Busukuya village, Bulambuli district, Eastern Uganda.

 

 

The dairy of the dairy cows…

I am happy to announce that Communities for Development has started rolling out its first income generating activity in Bulambuli district. Dairy cattle for milk production & selling has been selected as the IGA by the Buwebele Savings and Loan Association group after training and careful evaluation of the business plan. The micro-enterprise has 30 members split into 15 pairs looking after one cross breed cow. The cross breed (exotic) cows constitute less than 20% of the cattle population, yet they produce up to 75% more milk then the indigenous cows. Each pair has raised an adequate structure for the cow as advised and supervised by the veterinary officer in the district. This includes sheltered space as well as exercise room of minimum length and width specifications with separate compartments for treatment, feeding, milking and relaxing. Based on the budget prepared, Communities for Development have contributed a grant of 60% of the total start up costs while the group contributed the remaining 40% out of their savings pot. Members of Bwelebele Group are now a happy lot –  all 15 exotic cows have been purchased. Crucially, before receiving the cattle all members underwent a 2-day training with both, the veterinary officer as well as business woman, selling milk from the nearby village. This was a very important step in creation of the IGA as only by careful and adequate care of the cattle one can maximize the milk production and henceforth the income. The vet training covered the best types of feeds for the cattle, sanitation and hygiene on the milk side, insemination methods and pest and diseases prevention and treatment. The business side of selling milk included topics such as the importance of correct transportation of the milk, boiling and storage.

The next step is to open up a small shop in the village town where members of the group will be selling boiled and raw milk to local people and suppliers of restaurants. The profits made will be split equally between 30 members, excluding running costs of the enterprise. Additionally, 5 pairs whose cows produce the highest amount of milk will receive an additional income as a reward and incentive for others to look after the cows well. We’re working closely with the group to provide them with necessary tools and mechanisms to avoid conflict and ensure the accountability of the business takes places daily and is correct. This include further conflict resolution training and on-going monitoring of the IGA. The cows will also undergo a yearly insemination in order to produce an offspring to be used to extend the program in time or for extra profits in difficult times.

The group will also be helping out to spread the awareness of milk as an important nutritional element in children and adult’s diet as well as boiling the milk which is crucial for consumption in order to prevent diseases and fast detoriation.  This will be done by a short performances done by the local drama group, verbal advice given in the shop and workshops held together with the sub-county health officers.

It’s a very important and happy moment in Buwebele community as the members will not only gain extra income but also work together as a group to improve the livelihood of the whole community. 

‘Planet 50-50 by 2030‘- International Women’s Day

8th of March marked the International Women’s day and I’d like to tell all young women around the world to remember: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ as Eleanor Roosevelt said. Throughout history, women have made extraordinary contributions to their societies. Some are well known, some less so but there’s no doubt that in light of the UN goal of becoming ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ we still have a long way to go even in the 1st world countries. For far too many women the ability to lead a healthy life without violence and hunger remains a distant aspiration.

Uganda has taken many steps forward in promoting and safe guarding the rights and dignity of women. Yet the gender position is often considered inferior to men. The reasons are countless: customary practices contradicting law against discrimination, deeply rooted patriarchal traditions and poverty – to name just a few.

Let’s start with the good bit: progress has been achieved in the past decades in many areas. Fewer women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth. The access to prenatal health and family planning has improved. The African goal for 100% enrolment of kids in primary schools paved the way for many girls to access education. This has positive implications for other aspects of their lives and is, in fact, good for all of us, men included. Educated women and girls can make informed decisions about their lives.

Yet certain traditional customs amongst Ugandans contradict the country’s laws against sexual and domestic violence. Enforcement of the laws is haphazard and the inherent patriarchal traditions are abiding. Even though many recent laws were enacted to curb domestic violence, it has helped very little to change women’s state of affairs. The poorer the household the higher probability of domestic violence. Estimates vary but as high as 50% of Ugandan women have endured domestic violence at the hands of their partners.

Life of women in Africa is tough. They get married young, often at the age of 14,15, despite the legal age set to 18. After marriage, they immediately start ‘producing’ children. All of the daily chores are typically done by women, sometimes with help from children. In addition to cooking and laundry they also work in the gardens and fetch water often from far away. Most of them did not complete secondary school and lack vocational skills that would open up more opportunities to them. ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ established a series of strategic goals to achieve gender equality, which were summarized in twelve critical areas – including education and training of women. Women need more vocational training and help in establishing micro-enterprises which would in turn empower them and encourage to save. At Communities for Development around 80% of the saving group members are women. They are working hard to improve their household financials and providing their children with a brighter future.

To achieve ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ – world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030, there’s plenty to be done. From political and regulatory framework through education of boys and girls to worldwide support for the most vulnerable women and girls. Above all of that I’d like to encourage all women to not make themselves feel inferior but to have courage and fight for a more equal world.

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3-month milestone!

Hard to believe but I’ve been now in Uganda for 3 months! Not even half a year ago I was sitting in my London office desperately wanting to go out there to help people and get out of the rainy city I’ve spent my last 8 years. Time flew by when you doing what you love. Those 3 months were wonderful yet challenging. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the type of work is what I want to do – marrying up travel with doing good to people and communities. It’s incredibly fascinating to live in an African village and watch the community grow and benefit from your work. How did I overcome some of the difficulties?

