Sunday, September 20, 2015

Seven days in Uganda

     Along the side of the road, a young man sparked up his welder, carefully creating a set of decorative and functional window bars for a customer in Kikiri. Measuring twice before beginning a weld, he focused on getting it right as trucks and matatus trundled by carrying goods and people through the countryside in clouds of dust and smog.
Coaching ladies on caring for their banana trees. 
Earning a living, making clothes on main street. 

     Nearby, a tailor focuses on threading the sewing machine for a color change while creating a new shirt for a client in a tiny shop littered with completed projects, custom clothing for clients. She deftly changes from one thread-color to another making precise stitching while driving the Singer Sewing machine using the footplate and her own human power. Their skills came courtesy of Bega Kwa Bega, or Shoulder to Shoulder, a grass-roots organization founded by a Ugandan lady who now lives in the US, where she and a team raise funds so that their hard-working and well-trusted crew can focus on making lives better on the ground.

     Whether it be coaching farmers in raising a healthy variety of food-stuffs, attending to health needs of the sick in remote villages where people rarely see doctors, or the income-generating playground where city kids can have a blast while the center assists in keeping the other programs operating without interruption, BKB appears to be a success story that usually is told in the same breath with the more famous alphabet soup of international development organizations. They drill wells and set up springs for cleaner water supplies, keep orphans and vulnerable children in school, coach villagers on improved agriculture techniques and the nutritional concerns that will affect their growing choices in this very fertile part of the world.
     I spent my week in Uganda (six days of it) delivering that same level of professional work that major NGOs have requested to this little engine that could in part because they are a friend of a friend and in part because I was intrigued by their work and the breadth of their services. It seems to me that they are truly making a difference especially in these rural areas where guidance can be absent.
Children receiving anti-worm treatment at mobile clinic.
Word find Kakiri
Gogolo Play Place
Fresh water from the BKB-constructed spring at Mpigi
waiting for care at the mobile clinic.

Gogolo Preschool

Gift of a cow creates income through milk and manure for a village lady. 

Getting the hang of techniques, spreading fertilizer while preparing for planting.
Preparing the garden.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Liquid Life, a City run by Water on Wheels

     Just as we thought photography for this project was done, one more nugget presented itself under USAID's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program in Juba, in the form of water supplies to the city and to santiation efforts at a girls school.

     I learned some time ago to expect to learn and see something new each time I go out. On this trip I've seen many things not new, refugee life in general, and how much refugees try to find a normalcy in their context, food programs, agriculture....

     The water stations often look similar, depending upon the source of that water. But Here I see talks all over town being filled with a fleet of blue trucks that make repeated daily assaults to quench the city's needs for liquid life. Truck after truck fills their tanks to haul water to another part of a thirsty city on a hot and very dusty day.

Next in the series, Africa 2015, Seven Days in Uganda

Opportunity knocks, as this guy fills his cans with overflow from the truck.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Just a few moments from Torit

A bouquet of groundnuts
     This past week we flew down to Torit, considered the breadbasket of South Sudan, to photograph some World Food Programme/PLAN International projects, that are supported by USAID.

Road builders
      First, I must say that we met some of the most dedicated, hard-working and deeply caring development professionals I have ever met. That's saying a lot considering the heady company of the many great development professionals I've had the honor to work alongside.

     Matuk, Nelson and the rest of the crews from WFP and Plan worked very hard to make our visit productive and, I hope, effective.

     We photographed programs that are trying to energize agricultural endeavors for better crops in an attempt to eliminate food distribution needs. I always say that I learn something new or see a new approach to development every time I go out and this was no different.

     Roads for food?
     Not only are they working with communities in the bush to connect them to main roads to provide more access to markets for their produce, but when there is food-aid need in other parts of the country, they are purchasing that grain, usually sorghum and maize, and delivering it to places where it's needed rather than relying completely on imported aid. My friends at Local First Arizona would love this as it is the ultimate buy-local initiative. 
Nelson examining the groundnut crops with a farmer, noting incomplete growth.

Building a road by hand.
          The bad news is that Mother Nature has not been kind. These folks have been through much in terms of civil war with the north and then internal civil war since independence.

     And now after planting with the first rains of the season several months ago, much of their sorghum has grown only 12 inches tall rather than six feet. With so little rain in the last couple months a high percentage of their groundnut crop (peanuts) failed to germinate,  the yield will probably be half or less of what they planted.

     Of course the fear now is that the breadbasket of South Sudan that supplies much of the country may well be receiving food aid themselves in a few months as a result of this rainy-season drought.

     And yet the people sort of shrug their shoulders and say we will get through, because they have always, somehow gotten through.

    Next in the Series, Africa 2015:  Juba: Water on Wheels
Building a road by hand, connecting their village to the main road, so that they can get their crops to market.
Sorghum should be six feet tall now.
Cabbage is growing a bit better than the Sorghum.
Bagging up local grain to distribute as food assistance to needy areas of South Sudan.