Greetings to you all today,
I hope that you are well in this second week of September 2021. This year has gone really fast and soon we will start to hear songs about Christmas. Ugandan stores and shops start playing Christmas songs as early as October, immediately after our Independence Day celebrations on 9th. A season of rest, a season of snow, a season of love, a season of food, a season of gifts, a season of sales, simply a season of all sorts of festive celebration. We have all gone through a lot but we are still here and we have to keep moving regardless. We have been exhausted by lots of things but we can’t give up.
There is a possibility of a third wave of infection looming over Uganda and we are hearing rumors of another lockdown. The levels of infection have increased because seemingly yet again people are relaxing and falling back to the old days, where we didn’t care at all. Some people still believe or think that this is a political weapon being used to keep lots of people here in poverty and desperation. There has been such an increase in the poverty levels in Uganda since the first lockdown in March 2020. The levels have continued to grow regardless of the efforts to stop the pandemic. Hospitals have become harder to get into even for normal or day-to-day illnesses.
My mother has some kind of stomach ulcers that she has been fighting since I was about 13-14yrs old. We have tried to get a doctor’s appointment and it has been a hassle. We found one and she got attended to but has not improved. We are trying to get specialist doctors but it has become hard. I went to see her last Friday and tried to spend some time with her. She reminded me that it was going to be my 2nd eldest brother’s birthday next Monday and she was going to do pork for us, so I guess it was an indirect invite.
Last week I visited the following Mamas: Christine N, Maria A, Asia B, Pulakiseeda, Peter and his wife Flavia, Gertrude N and Prossy’s husband Henry.
Christine N is okay. She decided to sell off all her old chickens and start the whole process all over again. This previous batch of chickens she had was not very good as their level of production was not as good as the first one which produced so many eggs. She attributes this to the disease that they caught early in their growth stage. They fell sick and she actually lost several of them due to a blinding disease that didn’t respond to treatment.
Christine has now taken over 400 eggs to the hatching machine to restart her project. She has had to clear both her chicken pens in preparation for the new batch that is due on 22nd September.
The pigs are looking very fat and healthy, so I am glad that this section of her enterprise is going on well. The only challenge is that one of the poles on the pig sty fell, so she has to replace it very soon and I am glad she has it in her next plan.
I might say the story is the same with Maria A with her pigs. She has experienced many difficulties feeding her animals. I looked into the paddocks in the sty and they were all empty. The vegetable leaves that she always used to supplement with have been scarce this season. The limited rains meant that her sweet potatoes and cassava are not providing enough leaves to feed them well. These were helping her supplement the maize brand that she ordinarily feeds the pigs.
This state prompted me to send her money to buy the maize to feed the pigs. Her pigs looked a bit smaller than Christine’s and yet they were the same age when they first got them. She has now bought more feed and this will help grow the pigs.
This is also the same story with Prossy’s pigs but her challenge is the limitedness of space. She has one pig that is actually kept under a tree out of the sty because of limited space. They have over 13 pigs with five new piglets. They were born about a week ago and it is very evident that Prossy’s husband Henry is having a lot on his table. They older pigs look way too small, smaller than they ought to be.
Prossy has not been home for more than two months because she has been away trying to take care of her ailing mother. Her longer stay has been because her mother is not getting better so she has had to stay. This has made it hard for Henry to take care of the animals. . The continued scarcity of rain and limited resources has not made things any better for the animals so they really look unwell.
I have to also send him money to deal with this feeding issue because it is going to be hard for him to feed all these 13 plus pigs. They will for sure have to sell a few of the grown ones soon after they gain weight as they are sold better when they weigh more.
Asia B is doing very well. She seems happy with her business. She has been training one of her teenage daughters on how to attend to the shop and also make banana juice which they sell at the shop.
Asia’s wrapping bags are not selling well because another person opened up a larger retail shop selling the same product and much cheaper. Otherwise her business is good, especially the cold beverage section.