  • Chill out! Uganda and in fact the whole Africa doesn’t perceive time in the same way we, Westerners do. Time for us is more of a linear concept, a road with clear marks of past, present and future. Africans don’t regard future as time. It’s a ‘no-time’ hence the concept of time itself is more liquid and fluid. In Africa people tend to value other things like interpersonal relations more than time. Unless there is a strong drive for time management, everything in Africa will always be behind schedule. Being quite a punctual person this one definitely has taken me the longest to get used to! Typically, am the muzungu arguing with the matatu driver who told me ‘sister the vehicle is leaving now’ (and it’s obviously not).
  • Food. Glorious food. I have written a post on it here. I love it but had to break up with cheese! Sigh.
  • Muzungu… how are you? I heard that probably 100 times every day and I won’t lie – in the beginning it could annoy me especially when you are trying to talk with your companion! I got used to it now 🙂
  • Things just take time… this is truth for doing a simple bank transaction to something basic like a greeting. You stop, you smile, you exchange a series of questions: how are you? How’s your wife? And kids? And neighbours? How’s your mother and father? How are things in your end? And it goes on and on…
  • It was incredibly hard to see poverty both in the village and in town for the first time.

I am excited for the next 3 months ahead and loving my Ugandan life!

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Current state of affairs in Bulambuli

I’m surely busy! The season has changed from rainy to dry and for the next 2 months I’ll be working in the shade as the sun can be really ruthless. On the savings group side, we’re focusing this month on delivering the first two out of four refreshment trainings on micro-savings to our existing groups and start to form a new group by the end of the January following needs assessment. On the income generating activity side, Busabulo A Saving Group is progressing nicely upon finishing training and we’ll be delivering the full training for the second group, Buwebele, next week.

Income generating activity, abbreviated to IGA, covers initiatives as diverse as cooperative undertakings, jobs creation, tailoring circles, youth training groups and small business promotion. The initiatives are aimed to improve economic aspects of people’s lives through developing new skills. In third world countries people are pushed to find new way of generating income as regular wage-earning jobs are hard to find. To millions of people, activities like breeding chicken, selling vegetables at the market, or producing shawls are the income-generating activity which ensures the household its most essential cash income.

It’s because of this importance, I focus heavily on training and execution of the right IGAs for our communities. As mentioned already the process can be challenging and has a lot of moving parts: from the right training, application of the knowledge to business plan writing to assessment of the market, seeking out agriculture experts for advise and finally execution. I also put an emphasis on the sustainability of IGAs – only when community members have saved a significant amount of capital, we start helping them to develop the micro-enterprise plan. This ensures that the group inputs their own funds into the business which increases the sense of responsibility and accountability. By using this bottom down approach and encouragement to invest their own means into it, I am confident we can not only succeed in Bulambuli but also in Africa in lifting it out of poverty.

Below a few shots from this month: lunch out with Joyce – our new volunteer, new savings group Tubana on the top right and delivering the refreshment training bottom right.

Mzungu how are you? My first 2 weeks in Uganda

Mulembe! In Lugisu, the local language spoken east of Mbale, it means hello. I’ve been in Uganda now for almost 2 weeks. With limited internet and full on training with two trustees who came with me, I wasn’t able to post much. A lot has happened that I don’t even know where to start… so mzungu how are you?

Overwhelmed but ready to roll my sleeves up! There’s a lot of work to be done in the communities we work in and in the new ones we’re planning to expand into. I’m coordinating 3 projects which are also the key pillars of the NGO, Communities for Development: saving groups, IGAs (income generating activities) and feasibility research for a social project. We kicked off formations of 2 new groups already (out of 4) in villages around Buyaga. I’d like to be able to conduct two saving group trainings before Xmas which is only 3 weeks away. We’re also planning to run in parallel the income generating activities training, and currently we’re in discussions with a friend of contact in Mbale– a consultant currently working on a research with University of East Anglia. Finally, there’s a lot to be done in terms of local staff training, opening bank account for people, more workshops and the list goes on.

In awe of beauty of rural Uganda. Uganda is green and fertile, mountainous and full of majestic rivers. The color of the soil is beautiful, from bright red to almost black and the bio-diversity is incredible. People smile with their eyes and their happiness, despite many hardships, is truly remarkable. Behind people’s optimism lies horrors of the dark past though, in particular, the deeds of most infamous dictator in Uganda, Idi Amin.

Happy – it’s contagious here! Ugandans are genuinely happy. The country is safe (or at least most of it), people play music everywhere you go (upbeat African drums!), everyone is chilled out and welcome you to talk to them even if you don’t speak the local language. They’re also very community-orientated they look after each other and each other’s children and the family is not just the immediate one, it’s also extended family with whom they quite often live under one roof.

Thoughtful. Poverty is visible. Communities need basic infrastructure, basic sanitation and improved health care. Around 80% of Uganda is rural and around half of that are smallholder farmers living below the national rural poverty line. The challenges are countless: climate change, variability of rain, lack of access to roads for transportation, lack of health care, kids labor and more…

Sometimes out of my comfort zone… – have you ever tried shower without running water and shower head? Have you ever tried washing dishes without a sink in the kitchen and running water? Seen a snake right outside your house? Been eaten alive by mosquitos? 🙂

*mzungu – white person

Please help people in Bulambuli by donating here:

https://www.justgiving.com/Marta-Zgodzinska/

This money will be going into the communities and there’s so much to be done…Thank you!