Good weather to you all,
This is a form of greeting famously used by one of my classmates at the university so when I thought about a new way of greeting you, this is what came to mind. I would have preferred using a local dialect but then I would have had to explain it. Maybe next time or in the forthcoming reports I may use local greetings… who knows!
Anyways the status of our country has not changed much, at least in terms of the Covid 19 and it seems things are taking a turn to worse. We have now registered 19 Covid 19 death cases already and we have registered over 258+ new cases in the last 14 days. The political climate is not helping it at all because the ruling party is using the guidelines of prevention of the spread of the virus to limit the activities of other political parties. Thereby causing tension as police has always been deployed to stop any form of gathering of opposition members, forcing them to abuse the guidelines as they struggle to also carry out their own activities. Uganda is closing in on the Presidential election 2021, so the pressure is on as all political parties are trying to sway people into voting for them. This pressure is growing so much that even what the incumbent did to help us curb the spread of the virus is falling apart.
I worry about our future in Uganda because as people become complacent, the virus keeps spreading and the number of deaths have increased rapidly in the last two weeks.
My message constantly to our Mamas and partners has been consistent every time: I make contact with them; I keep social distance and I don’t get as close as I used to; and, I don’t touch them at all. I keep telling them “It’s for your own good that I minimize contact with you because I am protecting you.”
Uganda is a very contact oriented country, even if someone is a stranger we will attempt to shake hands while greeting or even during conversations.
To the above effect, this week I was able to meet Jane N, Sara N, Annet C, Hamida N, Christine N, Geoffrey O and another Jane N.
Jane N was the first Mama Nguvu partner who received a water tank from us and has kept it well, as she has continued to supply her community with clean and safe water. Water is one of the most essential commodities in any community and having a clean, safe, and constant supply of this item is very important for the survival of the community.
This is one of the factors we considered when we were selecting Jane’s proposal that whereas it was a unique proposal at the time, it contributed to the livelihood and would create a formidable impact on her community. Jane also makes and sells paper bags to local vendors, another product that is environmentally friendly and safe. One of our biggest concerns normally is about the impact our work has on this planet because while we are fighting poverty we know that it’s our responsibility to protect Mother Nature.
On a sad note, Jane has a grandson who suffers from hydrocephalus. His name is Francis and since we met him, we have been trying to ensure that we support him in his need for physiotherapy. It’s been unfortunate that the pandemic affected his routine but we have been also fortunate that he has not had any setbacks during this time. He was healthy and happily having his lunch when I visited them.
Sarah N’s goats are looking good and healthy. The goat house also looks well attended to and clean which is really important for livestock. We have tried over the years to help our Mamas to treasure the lives of these animals that they are breeding because they help in return to improve their livelihoods.
On the other hand Sarah has been suffering from some kind of neurological illness that has affected her left leg and occasionally affects her neck and right hand as well. She told me that over the couple of months, she has not been feeling well from the time they lost their property.
Sarah’s husband is related to the royal family in one way and some of the benefits her husband has had over the years was a piece of land that they have been cultivating since she got married to this gentleman over 10yrs ago. Sarah is only married to this gentleman and sometimes in Uganda, this might not earn you enough rights to own property or land ownership in this case let alone the fact in this case her husband has no title of ownership. They were only custodians of the land on behalf of the King of Buganda. About two months ago, the majority of the land on which she was cultivating was taken away from them and given to a developer who has divided it into small plots and sold them off. This land had so much foodstuffs which Sarah had planted and I think as a result of this, she has accumulated a lot of stress which has affected her health. To this effect she tried to see local doctors and try to seek some medical treatment but none of it has worked. We have decided to help her see a professional doctor and help her get a proper diagnosis plus treatment.
The salon is doing really well…. Annet C was telling me when I went to deliver her the boost contract for the cosmetics she got last week. She is already getting good business just a week after we got these items. “…There is no shop selling cosmetics here”. I am the only one selling skin cosmetics and the rest sell only hair products so I have been getting more customers this past week. It looks like the word is getting in the community that they now don’t have to travel so far to get cosmetics. She had already sold almost ¼ of what we got last week. This is good business for her and I hope it continues like this for the long run.
She has also started training two young ladies in hairdressing. Her enrolling these two ladies is a good sign of women helping fellow women to improve their livelihoods.
