Sunday, 28 June 2009


I have stupidly left my camera lead back at Kireka, so no new pictures, so I thought I would just post a picture of Uganda, to refer to, and the famous crowned crane, which is protected here and which I snapped at the zoo at Entebbe.

On the map, Kinkizi is far to the West, past Rukungiri and towards Kisoro. You can see Kitgum to the North, where I visited last week.

Will post again in the next couple of days...

Monday, 15 June 2009

Rural - Kinkizi - which comes first - the car or the road?

After a very brief respite in Kampala, I woke at 5 the next morning for an epic journey across Uganda, with my KEST contact. He had been kind enough to arrange meetings with bishops from three diocese, each of which were significantly involved in community outreach and would thus benefit from some outside investment or funding support. Each had some land, which they could use for development projects, which was the focus of my linking with the Church of Uganda.

Masaka was the first call and we were there before 8.30am and the bishop was friendly and supportive. Clearly the bishop was an expert agriculturalist and a project instigator and we agreed to cross paths on a few ideas discussed. Masaka is a large town and a significant area to house demonstration projects, close to Kampala but a better launchpoint for rural initiatives.

We travelled on to Mbarare across a wide variety of roads. Most were "under construction", as this was the main route west but was relatively free of traffic. Considering this, though, the potholes were many and some extreme and one could imagine why the roads were unpopulated. Suddenly the road turned grey and smooth and we could have been in England (even some red roadsigns), had it not been for the small children wandering the hard shoulders with large jerrycans of water half their size, or the occasional stall of local produce.

The good road did not last very long, though and we were soon on nothing more than a widish track and this turned out to be the last part of the journey, leading to Kinkizi and Kanungu. The road passed through a fertile valley, full of banana crops and where they make a potent banana spirit, which is only sold locally. At times we were driving on the edge of a ridge, with hundreds of feet to the left or right and occasionally we passed a truck, bringing goods to where we were going too. The road was also subsiding, and in the rainy times, there are often mudslides or boulders falling down onto the road. It was now dark, but in around two hours we made it through to Kinkizi.

Suddenly we were in a small town, with all sorts of ramshackle shops, but selling all types of goods. The forest was still all around us and the place had an ambience all of its own. Next day we heard, however, that the bishop had cancelled our appointment, as he had an "important" service to hold in the community, to which we were instructed we had to attend. It wasn't scheduled to finish until around 1 and it was only a little over time, but I decided to go walkabout during the service, which was in a language I did not understand (and 3-4 hours long). Around the church were hundreds of local kids all apparently waiting to sing (though they were never invited) and so I took the opportunity to see what they were about.

English was very poor so I didn't get very far, but one little girl of about 8 chatted to me about her father "beating her for no reason" and a few others showed interest in my laptop, although I didn't switch it on, and my camera, which always seems to create huge excitement.

After the service the bishop seemed irritated - apparently he had been heckled, when he had called upon the congregation to fight against the recent appointment of Catholics in local civil service posts. I think people felt they had other priorities - water, transport, educational facilities, to name a few. I was introduced to him and he was somewhat hostile. I retorted that I only worked with organisations keen to elicit change, which I don't think went down very well...

I stopped over at the Savannah Hotel, which was very nice and I heard lions grabbing antelopes in the Queen Elizabeth Park during the night! But next morning, we had to head back. Stopping off at the North Kigezi diocese, we met up with a wonderful couple of pastors, who were working in Rukungiri and the surrounds. We talked about Butterfly and some of their other projects and I'm hopeful there will be some opportunity to liaise again with them. Water was much less of an issue there, because they had worked up a strategy with WaterAid...

So, back home and on the dusty, fume-filled roads again. Another 14 hours and we were in the traffic of Kampala again. My host was driving and I can't thank him enough for some wonderful and informative discussions mid-transport but also for having the tenacity to drive safely through such tricky surroundings.

Clearly roads make trade and here in many places roads have become neglected, probably because so few vehicles use them. A short 40km journey in Kinkizi and Kanungu can take 2 hours, though and is this conducive to trade on a large scale? The government thinks not and has apparently put a proper road into the budget for 2010. Let's hope it comes and can help transform this disadvantaged place.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Rural - Lyantonde

It's been a very hectic week or so, travelling to different rural areas, so apologies for slow posting. Today I'll be focusing on Lyantonde, which, with Rakai, I hope will be the first rural base for Butterfly.

While Kampala is a small metropolis, Lyantonde is a small backwater town, with a little charm. Its shops are poorly-stocked, cafes vastly restricted in their offerings. It's also the main dairy cattle area, so milk was more readily available, although it had to go away to be pasteurised.

Some of the Kampala Butterfly kids came to Lyantonde, as an interesting experiment to gauge a reaction to the rural setting and set them some challenges. We visited a lot of schools and (for Troy) a picture with me included! Actually I didn't speak much, as English is much less commonly spoken and I would be even less understood than normal!

It seems the rural schools are populated by substantially by orphans - 56% of the population are children up to 18 - and HIV/AIDS has cut a swathe through the adult population, leaving a bunch of confused kids, who simply have been born into an adult wasteland. Those adults that remain are often subsistence farmers, who struggle even to make school fees of 2500 shillings per term (80p), from their meagre land, which is prone to poor crops.

Why do they stay? Well, many don't and leave their children behind, much like the AIDS victims have left their children. Children are clearly depressed and traumatised by all this and they try to make the best of things by singing and dancing. Some sing about the tragedy of AIDS and some have more upbeat offerings.

My hosts support these orphans, child-headed households, child carers etc. and from what I can tell do an invlauable job against large odds - Lyantonde is a notable truckstop location and thus has suffered more than the average town from HIV/AIDS, with its large numbers of prostitutes. Recently, the president suggested making prostitution legal...

Some of the schools, though, have surprising ideas and are focusing on solar energy, learning about technologies, while others seem to wear a face of depression - "not enough teachers, not enough books, not enough classrooms, not enough.." Orphans are used as a pawn by some schools to try to gain grants, as even private schools are taking them on, when they know there are no fees payable. State schools offer class sizes of up to 100 for slightly less fees.

In all of this, though, are the same young people with gifts and talents - next to none have any vehicle to express them, though.

Water is also a massive issue in the area, with children bearing the brunt of water fetching. In some places, they must miss a school day, because the distance to water is so far. Efforts are being made, though and water is being farmed out into more locations, for greater accessibility and I guess bore holes are being sunk.

What there is no shortage of in Uganda is "awareness". USAID has ploughed vast sums into HIV/AIDS and mosquito net awareness, although from experience it has been locking the door after the horse has bolted. Comparably with Nigeria, I saw nothing at all on awareness and the problem is no worse in Nigeria. What is so lacking is economic infusion and this would give so much more than "Big Brother" AIDS awareness messages, but I guess that might mean that Ugandans could start to compete on the global market...

Simply there is next to nothing in terms of machinery or processing in these rural places. People sell wood or charcoal, not paper. They sell hides, not leather. And no one has learnt the skills to do any of this processing, so income remains at this base level and, without help, will likely remain there.

Social enterprise - the development of industry to bring people out of poverty - is needed here, but which funder will have the bottle to support it?

Things get worse, though, as I head West on the next blog!