ISEE Solutions

Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

ISEE Solutions - Investing in Sustainability, Education and Empowerment Solutions

Two Weeks of Updates

Sorry to our readers – we missed a week of posting the report! Here are the reports for the past 2 weeks.

The train causing the demolition of homes in Namuwongo.

November 7th: Greetings to you all,

Happy November to you all,

If you are reading this, it means you have officially made it to the second last round of the year. I know we have all had some good and trying times, but I am glad we have made it and are here now. It is only safe to say congratulations to you.

Things here have not changed much over the last few weeks but rumours of a lockdown have been played down and the authorities have asked people to remain vigilant for both Covid and the Ebola virus. The good thing has been that whereas these two deadly viruses are different, we can fight them using the same methods.

The weather has continued to bless us with both rain and sunshine. I have walked around and I see lots of gardens doing well. This gives us a promise of a better year next year in terms of food security. 

This week has not been bad for ISEE Solutions and our Mamas too;

I will start with my follow-up visit with Francoise L who was rushed to the hospital in critical condition. It was found that she had multiple infections and malaria. I went to her house after she had received treatment and she was still bedridden although she seemed better than she was a few days ago. They could not retain her in the hospital because the bill would be much bigger than what they could afford. She was given multiple medications to go and take from home but of course was not able to get all of them. She had high blood pressure but they couldn’t afford the medication so we managed to get her the medication and advised her not to miss out. Otherwise, everything is okay now. She has her medicine and her daughter is going to run the business in the meantime. She found an umbrella that we have refurbished by now so it can stand the rains while they work by the roadside.

It was a good sight to see Asia back in the market making juice and cooking tea, and porridge. A few times I went to the market last week, I found the shop locked but I was able to get a hold of her this time. It looks like she has come back fully, she has finally sorted out her power issues and she is back making banana juice. She squeezes very ripe bananas using a special type of grass. The bananas are a special type too which can produce the juice. She then packs it in small 500ml water bottles, puts it in the fridge and sells it chilled. I am really glad that this particular Mama is back in business because she has such a huge family to sustain.

Florence A is also doing great. Both her chips and salon business have started picking up. I guess the hair has started picking up because we are closing into the festive season. The other thing is that by this time in the school year the customers would have paid their school dues ready for exams. This allows parents to now spend on self-care too. She is happy and the business is looking good. She still has her expansion plan and restocking plan because the busy days are nearing very fast.

Rovence N is also doing okay. The business has also seemingly picked up. She used to have a power problem and it got disconnected but on my last visit, she offered me a cold soda from the fridge which I thought was nice. The challenge is keeping the power running at this point is a bit expensive but she wants to try it out until it gets regulated.

Irene is doing okay with her salon even though the struggle is still there. She even requested assistance to help her son’s transport who had gone to sit for his final exams in another school. It was time for them to return because the exams were done. She said he (Brian) was happy about how the exams had turned out so we await the results next year. Her other son Byron who is in Primary 7 also going to sit for his finals the coming week. 

Justine is doing okay. Her stall is still a makeshift situation because of the rain but everything else seems okay. Her toilet construction is still on hold though because of the unstable ground. Anyways like it has been the last couple of visits, she was making porridge for her grandchildren who were about to return from school. She lives mostly with her grandchildren as most of her real kids have moved out of the home. The business is doing well even though the rain has been disturbing them over the past few weeks. 

I also took time to go see and shop from Pulakiseda’s N shop but it was unfortunate that she was not there during my visit. I met one of her sons who was attending the shop. I bought my usual rice, sugar, cooking oil, salt, tea leaves and some other little things. It turns out that Pulakiseda had lost an uncle that she had gone to bury in the village. Otherwise, she is okay and everything is well.

I followed up with Rehema N and she is doing better, even though nothing has changed much. She is still weak and mentioned it to me a few times during our conversation. Otherwise, she seemed happy as we spoke trying to figure out what best serves her needs at the moment. She wants to run a fresh produce business like matooke and Irish potatoes but we feel it might not serve her well because it requires extra hands here and there. She is not yet at full capacity physically so this is the biggest concern at the moment. Otherwise, we shall continue to observe and monitor her progress before the decision is made. We wish her well on her recovery journey.

