Hey everyone! I wanted to explain exactly what development work I’m doing over here in Uganda. First, let me give you some background on the program I’m interning under, the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD).
FSD split the eighteen students in my group into small groups of 3 to 4 people based on our interests. Each group is assigned to another partner NGO in or around Jinja, that we then also become interns under. Every small group is then responsible for creating a small scale development project within their organization. Spencer, Maia (my 2 teammates), and I were assigned to Caritas Internationalis, an NGO under the Catholic Diocese with an office in Jinja (http://www.caritas-jinja.or.ug/). We were all interested in agriculture and the environment, and so we were assigned to work in a slum called Soweto in the Walukuba Parish of Jinja, where a unique farm project exists.
Caritas currently has a cooperative farming project for the women in Soweto (they primarily work with women because the men in the community are said to be extremely hard to mobilize. We also decided to only work with women for our project because they are the primary contributors to their family’s well being). Caritas provides the land and seeds for the small farm, and the women are responsible for working the field. Most of the vegetables from the farm go to the women and their families as their source of food.
The rest of the food goes to a primary school that Caritas runs for the community. One child from each of the women who participate in the program is allowed to attend the school, and eats one meal a day there. The problem is – Caritas can only provide Kindergarten education, and most children do not receive any education past that. Caritas runs a vocational school within Jinja town for the women’s older children to attend.
So the issues for the women in the Soweto slum – they have little to no income to pay for school fees for their youngest children, for health services, and to supplement their semi-secure food supply. They also have no idea what they will do after they leave the cooperative farming project because there is no transition assistance. That is when we decided we needed to create 1. income generation for the women and 2. capital in their community loan scheme for them to use to start their own businesses (which many of the women are interested in).
Our first week, we conducted extensive community research. We want to insure we created a project that the women wanted, and not just our own ideas about what we thought was best for the community. These are some of the questions we asked the women during our assessment:
Where are you from?, How big is your family?, How long have you lived in Jinja?, How long have you been involved with Caritas’ projects?, What is an average day like?, Where do you get food and water?, What are the biggest challenges in your life?, How would you define your community?, What do you like best about your community?, What makes your community different from other communities in the area?, How do you best contribute to your community?, Who is the best farmer in the community? Who is the best teacher? Who is the most involved in the community? Where do you meet as a community? Who are the leaders in your community?, What are your community’s greatest challenges?, What would you most like to change in your community? How can this change be achieved?, How does your comm. solve problems? Could you please tell us a story about a time your community faced a problem and how you all solved it?, Who are the people you would you go to for help?, What are the assets that can be found in your community? What are the things the community can utilize to help address some issues (ie: individual personal abilities, traits, technical skills, knowledge, facilities, equipment, networks of connections, etc)?, Why are you involved in Caritas’ activities at the Walukaba parish? How do you benefit from the projects at Walukaba parish? How do your children benefit?, How do you most contribute to the project? What do you see as your role in Caritas’ projects?, How would you describe your well being now compared to how you were before you became involved with Caritas’ programs?, Have you seen a noticeable change in your income as a result of participating in Caritas’ program? In what ways?, Do you believe Caritas’ activities at the parish address your greatest needs? The community’s greatest needs?, What are your greatest concerns with the current projects? How would you like to change them? What parts of the current projects you would most like to keep?Do you believe Caritas fully considers new ideas proposed by the community members to improve parish activities?, What new projects would you propose? How much would you be willing to contribute to new projects? How do you think you could best contribute?, After this farming season, what are you plans? How do you plan to use the skills Caritas has taught you in the future?, What are your plans for your children in the future?, How to you plan on achieving these goals?
Here are some photos from our community assessment and of Soweto:
We narrowed everything down to 3 choices for our project: mushroom farming, poultry keeping, and pig-raising. We decided to begin a small pig rearing operation because it was the most popular among the women and would turn the largest profits the quickest. Further rationale for our choice can be found in our project proposal below. We would begin by constructing pig pens for two pilot sows for a group of 10 to 14 women (1 pig for each pilot group- there are 7 women in each group because care for the pigs can then be easily distributed among days of the week).
The second and third weeks, we drafted, wrote, and rewrote our project proposal, work plan, and budget until it was perfect. Our proposal is a concise version of all the objectives within our project, their tasks, and our overall rationale for choosing to begin the pig farm. You can find it in a PDF file here (Project Proposal). Our work plan (PDF) is more detailed.
FSD provides each intern with $200 USD for the costs involved with our project ($600 for our project in all). They also expect the community to share some of the costs, so that they may be invested in the project and ensure its success. Our budget (PDF) outlines how each player within SCPRI contributed (note: the final costs reflects contributions from our NGO and the community).
From the fourth week on until now, we have been in the implementation stage of our project. Our first task was to train all of the women in Soweto on proper pig raising, which would then enable us to choose the pilot participants for our project (based on workshop attendance and participation). This would also increase the skill set among the community members even if they are not involved in the pilot groups of SCPRI.
We purchased all of our teaching materials and hired a animal husbandry expert named Julius to run our first workshop on Thursday, July 25th in the local language, Luganda. It ran for three hours and over 55 women attended! In the same week, the women also attended a workshop on business skills, savings, and money management held by Caritas field staff. We were then ready to select 10 women for our pilot group. Photos of our first workshop: (the first photo shows us handing out sat bags as incentives)
Week five, we secured a Memorandum of Understanding with the Parish Priest in Walukuba to use Caritas land for our pig pens (they were constructed right next to the cooperative farm). We then sourced and purchased all of our construction materials for the two pig pens. We worked with our construction expert, Muhindu, and the pilot group of participants to begin and finish construction by the end of week five. Photos of construction:
(completed photos of the pens coming soon!)
Then came my favorite part- sourcing a farmer and purchasing our 2 sows! A few days ago, I put down the final payment for the pigs (photos of Cocoa and Fingers soon!). Our first sow cost 350,000 Ugandan shillings, while the second cost 250,000 shillings (one was more expensive because she was a bit older). I then arranged for it’s fertilization (happening as I write this), vaccinations, and skin treatment. Next week, they will be transported to our pens. The same day we will be finishing all of our final tasks- opening a bank account with 2 group leaders within the pilot groups for the community loan scheme, establishing the cleaning schedule, and having all participants sign the final contracts.
Last 2 weeks in country
We are now writing all of our final reports for GESI and FSD. Project wise, all we have to do is wait and see how the women respond. The two Caritas field staff members we’ve have been closely working with, Francis and Peter, have ensured us that they send us continuous. The sows will turn their first profit in six months when they give birth. That is the only time I think I can judge my work experience here in Uganda.
There is no doubt this has been one of the most exhilarating summers of my life, because of the other students I’ve been surrounded by, and every single experience we’ve shared. However, the week days- the work- has been nothing I could have ever expected. I learned in the most surprising ways, and though I now know I never want to work in international development, coming here was the most honest introduction I could get to it. Now I can only hope I accomplished the small change I came to the Pearl of Africa for.