This week was our excursion week for Uganda. We headed to Western Uganda early Monday morning. We spent the first half of the week in Mbarara and the second half on Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale. On our way, we stopped at the Equator, which is basically just a spot that has signs that say you’re on the equator. Uganda is one of the 13 countries that the equator runs through. We stopped for lunch and then drove through Lake Mburo National Park to see some Zebras. I didn’t see any Zebras when I was on safari last year, so this was really cool! We arrived at our hotel around 530pm.
We spent all of Tuesday on a site visit at the Millennium Village Project in Ruhiira. The Millennium Village Project is a project of the Earth Institute that was started by Jeffrey Sachs with the main goal of ending extreme poverty. This project tries to do so through taking a community-led approach to sustainable development by uniting government, science, business, and civil society. Millennium is a part of the name because it was a direct initiative towards trying to tackle the Millennium Development goal of ending poverty that was started by the UN. The project ended 2 years ago, after its 2-year extension, and is now in the process of being handed over to the government. This same model was used to establish the same project in other villages in different countries in Africa.
I have a lot of thoughts about this project. Overall, I think the idea and the initiative was great, but I don’t think it was executed very well. It seems as though the project was put into place with little consideration, or research for what the people living in the village would like to have had put into place. It didn’t seem like the emphasis on community and relationship building (things that would increase sustainability, in my opinion) was a top priority in this project. I’m not saying that I think the project was bad, it did bring good changes to the community. We were given a sheet that described all 6 different components of the projects and each one’s impact. They have done a really great job of providing clean water to the village. However, each section basically just had a bunch of bullet points for their achievements and numbers for how many things were implemented. Again, this is not bad, but it is not sustainable. This was especially clear because the project is currently not active and being put into the power of the government, which has had a habit of being known for being corrupt. I’m still processing what I think about all of it, but I can say with confidence that my opinions about international development are changing and being challenged.
We were supposed to go on a site visit to a place called Tugende Wednesday morning, however we were not able to go. Tugende is a social enterprise that helps boda boda drivers own their own motorcycle after a year and a half, as opposed to always renting. We were not able to go because you need to have government permission, and we were not given it. We were told that some organizations can be very skeptical of American groups and what their motives are. It would’ve been really cool to go, but it is also interesting why we weren’t able to.
We had our second design thinking class and talked in-depth about human-centered design and inclusive innovation. We talked about the difference between human wants and human needs and how the concept of what it means to be human gets reflected in design. Inclusive innovation is defined as innovation that benefits the disenfranchised and it points to inequalities that may arise in development. In other words, design is the process of creating value, and inclusivity is about where the value goes.
Thursday, we had a really interesting anthropology class talking about modernity and development. We talked about the idea of development and globalization as historically produced discourses and that the discourse and strategy of development produces the opposite of what it thought it was going to. We had a site visit with one of ENVenture’s partner CBO’s (community-based organization). We were able to speak with the founder of Enventure while we were in San Francisco. The partner CBO that we went to worked with water filtration systems, cook stoves, and fire starters. The fire starters were made from saw dust, millet dust, and wax. We were able to see the process of how the fire starters were, super cool.
After our site visit, we headed to the second part of our excursion. We drove for about 5 hours to Kabale and then took a boat ride on Lake Buyongyi to Entusi, the resort we would be staying at for the next 3 days. This place was absolutely beautiful, and we were the only ones staying there so we had the whole place to ourselves. Water surrounded us, so it felt like we were on our own little island.
Friday morning, we had a self-care cohort time session. I taught some yoga and spent a lot of time journaling, it was quite nice. We had an introduction to Entusi as a Social Enterprise. Entusi is a destination for travelers, but with the mission of being able to impact the health and vitality of communities in East Africa through community outreach and investment, research, and the exchange of ideas and knowledge. Entusi was started by a white man, but the community has as much greater say and the goal is for Entusi to be completely self-sustaining. They have a huge music festival each year that attracts about 15,000 people and they have had Ted talks before.
In the afternoon, we went on a boat tour to learn about all of the 29 surrounding islands. We stopped at one that had a farm and there was a school up at the top with a basketball court that has the greatest view. We had a debriefing session about our visit to the Millennium Village Project which made my head hurt. After dinner, we all watched The Breakfast Club together (world’s best movie). Each cohort has to name themselves and we named ourselves the breakfast club, so we thought it was fitting to watch the movie.
We had the whole day to ourselves on Saturday, so we took advantage of the activities that Entusi offers. We started out the day with a nice hike. They told us that it wasn’t difficult and didn’t go up hill that much. Of course, the majority of the hike was all up hill, this brought back lots of memories from last summer. We went to a local witchdoctor after. For some reason, we all thought we were going to get our futures told. I have no idea why we thought that. The witchdoctor is basically just a natural and herbal medicine specialist. It was pretty cool. After lunch, we went canoeing. This was an interesting experience, I have been canoeing before, so I thought it would be easy. This canoe was a big carved out tree trunk, and my friend Sanne and I, could not get the canoe to go straight if our lives depended on it. So, we didn’t get very far, but it was still fun!
We left early Sunday morning to head back to Kampala. We were in the car all day. I am not kidding, I really do mean all day. We left Entusi around 8am and didn’t get back to our homestay until after 730pm.
Only one more week in Uganda!
Sending my love,
P.S. Finally a post that’s not almost 5 pages long!!