Finally, I made my final trip of the week to Sarah N who deals with goats. It is incredible what she has done with herself recently. She sold two of her goats recently and bought two piglets, poles and cement to open up a piggery farm. This is the kind of innovation that we are always pushing the Mamas to explore. Something they can do to supplement their earnings and also bring forth sustainability. I was very excited to see her little farm and I can’t wait to see what she is going to do with them. Meanwhile, I found her digging in her garden earlier and planting beans and some eucalyptus trees so now and then she goes to the garden to weed and maintain the eucalyptus farm.

Via phone, I was able to stay in touch with Jane water tank 2, Anna M whose leg is now much better but not yet ready for work for business at the moment as she is still looking for capital to restart something. Margaret N is not yet back in town because she is still planting and making sure everything is grown before she comes back. 

It was an incredible week, I had some very fruitful conversations with the Mamas and they like to encourage me a lot. Which I find very beautiful because it keeps me motivated and in touch with them. I can never stop to thank you for the transformation that you bring to my community. It is with great joy and pleasure that I work and serve these amazing, strong and devoted women. It surely takes women to build a community. Thank you for the support and encouragement you extend to us all.

November 14th:

Greetings to you all,

I hope that you are all well. It was a wonderful week full of life, sun, and rain.

Schools will break off sooner than anticipated because of this unfolding epidemic in our country called “Ebola”. More school-going students have been discovered to have been infected by Ebola and due to the massive numbers of children in school, the best thing the government could do is to ask schools to close sooner than later. The government has set the date of 25th November 2022 for the complete closure of all schools until next year. We can only hope and keep our fingers crossed that this doesn’t become worse than it is right now. Our world has suffered enough with the Covid 19 and the last thing we need is another epidemic hitting this country. There is a lot of poverty, sickness and suffering going on in this country so we need a break to recover.

This past week, I was able to visit a few Mamas and the following is what transpired during my visit time;

I will begin with Francoise L who I have been following up with most recently because of her illness and I am trying to track her recovery to ensure she is back on her feet. She is doing better than last week as I met her lying in bed barely able to sit by herself. This week, I met her sitting outside but unfortunately, she had lost a neighbour. The mood was a bit sombre of course so my conversation with her was a bit precise. I found out that she needed more medication for her high blood pressure so we had to figure that out.

I also met Salume S the teaching Mama and she was well. She was seated with some of her students in class as they waited for their parents to pick them up. Her tutoring gig with students mostly Indian students has been good as she is trying to help them with the English language. Otherwise, this has helped her pay for all the school fees of her three children and she seems very happy with her life. We spoke lightly about her past domestic violence issues and she seemed to have moved on quite smoothly but only feels bad that the man has somewhat denied them fatherhood. She said fatherhood is important for children but there is nothing she can do at the moment but only hopes that the kids will grow to appreciate the situation rather than blame her.

Jane N who is the grandmother to Francis is doing okay. Of course, the rain has affected her water-selling service but she has kept up. The tank is always full so she is not selling much. She is still doing the paper bags business which has been so slow recently because lots of her customers have been sent off the streets. Otherwise, she is doing okay, she returned safely from the village.

Rashida S is doing well. She has paid school fees for all her three girls and is only remaining with a balance of about 20,000/- which she says she was paying this coming week because exams are near. The business looks really good, she is dedicated to her vegetable stall and will do anything to remain in business. She goes to the main market twice a week to keep her stall stocked.

Aidah K is also doing well. I found her making her day’s fire to start cooking. She often starts the day by buying Irish potatoes and peeling them to prepare for the day. She then cuts them into smaller chip sizes and puts them in a bucket of water to keep them fresh. When the time comes, she starts by breaking firewood usually from timber and wood from construction sites. She goes to these sites and purchases unusable wood which she turns into firewood for her chips. She uses a panga “machete” to split the wood but also uses her knee which I strongly warned her against because she could easily damage her knee.

