Happiness and Service on Global Grant Projects in Uganda
By Drew Allen, Midvalley Rotary
The people of Uganda are good at many things. Hiding their happiness is not one of them.
Our old green Toyota van pulled up to a small group of mud huts just off the roadway in eastern Uganda. As we stepped out, a group of women greeted us with singing, dancing and a type of ‘yip, yip’ sound that we Americans could never figure out how to make but is their ultimate signal of joy.
By the time our visit with this little community was over, I was as happy as they were, even if I was not as good at showing it.
They cause of all this happiness was the success of the fish farming project by the Rotary Clubs of Midvalley and Mbale.
In September 2021 I was able to lead a small delegation to Uganda to visit the project sites funded by our “Food Crop Demonstration Farm and Fish Farming” global grant, meet with our partner Rotarians, explore potential future projects and stimulate their tourism economy.
After touring our three project sites (two fish farms plus the 8-acre food crop farm), I must say that the projects are succeeding beyond my best imagination. Each project has been very carefully developed and monitored by the Rotary Club of Mbale to ensure that all funds are being used properly and the goals of the grant met.
We are entering the third and final year on the global grant and are now looking ahead at how to build on the success of this project and other potential projects in Uganda. I am deeply grateful to the Utah Rotary Clubs and individuals who financially supported our global grant.
Food Crop Demonstration Farm
More than 30 families, many headed by single mothers, organized themselves into a community organization and together are operating the farm site. Under the training of our local partners, they use what they call ‘push-pull’ techniques to raise beans and maize. Native grasses and legumes provide natural pest control and fertilization.
The increased food production from the site has allowed these families to meet their food needs, although increasing proper drying and storage capacity is needed.
Helping the farmers take what they have learned on the demonstration farm and applying it to their own small farms and gardens is an ongoing focus of the project.
Our grant funded the creation and stocking of two fish farms, one pond each in the communities of Artutur and Busitema, along with training on the maintenance and management of the ponds.
I must admit to being shocked at the level of success of this project. Community members have now built an additional 15 ponds and are receiving government support to purchase fingerling to stock in these additional ponds. Each pond is stocked with 1,000-1,500 catfish and tilapia and reach harvestable size in approximately eight months.
As the current project nears an end, our ongoing discussions with the Mbale Rotarians will ensure a smooth transition to the community members and the success of each project. Other needs in the area are also being discussed and may be the basis for future global grants.
While in Uganda, we also met with several other organizations in various parts of the country. This includes a series of listening sessions (as DG Judy Zone has stressed in the Club Clusters – Start by asking!) at the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in southern Uganda. It was an amazing experience to hear about their personal challenges and needs in their communities. We are working with a Community Based Organization (CBO), Oaisis, formed by young adult refugees living on the settlement and the Nakivale Rotaract and are having ongoing discussions to prioritize the many needs and consider how to best to address them.
We also met with the leader of a CBO who works on vocational training for street children in the northern city of Gulu. The organization is led by a determined twenty-something young man who lived on the streets starting at age eight. They have assembled a data base of about 1,200 children and teens To date they have helped educate more than 250 of them.
While meeting with the Mbale Rotarians, I had the chance also to visit with members of their local Rotaract Club. They sent me a proposed project to address cervical cancer among women in rural Eastern Uganda via testing, education and vaccination.
We also had the chance to meet with the director and staff members of the newest Rotary Peace Center at Makerere University in Kampala. They stepped away from a conference with RI President Shekhar Mehta to spend an hour with us!
More Help is Needed
While I have been very impressed both by the determination of the people in Uganda to make life better for themselves and members of their communities and the diligence of Rotarians in implementing projects, there remains a lot to be done.
I would love to talk to any clubs interested in a global grant project about the needs in Uganda. Email me at email@example.com