Eight Canadian co-operators are visiting Uganda to learn about CCA’s Integrated Finance and Agricultural Production Initiative (IFAPI) model. CCA and the Uganda Co-operative Alliance have developed an innovative approach to rural development by linking agricultural co-operatives, marketing co-ops and savings and credit co-operatives.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
We visited numerous farms during our time in Uganda. One thing that became clear very quickly was that the land is ultra fertile and the diversification among the crops farmers can yield is quite vast.
Below is a photo essay capturing a few of the commonly seen commodity crops that provide sustainability for the farmer’s families; their communities and whoever is on the receiving end of the exporting trail. Most important to note though is that the farming practice is the livelihood of many Ugandans and it truly sustains their families and provides a life with potential for future generations.
Cassava – a root vegetable, starchy much like the potato. It is a main source of carbohydrates for many and considered a staple crop. Another staple crop not pictured here, but grown extensively is maize (corn).
Coffee beans – *The ripe coffee fruits (cherries) go through a number of operations aimed at extracting the beans from their covering of pulp, mucilage, parchment and film to improve their appearance. The resulting clean coffee can then be roasted and ground to obtained the coffee powder which if fit for human consumption. *To learn more about processing, click here. Cocoa is also grown in Uganda.
Dried moringa – Moringa leaves are considered to have the highest protein ratio of any plant so far studied on earth. The dried form of the leaf offers extremely high nutritional value and is said to also provide healing and medicinal benefits.
Eggs – Farmers rely on a variety of farm animals just as we do in Canada. Spotted frequently were chickens, roosters, pigs, goats and cows. As well, we did see a variety of vegetables being farmed such as cabbage and other leafy greens but they weren’t seen nearly as often as the crops pictured here. Male roosters can be sold for up to 40,000 shillings while a producing mama pig can fetch 400,000 shillings!
Eucalyptus – We finally figured out how all the Ugandans kept their pearly whites so bright! Using the eucalyptus leaf for a toothbrush, the leaf has cleansing properties and tastes oh so minty fresh! Eucalyptus is also harvested for its lumber. We also saw many farms that grew pine trees and teak trees (also harvested for lumber upon maturity which takes around 20 years).
Ground nuts – A tasty nut, much like the peanut, ground nuts (or gnuts as the Ugandans reference them) are from a legume subfamily and offer a source of protein.
Honey - Lots of bees in Uganda, lots of bees who liked to chase me! Honey collection, fish farming and mushroom harvesting (below) are common jobs that youth and women often undertake in RPOs (rural producer organizations).
Mushrooms - Unlike other cash crops, the mushroom is one of the most affordable because it requires less space and manpower but pays very well.
Oranges – Many delicious fruits can be found in groves (pardon the pun) all over Uganda. We also saw trees that produced bananas, mangoes and papayas.
Simsim (sesame) – Harvested particularly in the north, roasted sesame paste is mixed into a stew of beans or greens and served as a side dish, sesame paste may be served as a condiment; a candy is made from roasted sesame seeds with sugar or honey. *For more on Ugandan cuisine click here.
Beans - Uganda is the world’s 8th largest producer of dry beans.
Farmers receive training on crop diversification through the Uganda Co-operative Association and ACE’s (marketing co-operatives). Due to this newly gained knowledge they reach a new level of success when they branch out and begin farming more crop varieties.
Monday, December 10, 2012
|Taking photos at a Kampala arts and craft market, left to right, are: Laurie Tennian, Jim Harris, Cindy Corrigan and Lacey Chyz.|
Thursday, December 6, 2012
|Justus Kasaugatu and his wife Eves Kasangaki, members of Brecco SACCO|
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
We all know just how difficult it is to change attitudes. It can be harder still to change habits. Generally changes in habit occur when someone has become enlightened or has experienced a paradigm shift. The difference in how one approaches life after such revelations can often bring on positive change to themselves, their environment and others.
