Sunday, June 28, 2009

Monitor and the New Vision

First off I want to apologize for this post getting to everybody so late. Still feeling the effects of the lacking internet service in Uganda, I was looking through some of our posts and noticed that my post about the Newspapers didn't actually get uploaded. This is my feeble attempt at trying to recollect what I wrote the first time. Hopefully it's just as enthralling. (I had planned on including a few pictures, but as some of you know, most of them I accidently deleted.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Today, we received a rather interesting lecture from a news editor of The New Vision. The speaker John Kakande spoke about their future plans to acquire a TV station, and explained that they were doing this to remain competitive with other newspapers. He noted that The Vision produces about 35,000 copies of their newspaper a day. Kakande also spoke quite a bit about government control. The government manages to keep a pretty close eye on The Vision by prohibiting them to promote things like homosexuality or terrorism. They're allowed to talk about them, but not promote them, not even a quote that promotes it. I asked him at the end of the presentation why he thought the government prohibited the promotion of things like that, and he said, in summary, that they government is doing this to protect the society's views. I wondered if it wasn't normal for the society to be able to filter their own information and decide for themselves what's right and wrong.

What is your opinion on the government's strict control for what information the newspapers publish?

My favorite part of the day was when we got to tour The Monitor. I love to see how people organize large machines, and their operations, to all work together to put out a final product. I was somewhat surprised to see the kind of technology they had up and running here. Some of their printers were pretty advanced. We got to see every step of the process. Where the writers published their pieces, to layout and design, and printing. We then ended the day with what I'm sure was an interesting lecture, which I had to miss because I was not feeling so well.

Lastly, how do you think the newspapers of Uganda contribute to sustainable development?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Democratization in Uganda

Today we received a lecture about the ongoing challenges to democratization throughout Uganda’s history. We started in discussing the reign of Idi Amin, the ruler of Uganda from 1971-1979. After overthrowing Obote from power Amin exiled the Indian population from Uganda and let the economy get worse. During his regime he caused civil unrest, with no checks on his power Amin let the rule of law vanish from society. There was no power in the courts and the police were used to carry out Amin’s wishes. In 1979 after Amin was thrown out of power, Obote II eventually took power. Though during his regime there were some aspects of democracy that were restored, such as Parliament, it was very weak. The main power in Parliament lied with the military and as a result they were calling the shots. During this period in time there were many safety issues as the army would often engage in extortion and ransom. Without the support of the military and the guerilla conflict going on throughout Uganda during this time, Obote II’s executive power was weak. With a coup a year earlier, Museveni came into power in 1986 as a part of the National Resistance Movement.
With the NRM in power from 1986 to the present the lecture turned to discussing the new features of the NRM government. The first feature of NRM rule has been a “no party democracy.” Until 2005 political parties in Uganda were outlawed due to the belief that political parties are instigators for the political issues in the past. As a result the NRM only allowed movements, or groups that would provide a manifesto that everyone could get behind. As opposed to political parties that only accommodate a select number of supporters. Though this may have been the idea in theory, in practice they over time have become less accommodating to all. Another feature of the NRM governance has been a pressured Judiciary. Though the Constitution established by the NRM gives judges the power to independently decipher cases they received a lot of pressure to fulfill the wishes of the executive. With threats to strip benefits and prevent contracts from being renewed, judges are sometimes pressured to side one way in a particular case. Another feature of the NRM governance is decentralization. During the time of the NRM, 80 districts were created within Uganda and within each of those districts are local governments. However, with the divisions of the districts some do not have sufficient resources to carry out these powers. The last feature was the corruption within government. Uganda is ranked very high in terms of corruption and officials are known to steal large sums of government money.
The last section of the lecture provided possible remedy to the troubles in current regime. One part to the remedy is giving the police more power to arrest these corrupted officials. It was argued that corruption should be treated more like a crime than a moral matter and something must be done to shame the corrupt. 
My question to the students concerning the lecture is do you think the NRM has taken Uganda further towards or further away from a democracy?

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Nile and Bujagali Falls



Today was our first and only full day in Jinja. After a restful night sleep of fearing snakes, spiders, bugs and other creatures sleeping with us we headed out and visited the source of the Nile and the Bujagali Falls. At the source of the Nile there was a monument for Mahatma Gandhi in honor of having his ashes immersed in the Nile upon his death in 1948. The source of the Nile is Lake Victoria and it flows 4000 miles to the Mediterranean Sea.

