Update from Uganda (October 2010)

The power has been off for three days and came on at about noon today (Sunday). All our electronics were depleted! I’ve recharge my phone and the computer is working on wall power and charging, too. I think everybody in the North is catching up because the Internet is **so** slow.

 Nicholas Odong came yesterday afternoon and Issa, Kevin, Otim and I visited Cet Kana, a small village about 15 miles outside of Gulu, for a sanitation assessment. 

An aside: Nicholas works at Paragon Hospital in Kampala, a pretty nice facility. He graduated in Environmental Science and Public Health Dentistry. He is not a dentist, though. He is from Gulu and his father is our former landlord when our office was by the mosque. Nicholas is particularly interested in sanitation and wants to volunteer his time over the next year or so to work in one community to increase its general public health and sanitation. Otim’s particular interest is sanitation. And we have some friends at the Medical Officers Training School who may be interested in helping. End of aside!

I told Nicholas that Aid Africa can’t sponsor a new project now but that we’d be happy to try to facilitate his project and put him in touch with other people who may help. Otim is definitely interested in helping. We’ve struck a match. Let’s see if we get a real fire! On the way back we raced a rain storm and lost just as we approached town. At least we didn’t have the downpour the whole way, but it was a real gully whumper. My few clothes left on the line got a second rinse. Most had been dry enough to take in.

A new alternator for the van arrived last night on the bus from Kampala and Issa is installing it today. Then he discovered the speedometer cable is broken. He just stopped by for money to buy a new one. Tomorrow we plan to drive to Sorote to visit Laurie Kroll, the woman who was interested in an orphanage in Jinga. I don’t think she’s at all interested since she’s not interested in visiting the orphanage. But it is still a good trip to expand the network.

George and I looked at the layout for the new brick shed. It will be a short distance to the left of the present one and the new kilns will be in between them. And the clay mixing area will be there, too. The new shed will be about 50% longer than the present one. This will be our last big expenditure for this trip, I hope. We spoke with a potential builder (he built our present shed) and he will come by on Monday to give a bid. I told George about making triangle braces to make a stronger structure and he told the builder. We’ll see what we get.

This week we’ll hand out the last batch of avocados and give stoves to three communities. We have citrus about ready to bud, but we’ll await the next rainy season (late March) before distributing them. Also in the meantime, we’ll plant a whole lot more seeds. 

In the meantime, I’m pressing the staff to get going on our multi-purpose trees, the ones that are raised by community folk. Their idea was to give a bunch of seeds to a motivated farmer and let him raise them. I asked how the trees would be distributed and they said the farmer would expect to keep the trees. I reminded them of our Mission Statement and that we are not out to start an enterprise for some few farmers. 

After much discussion in Acholi and a brief translation into English, we decided to use the same method we use for trees and stoves – or a variation. One way is to get the community together and have them plant the seeds as a community project. Then pay a little money to someone to see they stay watered throughout the dry season. They should be ready for distribution when the rains begin. Another variation is that our staff prepares the ground and plants the seeds and we hire a community person to watch over them. This one may take a little more time on Aid Africa’s part, but we’d have more control over the planting. There’s no possibility of community trees. They are too valuable to share. And there’s no common acreage for a wood lot. They will have to be planted on each person’s land. Presently, though, it is okay to take whatever firewood one can find from anybody’s property. It’s the African way!

We’re trying to meet our goal of 35,000 fruit trees and 65,000 multi-purpose trees. I think we can get pretty close by June. We’re ramping up and the staff is aware of the problems we may face and I think we’ll overcome the obstacles. I told them we were bound to make mistakes the first time around in our multi-purpose tree project but not to let that worry them. We’ll learn from the experiences.

I now have less than two weeks and so much left to do. Well, some things will have to wait until March. I’m hoping Otim will prepare dinner tonight. If not, it’s roast pork in town. We’re all pretty happy campers – now that the power is back.

Peter Keller, peter@aidafrica.net 

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