After the long struggle of trying to get documentation to access her chickens. Hamida opted to receive money instead from the chicks supplying company. Hamida amidst a flood lost her receipts she was given at the booking stage of getting chicks. Since then she had tried to follow the guidelines she was given to be able to get her chicks after losing the receipts.
Successfully she got the right paperwork and the company returned her money but at the time she was not financially capable of taking care of the chicks. She then opted to use this money to roof her house because roundabout the time she got the money, her roof was leaking so she had it fixed first as it was the priority at the time.
Events have changed since that time because Hamida has received an offer from a neighbor who wants to use some of her property to access his plot. He has offered to tear down a section of her house and build her two extra rooms on the side because he wants to use that spot to access his plot. Hamida intends to use one of these rooms for her poultry business but for all this to happen, we have to wait for them to meet this weekend and discuss the details plus have a written agreement. I await for her call to give me details about the agreement but I wish her the very best in the agreement. It is upon this that we will decide our next move when the call is made.
The poultry and pigsty project is making good progress. Christine’s flat is looking good with the ground floor under construction and the flat taking shape, but the building is creating anxiety in me.
It has been difficult determining costs because we have never built something this big in our project before but because the work is in progress and it’s looking good, we are excited for her. During my visit she made a request for more planks and nails which I provided for before I left the site. The roofing has been done and only the floor and side panels require finishing before she can bring her animals and chickens in. I am looking forward to seeing the final results of this project and I guarantee that it will be so rewarding for both us and the animals too.
We also have another Jane N in the project and like our first Jane, she also has a water tank. She is a water retailer for her community members but unfortunately Jane is losing her community to property developers too.
At the moment at least 90% of the community members have all cashed in their properties to this developer and have since moved on. Jane remains in an island where all former neighboring houses all lay flat on the ground as they have been demolished by these property developers. Speaking to her early in the week, she was confused on what to do because according to the information these people were not offering decent money for the property they have taken so far. The only challenge here is that these guys have deep pockets and the rumors are that they are politically connected so they can swing things to their favor anytime. Therefore it is in the best interest for her to sell this piece of and maybe if she gets a good bargain she can “..build another home for my grandchildren”… She said. Jane promised to give me a call when the meeting is done, so I await her call.
The brick making project is still underway and making good progress for Geoffrey who should have hit the 20,000 bricks mark according to our most recent conversion. On Monday he had over 16,000 plus bricks laid to dry awaiting burning or baking per say. They are doing their best to try and reach 60,000 bricks as they aim to make a big income for their first kiln.
I got to learn that the pile of bricks piled together one on top of the other is called a kiln. Geoffrey aims to have a kiln worth at least 60,000 clay bricks and because he is running out of cash he wants to take the opportunity to bake these bricks at once as opposed to burning 30,000 at a time. He wants to save resources on firewood because if arranged well, they can actually pull it off.
This 3rd week of August has been really good and I am glad we had the opportunity again to interact with these mamas. Apart from seeing the mama’s above;
I also spoke on the phone with Amina A who successfully got her bananas and started her retail business slowly this week. She buys the bananas green in bunches and she keeps them until they ripened. After they ripen she breaks them into clusters and sells them to vegetable stall owners who also sell them to the final consumers. Amina said that she had started well and everything seems promising because the customers have started coming to her home to buy. This is the good part of her business, that she doesn’t have to pay rent for her business and people come to her directly to buy the ripe bananas.
I also spoke to Jennifer B, our formerly successful restaurant owner who lost her business last year when she was struggling with pregnancies. She has seen a doctor this week who referred her to another specialist who will conduct some tests on her. Jennifer, despite her struggles, wants to return to her business and is determined to get back to work and help her husband who lost his job. I have known Jennifer as a hardworking and determined woman who does everything to ensure that her business is successful and I have no doubt she will come back. We offered to help her get stoves and maybe some foodstuffs but she requested that she see the doctor this coming week to determine her next course of action.
I am really happy with what I am experiencing with the Mamas in our program and it’s such an honor to work alongside them. I want to thank you all again for the support you have given in helping Amina, Annet and Jennifer who are trying to shift the tides to their favor during this pandemic. It is our hope that you stay healthy and continue to support the work we do in Uganda. Our Mamas constantly ask me to send you best wishes and positive vibes because they hear what is happening in greater America, Asia and Europe at large.
“Mwebale Nnyo” which translates in Luganda as Thank you so much.
Director of Programs, Uganda
ISEE Solutions Society