On the bus ride over to the source of the Nile we learned that Uganda has only one Hydro Damn that harnesses the power of the source for electricity. It was very shocking that they only have one Hydro Damn in Uganda, especially considering the electricity problem they have here. They have so many resources that they could be using that they’re just not. Do you think that the negative environmental factors outweigh the benefit that resources like the Nile could bring to the country?

The next place we went to was the Bujagali Falls, a beautiful waterfall along some powerful rapids. The thing I found most surprising was talking to Prof. Bishop about how only a few years ago the location was almost free of tourist and only a few body surfers braved the wild rapids, and today the place was packed and we saw at least 9 rafts full of tourist head down the wild rapids. It’s a sign that tourism is growing in Uganda which is a good source of income for the country, but is it really a good thing that one of nature’s untouched beauties has now been overrun with tourism? This reminds me of the resort we went to on Lake Bunyonyi and how beautiful and untouched it was. A lake like that in the US would be overrun with speed boats and lake homes. So I guess my question is how can/should Uganda utilize the benefit of tourism for the country while still maintaining the untouched beauty of the country?

Friday, June 12, 2009

NDERE DANCE TROUPE


On Sunday evening we had the opportunity to experience the culture and customs of Uganda in a unique way. We attended a performance by the Ndere dance troupe, one that performs a number of cultural dances accompanied by classic African instruments. As we entered the lobby of the performance center, we admired a number of drums and art that were made by local people. Standing on top of a brick wall was a flute player who greeted us with an "interesting" tune as we entered to take our seats. During the show we were wowed by the dancers and their ability to isolate their hips from the rest of their bodies. They were EXTREMELY talented and during the show, Dr. Bishop and I received a personal lesson. I cannot forget to mention the host, who had a number of jokes and activities to keep the audience participating as well. "GO!" is what he constantly yelled in the middle of a sentence where our response would be to clap. Sometimes it caught us way off guard. I think many of my peers would agree is that one of the highlights of the night was a dance in which the women balanced up to 8 pottery vases on their heads as they danced. We were impressed with just 1!


What other things did you guys enjoy throughout the show?

Arriving Home and Thanks!

We arrived safely in Des Moines yesterday on time at 12:50 a little over 30 hours after boarding the bus to head for the airport in Uganda. Each year as we travel the across country we take many "family photos" of the entire group. This year the family grew very close. The goodbyes at the airport seemed especially hard this year. I too saw tears in some eyes as we said goodbye to our Ugandan colleagues (see Fred's post below). Goodbyes are hard, but they often also signal a new beginning. I know that the relationships formed in past years continue to survive and I am sure that the relationships formed this year will continue to grow in the future. While the travel is over the academic work is still continuing. The blog will continue to be updated in coming weeks as students reflect on their experiences and work on their research projects. I know many students are planning on looking back over the posts and adding comments as well as new posts on experiences that they did not have time to comment on during the trip. So please continue to check back over the next few weeks.

I want to take the opportunity to say thank you to many people who make this experience possible.

I think I also speak for Prof Bishop and Prof Senteza when I say that the students from both universities did a fabulous job of discussion and reflection this year. In every visit you represented your respective institutions with class. Many of our speakers and hosts commented to us on the quality of your questions and your intellectual curiosity. Thank you also for your patience with logistics and not complaining when our schedule was disrupted or delayed. I enjoyed spending the last three weeks with you all.
I also want to thank our numerous speakers and hosts in Uganda. Your expertise provides insights for the students and faculty that could not be obtained through just "book" learning. I am amazed each year by your openness with our group. Thank you for all for taking time from your busy schedules and for sharing your expertise with our group.
The openness of our speakers and hosts is a reflection of the warm hearts of the Ugandan people. I need to thank all of the the people in Uganda who have their daily lives disrupted by our large family as we travel through the country. Our large group causes logistical problems for many people. Not only the staff at the restaurants where we eat and the lodging facilities where we stay, but also all the people whose daily lives are disrupted by waiting for a group of thirty to cross the road or making room for our bus to pass down a busy Kampala street. Of all the natural resources in your wonderful country, your warm hearts and welcoming attitude is the one that always stands out.

Next I want to thank all of the MUBS faculty and staff for their hard work in helping this experience become a reality for the students from both universities. The success of the program is a reflection of your efforts and dedication. This trip is not possible without your efforts. I look forward to working with you all in the future as our programs continue to evolve.