I was fortunate to hear a story of a man who experienced such a shift he attributes to an educational experience. Deo, a farmer with the Bomido SACCO received various training sessions run by the Uganda Co-operative Alliance (UCA). One such session he shared had a significant impact on a very important relationship in his life; the one with his wife.
After receiving gender equality training by the UCA Deo realized that there would be more to gain in life if he took a different approach to this important relationship. He said that “after 30 years of marriage I have now learned to respect her, we now have peace, we now work together.”
Wow. That was powerful. As a woman who has experience a relationship with mutual respect; had the opportunity to educate myself; and the ability to exhibit and be proud of my independence and freedom, it made me think a lot. In fact, it has been four days since we spoke with Deo and now I sit thinking of our conversation while I type this post from a van that is travelling through the rural parts of northern Uganda.
Admittedly, I was truly taken aback when Deo cited this training and his change of habit as the biggest and most important life changer. It wasn’t only because he was so honest but rather it was because I haven’t had concerns about gender equality as it relates to me in terms of a relationship. My following thoughts were that gosh, his wife must be so happy and now feel so empowered. To be considered a partner and be provided with the much-needed level of respect, having accessed her independence must be life changing for her.
In Uganda, women do not always have the same rights or access to the same opportunities that men do. However, through the co-operative movement, lives are changing and the role women are playing is evolving. This has become clear to me on this journey as I continue to meet enlightened men and incredible women who now, through education and a more level playing field are doing amazing things.
|Armstrong Abdubango, Dikiri Kabucan SACCO (micro credit co-operative)|
CCA-UCA partnership promotes trusted places to save, borrow, insureBefore SACCOS (credit unions) were formed in the rural Ugandan communities we visited, people hid their savings under mattresses, in holes in walls. They even buried them in termite hills.
Robberies were common. Some lost all the money they tucked away when fire burned their thatched clay huts. Savings were buried and never found after a family member died, having failed to disclose the money’s location. Savings were even eaten by rats, lured by the smell left on the bills by previous handlers, like fish mongers.
Those that did their banking at commercial institutions were frequently ripped off. Some were “very embarrassed”, in the words of Brecco SACCO members, to discover that their meagre savings had disappeared due to high “service” charges on their accounts. Often they were refused loans, being part of the rural poor that were deemed “unbankable” by the private sector banks. In addition, the distances that separated them and the banks made it too costly for most to do anything but make sure their money was well hidden from thieves and rodents.
Olivia Mugisa, Brecco SACCO treasurer acknowledged “you can’t do your banking at home.” However, the rural poor had limited options when it came to savings and loans.
That changed 10 years ago when the Uganda Co-operative Alliance, joined with the Canadian Co-operative Association, to design and implement a program that would help to build sustainable livelihoods and reduce poverty in the sectors of agriculture, finance and micro, small and medium enterprise development (MSME).
Trusted placesOne of its main thrusts was to encourage the formation of SACCOs, community-owned savings and loans institutions that provide poor and middle class households with trusted places to save, borrow and insure.
In the decade that has followed the launch of IFAPI (Integrated Finance and Agriculture Production Initiative), the number of SACCOs has increased from eight to 22 in northern Uganda. These democratically-controlled, member-owned centres now play a significant role in the socio-economic development of the communities they serve.
“Now we know how to sell our products,” said Brecco SACCO member Stella Kannyege. “We know how to save money and pay it back. We know how to control our businesses. And we know how to build groups.”
The ripple effect of these micro credit co-operatives has spread throughout northern Ugandan society.
Impact on womenLouis Odhur, a widow and farmer in Omoyo, said her SACCO’s promotion of gender equality has had a positive impact on the women in her community. “They do not fear things now. When there are meetings they attend. It has given them courage.”
Robert Parmu, loans officer with the Erussi SACCO, said women are now borrowing money to pay for their children’s schooling, independently of their husbands, resulting in greater “harmony in the homesteads.” Other outcomes have been a reduction in domestic violence, substance abuse and crime.