Dorah A’s rabbits are doing incredibly well as they have grown to know each other and they fight no more. After suffering trauma from guard dogs, Dorah’s rabbits seemed to reach negatively to the new rabbits she got about a month ago. They fought against each other to the point where they had to separate the two sets into two houses. Dorah built a cage around the two sets of rabbits and also tried to reinforce the animal house. Living now peacefully, Dorah thinks one or two of the rabbits are pregnant and in a few weeks she might have another set of new rabbits on her farm. Fingers crossed for her.

One of the reasons I was in the Namuwongo area was a result of a call I received from Harriet L the tailor who has her shop just above the railway tracks in this area. I have been writing about evictions by the railway authorities for months now and looks like it is starting to materialize. The authorities have started breaking down several structures across the railway reserve which is about 30 meters on each side. They also warned people to start removing all structures within 15 meters of the railway tracks so when I arrived at the railway, I found several people tearing down their structures. Harriet had already packed up lots of her stuff and had taken some home. 

I proceeded to see people like Lorna K who live and work so close to the railway tracks. It looks like her restaurant is just outside the 15 meters mark so it might work out for her. The removal of these temporary stalls in front of her shop will kind of create scarcity and reduce competition for her businesses. Many small businesses almost doing the same business had been cropping up over the last three months and this was affecting her business as they provided competition for small businesses. The demolition is not good because some families and homes had been depending on these ventures but some rules are hard to contend with because, in any form of transportation, safety is paramount. These trains will be transporting goods and fuels which could be dangerous to the communities in case of failures by the train.

Lilly A is pretty safe as she is situated right in the market center. The market is a well-established structure and may not or will not be affected at all. She also moved from her previous home which was about 10 meters from the tracks. This is another Mama not to worry about at all. Her business is doing okay at the moment as we close in the festive season when she gets lots of tailoring orders as it has been the tradition in most families to either buy new clothes or have clothes tailored for Christmas. This includes me as a child when my dad would have us wear tailored little suits for Christmas day church service.

I will be looking out for all the Mamas within this area for the next few weeks including Irene, Francoise, and Rashida all of who live close to or around the railway lines. I will be looking for their next steps and I will keep you all posted hopefully we can keep these Mamas functional through the next weeks, months or even years. We have built a very strong community of women of great courage and enterprise in their small ways. Let us keep them in our positive thoughts and hope that we can support them more in this struggle of life. Thank you to all of you who have greatly invested in this community, we wouldn’t have done much without you. Keep the word going out there as we support the Mama Nguvu community. 

Mwebale nnyo “Thank you very much”

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society

September 5th

Greetings to you all,

I hope that you are well. 

The month of September has continued to be cold as the rains have generously fallen in the past few days. This is a good thing for our local farmers because the majority of them still are limited to traditional methods of farming rather than scientific methods of farming. These rains are a good thing because they guarantee food safety for our population and this has been evident with the number of vegetables on the market. The prices of maize and posho have been increasing over the last couple of months, making feeding a challenge for the general population.

The following are some of the follow-ups that I made during the week;

Angel N is one of the vegetable-selling mamas and when I visited her last week, her stall looked very busy with lots of vegetables like cabbages, eggplants, onions, and many others. When I asked her, she said the prices of these items have reduced a bit and she is receiving more customers. This is a good thing because I too bought a few vegetables at the market and I spent much less than I did in the previous month.

Maria A is doing quite well. She has two pigs that are already pregnant and expecting to produce piglets in the next couple of months. Her pig pen is already full but her pigs are still a bit young to be sold for food at the moment so she can’t sell them off. She now wants to expand the pen to accommodate the new piglets. When you look at her pen, all the pigs have enough room to grow and they have grown big. I think it will be good to expand so the pig farm can grow. Maria used to sell snacks at a local school but can’t do it anymore so she depends on this business. This fuels the desire to expand and increase her income to support her family. She is the breadwinner of her family because her husband got a back injury that forced him to stop work. We are hoping to be able to help Maria expand her pigpen as she has had great success with this venture.