Finally I want to thank my colleagues from Drake and Des Moines who provide support for the program and help in planning, budgeting, and executing the program. And a final thanks to Profs Bishop, Senteza, and McKnight who I have enjoyed working with the last three years.

I look forward to working with all of you as we start the planning process for next year!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

SAD TO SAY GOODBYE & ENHANCING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Dear Friends, it's been a long 3 weeks together of sharing, laughing,frusstration, tiring journeys, those dreaded but interesting lectures, funny but amazing african Culture..oohhh slow pace of things but you and i have survived all that. I have had ling thougts about this day as you are about to leave my beloved countries but i assure you each one of you leaves fresh memories am trying to go recollect. Thank for visting Uganda.
I was touched to see tears in some people's eyes...i really looked hard and saw some of you who weren't eager to get to the airport...there is this saying" all good things come to an end"...to me " this good end means a better return". I hope you all come back to Uganda at some future point.

Am curious Guys...what would you recomend that the US government and People do for People in Uganda?Let's take for instance the Rural folks you visited...how would you help them to be self sustaining? I would like us to suggest the way forward but also be of practical help to these people.
I believe the problems in Africa are not as a result of Colonialism, Capitalism or Money!!!!. The Problem in Africa is about Systems of Political Governance, Corruption & Greed,Underutilisation of resources,equitable distribution of resources,erosion of African Culture and failure of International Community to fight for human rights.
I will really love to read from you regarding above.

Safe Flight Back Home/Bon Voyage

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Queen Elizabeth National Park

On Wednesday, June 3, we got to spend the day at Queen Elizabeth National Park. Soon after entering the massive park, covering 1978 sq. km. and 6 districts, we ran into a large pack of baboons who were reluctant to let us into the park. We stopped the bus to get some pictures of them on the road and then continued on to find some elephants in the distance- and this was only the beginning. As we made our way into the visitors center, we were met with thousands of pretty butterflies, more elephants, some antelope, and an abundant amount of dense, green vegetation. Shannon and I were sticking our heads out the window, taking as much advantage of the fresh African air as we could. I felt like it really was just a big breath of fresh air being in the park. I think this day was so relaxing because we were totally removed from the every day reminders- whether they be the conditions of the roads, people selling fruits and vegetables to us on the side of the road, desperate to make a few thousand shillings, or the men, women and children working so hard in their hillside farms- that people are suffering and that there is a lot of work to be done to help them. It was our chance to see just why Uganda is referred to as the "Pearl of Africa".
We had a buffet lunch in the park with more traditional Ugandan food (and the best pineapple I've ever tasted!) and then walked to the eduation center for a short lecture on the logistics of the park, on conservation education, and on the park's community involvement, which I was very impressed with. Our lecturer stressed how important it is to their conservation efforts to educate people and to have the cooperation of the local and neighboring communities. They keep the neighboring communities involved through collaborative management and signed agreements. Queen Elizabeth National Park also puts 20 percent of their profit into social programs and facilities for those communities.
After the lecture we went for a double-decker boat safari and saw more elephants, some crocodiles, African birds, buffalo, and I think enough fat hippos to last most of us until our next trip to Africa. We concluded our trip with a game drive in our bus. We were fortunate to see real, wild lions (!!) in the distance. We also saw elephants, warthogs, and lots of antelope. We had a great guide with a keen eye for spotting animals really far away. He was also very knowledgeable about the animals in the park and would fill us in about the lives that the animals we were seeing live.

Environmental conservation is areally important part of sustainable development; and until our trip to Western Uganda, it was somethign we hadn't talked much about. Sustainavble development began as a theory that combined economic development with environmnental conservation. It was the idea that people could meet their needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. To develop sustainably, then, Uganda must conserve and replace natural resources at the rat at which they are depleting them.
For environmental efforts to be successful, there must be social support. For there to be social support, the people must be educated about the issues and have the capacity to show concern. The Queen Elizabeth National Park conservation committe is committed to educating youth and communities in and around the national park about conservation. This is great and really important, but it leaves me wondering abut the rest of the country. Think about all of the people we drive by in Kampala, and about those working in the Owino Market. Then think about those in rural villages with no access to the news or information about any social issues in Uganda or the world. I bet most of these people are not educated about environmental issues, and many may not have the 'luxury' to have or show concern for the environment when they are struggling to meet their own basic needs and the needs of their families. Do you think it is possible for Uganda to make a collaborative and successful effort to preserve its environment in today's society? If it is not possible, then one would argue that Uganda may be able to develop economically, but not sustainably (in the full meaning of sustainable). If it is possible, what needs to be done?