Annet N is still struggling with her tea business especially this season when the weather has been a bit hot. She hasn’t been selling as much as before the pandemic and lockdown.
She is a very hard working woman because it is quite hard to sustain her household selling tea and porridge by the roadside. Each cup of tea costs about 500/- Uganda shillings for black tea and 1,000/- for milk tea. The porridge would cost anywhere between 500/- to 1,000/- depending on whether it is mixed with milk or not.
I would have loved to show you how these look but it was unfortunate that I found her at her home mopping the floors. She had been forced to finish work early because there is no business on the road.
Pulakiseeda N is doing well as usual. Her shop always looks good and well organized. I needed to grab some rice, peas, and sugar for my home. I usually grab my dry groceries twice a month.
Pulakiseeda’s shop is strategically located and she wants to acquire a fridge for her shop to sell cold beverages like soda, water and juice. None of her neighboring shops have this appliance so she will have a competitive advantage over them.
I have asked her to scout for the type she wants and next week we will actually apply officially for this support. I think it will be a good addition for her business.
Gertrude N is okay. She opened up shop regardless of the fact that schools are closed until further notice. I had been trying to connect with her on several occasions but all in vain and the last time we organized a meeting, she was called back home because her nanny was sick.
This time we managed to meet but it was unfortunate that her desktop computer had broken, so she had to take it to a computer technician to be serviced. She then had to use her laptop to help in keeping up.
I will keep checking on her and the business because she has had a hard time these past two years. She will need a lot of support and coaching through the next few months, if she remains open.
On Thursday, I made a trip to go visit Peter the team leader at “React Now Save a Young Mother” in the eastern district of Njeru about 2km from Jinja district. Peter and wife Flavia gave birth to a beautiful baby girl called Patra. Just over a month ago we helped React Now obtain a small property on which they will be building their new home. React Now has been serving the girls within Njeru community and other surrounding districts with vocational skills. They teach young, mostly teen-aged mothers skills like sewing, hairdressing and even mechanics. Peter’s vision is aimed at providing them with vocational skills upon which they would use to earn a living and take care of both themselves and their children.
It is a common practice for girls in Uganda and Africa at large to be chased or sent away from home when they get pregnant. Statistics show that teenage pregnancy is rampant and now during the pandemic it has actually become worse.
On Thursday I went to visit Peter and Flavis because Flavia suffered postpartum depression that required her to visit the hospital for treatment. She had refused to nurse the baby and she was seemingly incapable of recognizing anyone she previously knew. We managed to advise Peter in time to take her back to the hospital and also contacted one of our senior women contacts, Margaret, with whom we have worked over the years. Margaret helped connect Peter to a medic who eventually helped them. Flavis was given treatment for two days and by the time I went to visit them, she knew who I was by name.
We had a light conversation with her and encouraged her that it was a “normal” condition and she should not worry. Her family was majorly worried thinking that it was witchcraft but I told her not to worry and we encouraged her to be brave against the stigma that might come. Flavia was initially taken to her mother with this problem, and this meant she wouldn’t receive the required treatment hence causing more problems for their baby.
I would like to thank all of you for supporting us. It was such an honor to see the smile on the face of Flavia and Peter. She was really happy to see me and my sister who I had traveled with that day. My sister had a similar issue but a few weeks earlier. I thought taking along someone with the experience would make Flavia feel better and I am glad they caught up. We encouraged Peter to be more present than ever because he needs to be strong for both mother and child.
We brought along two tins of formula and a pack of diapers to help them in the first few weeks.
It was a journey and day well spent. We enjoyed the little pleasure of the road like always when we make these long journeys. I bought three pieces of roasted chicken, chicken and cow liver plus my all favourite roasted banana plantain. It is a must try for anyone who has never tried it.
Stay well. Stay safe. Stay sociable.
Director of Programs, Uganda.
ISEE Solutions Society.