Annet N is doing well. This tea and porridge business during these cold weeks has boomed due to the increase in demand. The past months prior were very difficult when it was hot to a point that she almost wanted to quit. She has now increased the pots she cooks her tea and porridge respectively. She also wants to add to her business by learning another trade to support her business on the side. She is investing in learning how to make paper bags and books to sell. This is a business that can complement her tea business because she closes shop at bit 1 pm therefore she has time to go back home and make these products. This is another business we are looking into supporting so that she can finish her training and get the necessary supplies to start making and selling the books herself.

Christine N has continued to have a hard time with her chickens. Recently, I wrote about her receiving her batch of almost 500 chicks from the local hatchery. She kept them for a few weeks and it was time to vaccinate them so she went and bought the vaccines. Along with her daughter, they vaccinated the chicks, and the following morning more than 50 chicks had died. The next week, a stray cat came and ate a bunch of chicks for three days straight so she decided to sell off the remaining ones. Regardless, she has not given up on this business as she plans to get a new batch targeting the festive season. She has also discovered the hole that the cat uses to enter the chicken coop and she has blocked it. Her pigs, however, are doing well. The little 5 piglets have grown and the two have again gotten pregnant. This is good for this part of her business. 

Dorah A is doing well. I found her roasting ground nuts for her children going to boarding school. In Uganda, parents usually buy maize, ground nuts, sesame, and baking flour and they make us what we used to call “grab” to take to school as snacks. They made us these snacks that would last at least one month because schools only allow 1-2 visitation days per term. I found Dorah making some for her daughter. She is looking for a person who sells rabbits so we can arrange for her to have another pair to restock her business. She found a gentleman but he is out of town so she has to wait until he returns.

Hamida’s home

After receiving a call from Hamida last week, I went to visit her chicken house but it was not yet completed due to the heavy rains that disrupted the completion of the building. They had roofed most of it but hadn’t completed it plus the flooring and plastering had not been done yet. Otherwise, for the first time in a long time, there has been such enormous progress on this project maybe we shall have it done before this month ends so Hamida can get back in the chicken business.

Immaculate M and her clinic are continuing to do good. The balancing of her two jobs is not perfect as the hospital has her working more because many of her counterparts have been laid off. She then leaves the hospital late and jumps right into her clinic until about 10-11 pm depending on how busy the night is. Otherwise, she is doing well and two other children are already back in school so she is left with two whose financial needs for school are even higher.

Lorna K is also doing well with her restaurant business. Just like Annet, Lorna too has had some increase in her daily sales because of the weather. People are appreciating tea and porridge more at the moment.

I found Justine cutting passion fruits and oranges to prepare juice. She usually squeezes about 5-10 litres a day for her customers. She uses water from the purifier to mix or dilute the juice. I am happy about this because Justine is utilizing her water purifaaya very well. We have one problem in communities like hers, as people have a great demand for chilled drinks but most shop owners have a tendency not to boil water hence contamination and many people end up with typhoid. I am really happy that this fridge and beverage thing is working out for Justine.

Lastly, I made my usual courtesy calls to Anna and Hadija who have leg injuries and they are doing okay. Hadija had a small set back but she got the medication she needed to get back on track. Hadijah’s business greatly depends on her so she tries to go to work every once in a while to help her girls run the business.

I also spoke to Peter Kiwanuka of React Now and Save a Young Mother. He said they are still at a standstill. No work is being done since the last time I visited as they have not been able to collect enough money since then to start the next phase of construction.

My efforts to find Jane N our other water tank Mama who is facing eviction from her previous property were in vain. I have managed only to speak to her on phone and she is gardening because it is the season and it is one of her hustles like we call it sometimes.

Thank you for your continued interest and support in our programs, always following and reading our weekly blogs. It is always a pleasure to continue to support these Mamas. They are always grateful that you care about them even during these tough times. The Mamas refer to you as “Baganda bafe” which means our brothers and sisters, asking about all of you and never forgetting to say thank you and praying for you too. They have a huge appreciation for your sacrifices and efforts. 

Report by:

Andrew Echel

Director of Programs, Uganda

ISEE Solutions Society