June 8, 2009

Today was a fairly uneventful one. This morning we checked out of our Kampala home (Red Chili). Though most of the students weren't in love with the place, I must admit I grew fond of the dirty floors, the strange cheese on the pizza, and the slowest computers ever known to man. It had become a place of familiarity for me and a relaxing home after long days. We stopped by the National Theatre market on the way out of town to spend some of our last shillings and pick up some souvies for those of you back home who are eagerly awaiting our return. The ride went extremely smooth in comparison to many we've had, and we made it to Jinja just before dark. Our huts are sweet (in my opinion)... though I wasn't one of the unfortunate ones who entered to find strange creatures crawling in their beds.

Now that our departure is fast upon us, it seems like there is no way that we've been here two and a half weeks. When we got here it seemed like we had all the time in the world. We studied everything from agriculture to government corruption to AIDS, and although it seems like I know almost everything on the subject, I know there is so much more to learn. I can't help but admit that I leave Uganda with a bit of a heavier heart than when I entered. Despite all the hard work we have witnessed here and all of the resilient people we were fortunate to meet, we also saw first-hand that developing this nation in any sort of fashion (let alone sustainably) is an incredible battle. A lot of the time the government isn't only failing to aid and support its people, but it is the biggest roadblock that exists. I am not pessimistic enough to think that the battle is lost, mainly because I have met people like Provia who have huge hearts and big ambitions. I know that progress can and will be made, but I also know that our MUBS colleagues have a long road ahead of them. I wish them luck and success in all of their endeavors.

As for my Drake peers... thank goodness the trip is almost over and I can get some time away from a bunch of crazies. (just kidding). As an incoming transfer student, I am grateful and feel extremely lucky to have gotten to know each of them. There is nothing quite like the Oweno market, long bus rides on Big Blue, and large amounts of matooke to bring together a bunch of strangers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Journey to Kingfisher

Hi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in today and have by now dissected your room of any insects/snakes.

Today we had a lazy start to the day by sleeping in and getting checked out of Red Chili (*tear). The thoughts of leaving Uganda are starting to become a reality. While some are ready, many wish their experience could be extended. I think those closest to me know my opinion on the matter :). After lunch at MUBS, we went and exchanged shillings for dollars and then headed out to Jinga. On the way to Jinja, we made a quick pit stop to pick up a mechanic for Prof. Senteza and arrived at Kingfisher around 7. We enjoyed supper around 8 and had the night to do what we pleased. Overall, I would personally say they day moved by just as fast as any of our other busy days, even though we did not do a whole lot.

One thing that I noticed on the drive here was a stark contrast in the road conditions from Kampala to Jinja compared to most of our previous journeys. Usually we have to navigate around potholes and get stuck behind slower vehicles until its safe to pass. Today we had four lanes for most of the trip and there were even painted lines on the roads. I have been closely noting the transportation system in Uganda during our stay and I feel like the nice roads today were not a random coincidence. I feel like the highway was nicer here because if you keep going east, you will run into Kenya--one of the more developed African countries. I think Uganda and its merchants have figured out that their success is directly proportional to Kenya's involvement. Does anyone else have any observations or opinions as to why the roads leading east would be a lot nicer than the roads leading west (such as the road to Mbarara)? Or do you recognize any other benefits to having a nicer road that connects the capital city of Uganda to Kenya?

Armed Guards and Barbed Wire

During the last few weeks in Uganda we've seen a lot of things that are different from back home. One example is the random sucurity measures all over the city. From the ten foot walls with barbed wire surrounding the monitor newspaper, to the metal detectors and bag search at the movie theatre, to the armed guards in front of every other builing, evidence of extreme security is everywhere. The strange thing is that even with all this security, it wouldn't be hard to sneak a gun into a building because the ill trained guards barely open your bag and rarely check you even when the metal detector goes off. So what is the purpose of all the extra security? Is it just a show to make the people feel more secure, or does it actually serve a deeper purpose in keeping people safe in their daily lives? And if it does serve a greater purpose, is it worth it? Remember that with the money spent on all the security the government could instead have improved medical facilities or schools or roads or a dozen other things.