“People can now take care of their lives and control of their own destiny,” Chegere SACCO manager Peter Aceny said. “We say no more going back. We are moving forward. We are continuing until reach our destination – sustainability.”
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Monday, December 3, 2012
|Mr Jenaro Onenboth|
|Award for best micro-entrepreneur|
|Mr Onenboth's home|
|Mr Onenboth (r)and UCA field officer George Okechagiw|
|Sister Mary Atimango and MUWOGORO member Paula Atimango stand before group's harvest of maize|
Friday, November 30, 2012
Here is a small snippet of this display from yesterday as we were sent off by the folks of Akoloda.
It’s truly exciting to see how, during UN 2012 International Year of Co-operatives, Canadian co-ops and credit unions have either begun to donate or have generously topped up their current donations to the Co-operative Development Foundation recognizing the role, or perhaps responsibility, they have to play in building a better world through a business model that we take for granted back home.
In order to appreciate one’s lot in life, one must never forget where they have been. Ugandans have figured this out to a science recognizing that all victories, however small in the eyes of a foreigner, are to be celebrated. Our Canadian Co-operative Association study mission team finds this outlook on life contagious. We have so much to learn about life from our Ugandan neighbours in this small world of ours.
For those looking for the words of the Karen you know, you have laughed with, cried with, that you’ve grown up with, in the words of Arnold, I’ll be back…..
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Exposure to Ugandan culture has had an impact on the entire team. Jim Harris commented that Canadians live in a nanny state by comparison to Uganda and I agree. He pointed out how our coffee cup lids say “Caution: Hot beverage” and how we strap our children into cars like they’re astronauts. In Uganda we’ve seen entire families on one motorcycle. (Caution: Nanny state or not, do not try this at home. Have a licence, wear a helmet, keep your mind on the road, watch out for pedestrians, use winter tires as needed, keep your vehicle in good condition, and drive safely.)
CCA shared with our team the notion that culture is like an iceberg; what is visible on the surface, (especially to a tourist), is only a small part. Any culture has a massive underlying foundation that may take years for an outsider to fully know and understand. Our team has been lucky to even take a peek at the peak of the iceberg that is Ugandan culture.
Today our team had its first exposure to Masindi, a great town. Shortly after our arrival at the Hotel Victory Bijja we held our first round of interviews with local co-op members. It was enlightening to hear their stories of how belonging to a co-op has had a positive effect on their lives.
|Prince, a co-op member's son|
|Members Feko, Joseph, Grace and Deo at co-op meeting|
Christine started our meeting with a prayer and introductions. We began interviewing co-op members on the spot and then were escorted on a tour of their farms. The work these Ugandan farmers are doing is impressive. Through their production co-op, Bomido RPO, they’ve been trained to take maximum advantage of their land and as a result they’re growing diverse crops. They’re also getting the best price for their crops through their marketing co-op, Bomido ACE. And they’re handling their financial transactions through a financial co-op, Bomido SACCO.
|Nsangi Ahmad Hassan|
Monday, November 26, 2012
OMG, I’m in Africa! We landed in Entebbe and took a bus to the Speke Hotel about two hours ago (a wild ride with some interesting traffic moves, but that just added to everything). It’s dark but nevertheless my first views of Entebbe and Kampala were so exciting.
I’ve spent the last hour unpacking and doing battle with both wi-fi and a rogue mosquito.
But before I sign off, I have to announce another OMG moment: I watched the sun set over the Sahara Desert through the plane window. Wow, wow, wow.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
I know from a similar mission I was on to Nicaragua in 2010 what an incredible learning, life-changing experience this will be. I thank CCA for the privilege to be part of this "storytelling" trek with fellow co-operators and communicators across Canada.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Follow us on our exciting journey of discovery, as we learn about how co-operatives are alleviating poverty and building a better world.
This is my second mission to a developing nation where CCA is helping to build pathways out of poverty. The first was to Nicaragua in 2010 and it was a life-changing experience.