Random Sustainable Thoughts

Yesterday the group did what Americans do best, inject cash into the economy by shopping for arts and crafts for friends and families back home (no more details are allowed we don't want to spoil any surprises). Following our shopping spree we were scheduled to tour the Bugandan Parliament and the Bugandan King's Palace. As the largest tribe in Uganda, the Bugandans still have a large influence in Ugandan society and thier parlment still meets regularly. Fred Luganda (one of our colleagues from MUBS who has posted previously on the blog) and I went ahead to make sure the tour was arranged. While driving we went past a series of street lights, each light pole had a small solar panel and small turbine on it. The purpose was to charge the batteries for the lights, conserving electricity. This is one example of how Uganda utilizes its limited energy resources efficiently. Here at Red Chilli each electrical outlet has a switch on the outlet so you can turn off the outlet instead of needlessly running a charger etc. similarly the water heater has a switch so it will not consume electricity all day, just when needed for hot water. The light bulbs are all high efficiency (and a little dim). While many of the Ugandan conservation efforts are out of necessity as opposed to a desire to decrease energy consumption, it does allow the visitor from the US a chance to think about the way we needlessly waste energy. When we get back to the states I hope that we all remember the little things like the switches on the outlets and ask if they were really a major problem or instead an example we should follow. Maybe we can all do a little more to conserve energy and think twice about leaving our phone chargers plugged in all day etc. Students - what have you observed that makes you reevaluate the way we live our normal lives in the US? What lessons can be learned from the Ugandan society by the average US citizen? It does not have to be directly tied to sustainability.

We leave today for Jinja where we spend our last couple of days in Uganda. There may be a smaller number of updates, I think that last year we realized the internet was not as easily accessible there. However, that might have changed , we will see. Students have promised to record their thoughts and post after returning home late this week, so keep checking back, even after we have returned!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Planting it Forward

Hello Everybody,

Today we had an extremely busy and fun-filled day. We started off in the morning with a lecture at MUBS about Democratization, then we moved onto the Botanical Center in Entebbe, and finished it up with a lovely dinner at the home of the Chairman of MUBS.

In my life I’ve never seen a spider as big as I had, in its natural habitat, here at the Botanical Center. After arriving at the Botanical Center and walking around for about thirty to forty-five minutes we stumbled upon the Dragon Spider. These spiders were about the size of a human hand that’s fully stretched open. Once our guide finished telling us about the spiders we tested its speed and agility by throwing a small ant into its web. The yellow and black spider zipped across the web and snatched up the ant without hesitation or fault. Since it was so small it didn’t bother spinning it up for later and just ate the ant as it was.

Within the Botanical Center there were many other interesting plant findings. As we approached the cinnamon tree we expected to be overwhelmed by a scent of cinnamon, but to no avail. However, upon simply crumbling one of its fallen leaves, or crumbled bark, in your hands the scent of cinnamon enveloped you. Amongst the other interesting plants were the two-hundred year old Mahogany Tree, the “Viagra” Tree (I name it this because our guide told us that this tree has a strong part in the production of Viagra), the Umbrella Tree, and many more.

Upon finished up at the Botanical Center we headed over to the home of the Chairman of MUBS, with a short break in between the two events. When we arrived at his home we were immediately welcomed and greeted by some of the other faculty at MUBS. Eventually, we all got comfortable and the introductions began. Everybody introduced themselves, and then the chairman spoke. He knew that we were studying sustainable development and geared his speech towards that subject. He noted that in the development of the new addition to the side of his house they go through quite a bit of scaffolding, which he said were made from the long branches of a Eucalyptus Tree. After they’re done using them, he said, they have to burn them because they have no more use. He found this to be rather wasteful. Then he stated a very fitting quote, “When you cut down one tree, you must plant two more.” And with that he lead us to his driveway where he had us plant 20 new trees in our name. He told us that when they get a little bigger he was going to put each of our names on our respective tree that we planted. When we finished our short sustainable development project we had a very fine dinner and then headed home after grabbing a few avocados from his farm.

After having spent plenty of time in Mbarara we should all now understand the “Pearl of Africa” analogy. Africa, and Uganda especially, have so much to offer as far as their natural environments go, and it would be a tragedy to see any of it affected negatively. With that in mind what simple things, like planting trees, could we be doing to encourage sustainable development and promote a healthier environment? And lastly, how has today affected your view of sustainable development.

Chairman's Banquet

Saturday was a day filled with the beauties of Uganda. We attended a short lecture, the beautiful botanical center in Entebbe, and the extravagent country home of the Chairman of the Board of MUBS.
After taking our amazingly small bus on an unimaginable road, we made it to the dinner. Many people attended the banquet outside of Kampala. University officials, board members, deans, and staff joined our group in a delicious layout of African cuisine. Students all sat on mats made out of leaves - picnic style. The highlight of the evening for me was when the Collin, the Chairman, invited us to each plant a tree - replacing ones that he has cut down. Collin was adding on a beautiful addition to his home (with a view.) The "scaffolding" used in Uganda consists of cutting down trees, using them once, and disposing of it. Collin believes his area will boom with houses in the near future and wanted to create a boulevard of trees. Twenty trees were planted, with each of the Drake names on them.
The chairman was extremely welcoming and genuine. He was proud of what he had and I believe he truly enjoyed having us enjoy ourselves. He even let each of us pick an avacado from his garden to take with us. This was definately a part of the trip that will be cherished forever.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Today we packed up and headed back to Red Chili. Our first stop was at the primary school. This was definitely my favorite thing of the day. Beginning with the assembly was great. We both were able to ask each other questions and even both sing our national anthems together. I was glad that most of them have very high ambitions, some saying they wanted to be doctors and engineers. Most also were hoping to go to a University which is great as well. After the assembly we all broke into groups and went to different classrooms. The first classroom I went to the kids were so shy and scared to talk to us. They were very young. We continually tried to ask them questions or have them say their abc’s but they just sat there and stared. It was pretty comical to say the least. We were able to move around a bit and talked to a few other older classes. Most were shocked that three girls played soccer at Drake and so many of the questions asked revolved around that, what our favorite team was etc. Then we all went out into the main area to just converse with everyone. All the kids were swarming and loved getting their picture taken. They also wanted to play a game of soccer but they swarm of children wouldn’t allow it.
The way home consisted of another stop at the equator where we were able to buy some souvenirs. And that last was at the crocodile farm. We saw several different crocodiles at all different stages in their life, but the one that seemed to attract the most attention was the enormous one that supposedly has killed quite a few people. Watching the chicken be eaten was definitely a highlight. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to watch because it is cruel but you can’t get yourself to turn your eyes away. The way it ate that chicken so fast was pretty terrifying. Overall a good trip home with a fun filled day. What were your thoughts about the primary school? Things you liked, didn’t like or were surprised by?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Leaving Mbarara

Today marked our last day in the southern part of the country. We began the morning with a stop at a local primary school, the Mbarara Mixed School. This is a Universal Primary Education facility offering classrooms to children in pre-primary as well as P1-P7. Boarding is also available for children who live too far away from the school to travel each day (at the expense of their parents.)
We began with an all school assembly, being welcomed by some very excited children. A question and answer portion followed, with questions coming from both the children and our group. We then split into smaller groups and had an opportunity to see a couple of classrooms and have more one-on-one experiences. Speaking with the headmistress led me to much information on the logistics of such a school yet I was excited to get back to the children. They were so innocent and excited to ask questions, tell us about themselves, and most of all – have their pictures taken. While some Drake students chose to ‘cuddle’ with a young child, others enjoyed being surrounded and having conversations. It was a sad goodbye, with only one child trying to make a getaway by joining us on the bus.
I about broke down in tears when a child told me he was an orphan and asked if I could sponsor him. The government was going to stop providing money for him to go to school, and he has no one else. What was the most touching part of your day at the primary school?
The rest of the journey back to Kampala included a second stop at the equator for shopping. We then visited “Croc Camp,” a crocodile farm. The owner gathers the eggs from a local ‘park’ with the help of a park ranger, incubates the eggs, raises the crocs until the age of three, skins them and sells their skin at the market in Kampala. He currently has over 3,000 crocs. The students quickly discovered that if they bought a chicken, we could watch the largest crocodile have lunch. It didn’t take long to gather 6,000/= (approx $3) for the purchase of a chicken from the local village. Some looked on with amazement while others (ie. Dr. Bishop) had looks of concern.
Another long bus ride completed. I recommend asking the MUBS students to tell you a bedtime story next time we’re on the bus. They recall stories from when they were young; they are both entertaining and give an excellent example of the culture of Africa.

Day At Queen Elizabeth





Today, we traveled to the Queen Elizabeth National Park.  On our way to the park, James showed us tealeaf plantations, which were a new type of agriculture for us to see here in Uganda.  Finally approaching the park, we were greeted by a group of baboons who were hanging out alongside the road.  Right after this encounter, we saw a family of elephants munching on some trees.  This was a fresh, new experience.  It was the first time most of us have seen these animals living in their wild, natural setting. 

We ate some lunch at the park- traditional Ugandan food, and then went to the lecture at the Queen Elizabeth National Park education center.  On our way to the center, we spotted lion footprints!  Also, a cute little chameleon was found crossing the road.  At this lecture, we learned about the history of the park, techniques they use, and challenges they face in conservation management. 

After this lecture, we went on a nice, relaxing but exciting two-hour boat ride on a double-decker boat in the Kazinea channel.  We saw lots of hippos, crocs, and birds.  The African Fish Eagle was spotted as well.  To end the day on the perfect note, we took a safari in our bus around the park.  We spotted a lion, which was what we all were looking forward to seeing, and watched her for a while until we noticed her move to her cubs located near her in the savannah.  The tour guide was very helpful and informative.  We headed back to LakeView hotel, more than satisfied with our visit to the national park.

I was wondering what your favorite part of the day was?  What was your favorite animal or event that took place?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Today we visited Queen Elizabeth National Park. We also saw a female lion with three cubs, but they were too far in the distance to get a good shot. Enjoy the pictures!!!














Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Thank You

I just wanted to say thank you all for the mini birthday celebration we had on Sunday. It really meant a lot to me, especially since it was an already hectic day, that you all took the time to celebrate my birthday. Thank you!
Today we went to the Wildlife Education Center. It was very interesting to learn about the reserve and its history. There are twelve different wildlife reserves in Uganda and they are all managed by the Wildlife Organization. Noel went through the history of the National Park, discussing the transition from control hunting area (keeping track of what hunters are hunting and how many), game reserve (paying to hunt in the area), and finally national park (where people were completely cut off from the area and not compensated in order to preserve the wildlife). When the national park was established there was a lot of resentment from the people that lived there previously and violence started to come about. The national park was the target and animals and the land were being destroyed. An attempt to restore peace was the community conservation program, where the community was involved in managing the natural resources both inside and outside the reserve. He also stressed that preserving the wildlife is in the best interest of all Ugandans.
After the lecture we went on the game trail and were able to see a few different animals. We saw antelope, boar, and some zebra. We even were able to get out of the bus at one point and take pictures next to a boar. There are 70 different species on the reserve as explained by Noel. The most common animals are the antelope, zebra, and topi. We arrived back to the hotel around 4 pm and had the rest of the day free. Some went swimming, had massages, walked down into the town, or just relaxed. Overall what were your guys thoughts of the day? I know some have experienced safaris in other countries. How do they compare? Is it what you expected?

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Other Side to Life in Uganda

Today we went on the rural visit to the village of Kaswo. This day has been by far my favorite day so far. Our group split up into three smaller groups and each went to a different farm. I had the honor of going to John Guweddeko’s farm in Kitegula where we had a wonderful tour of his 8 acres of land which is divided amongst 3 separate plots of land in different locations.

Mr. Guweddeko farms both food and cash crops. His food crops include: matooke (bananas), cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, maize, sorghum, beans, and ground nuts. What surprised me the most, was that all his food crops go to feeding his family and friends. One of the major difference between families in the US these days and the families in the villages of Uganda is that in the villages your family is considered to be all your relatives which can include anyone from grandchildren, aunts, cousins and everyone in between, not to mention that it is not uncommon for a family to have 10 children. Where in the US the family you provide for is normally the Mother and Father and their children, and most families in the US typically only have 2 or 3 children.

Where Mr. Guweddeko earns his profit from is his cash crops, which include cocoa, pineapple, and his coffee nursery. I was really amazed by the coffee nursery and all the hard work that goes into the process of planting the 50,000 seedlings that he cares for until it is time to sell them off to other farmers. It is very inspiring all the hard work and determination the villagers have and the pride they have in their land.

Another matter that surprised me was when Mr. Guwededdeko mentioned that Gobal Warming has caused a noticeable difference to his farming. He mentioned that they now experience longer dry seasons and destructive storms and hail when the rain does come. He said that over 10 years ago they were able to make definitive production plans based on the genuine weather forecasts that enabled them to plant in time, and now they are unable to adjust to the ever changing weather and climate. He also mentioned the problem of new crop diseases that sometimes can be so bad that they result in total loss, and he is unsure whether this problem could be linked to the first or not.

My favorite part of the day was when we went back down into the village to have dinner and while we were waiting the grandchild of the farmers we toured with performed for us and it was truly heartwarming to see their smiling faces. Then when we toured the village before leaving we had a swarm of small children following us and then they later chased after the bus as we drove off. I was sad to leave. It was a great day in rural Uganda.

I know we have all experienced some form of culture shock while we’ve been here in Uganda and maybe more during the rural visit as suppose to the time spent in the more modernized area of Kampala. So my question is what resemblance of home have you seen (particularly during the rural visit)? And what will you miss most once you return home?

Lake Visit

Hope you all enjoyed getting to know our faculty and staff better tonight with our round-table!

Today, we had a day full of busing, watching Scott almost die, and the beauty that is the “Switzerland of Africa.”

One of the things I have been focusing on this trip is the transportation and its inefficiency, along with how the poor conditions of the roads negatively affect the people of Uganda, and also the country’s economy. Today we spent about 8 hours in the bus and it was extremely rough. Multiple times my butt bounced inches off the cushions. I have had discussions with a couple of you on your take on the roads, but was wanting a few more opinions. The roads and the transportation system in general are very crappy. Trips that would take an hour in the US, can end up taking three hours in Uganda. Vehicles need to stop and swerve often to avoid potholes and road bumps. The roads are also two-lane, making passing uncomfortable at times. The lack of efficiency is definitely increasing transportation costs, making goods more expensive to the public. Also, it is a huge downside to Uganda’s developing tourism industry. These reasons, along with the obvious frustrations of personally traveling on these roads raises a question: What else is it going to take for Ugandans to become more proactive? Djamila ignorantly confronted the IGG with no basis for her claim. What does it take for some Ugandans to get organized and make a strike on the government because of the problems or try to pass some legislation through their local representative? I don’t know the answer, but I was wondering if any of you did.

Bunyonyi Resorts

Today was our first full day in Mbarara, and we traveled to Provia’s home of Kabale, to visit Bunonyi Resort. To see her excitement was one of the best parts of the day. She only gets a chance to go home on holidays and it was nice to have her there to be able to tell us about her home district, especially how it is different from Buganda. We woke up early to travel “two” hours, which we have now noticed that does not always mean “two” hours. The roads to get to the resort were difficult; not smooth and quit a few hills but with the best view yet. Farmland and animals made so there was always something to look at while not traveling through a town.

Bunyonyi Resort almost was a honeymoon location to where we have been so far. It had beautiful cottages and a multitude of tents that were quit secluded. The resort sits right along the lake, so all the views were beautiful. After lunch we took a nice boat ride to view the islands and stopped at one to get another look at the rolling hills. Standing on the islands made you feel quit small in comparison to what was around you. To see all the different pieces of farm land scatter along the hills was amazing. Provia explained how farm owners own only small plots in several different areas and do all the work by manual labor which makes for difficult days. This would be opposite from what we saw on our rural visit. Along the way a few of the resort managers explain their business and what they have to offer.

They were very generous, as they cooked us full traditional Ugandan meal. Except it has been our first Ugandan meal without matooke, and I can’t lie I almost wanted some.

My question for the students would be: Where should tourism in Uganda go to help them further develop?

Saturday, May 30: RURAL VISIT

Today we took a trip to a small, rural village and had the opportunity to visit various farms. For me, today gave a much-needed boost of optimism and hope. We were welcomed warmly by all the kids of the village and their happiness, despite their dire living situation, was immediately contagious. I personally was in a group that met with two different farmers. The first, Henry Rwanga, was a cocoa farmer who has attained remarkable success. He managed to go to university to study agriculture and is actually employed by the Ministry of Agriculture as a civil servant to aid his neighbors in their farming efforts. Through educating himself, Rwanga was able to learn new techniques, diversify his crops, and expand his acreage.
The second farmer, Robert Senyonga, was incredibly successful as well. He is an example of the possibilities that can arise when farmers take advantage of NAADS, a government-sponsored agricultural program. By participating in this program, he has managed to purchase ten acres, implement new techniques, and grow an amazing range of crops from yams and bananas to corn and sugarcane. Robert farms all ten acres on his own, with help only from his wife and children.
NAADS, while being a government-sponsored program, is funded ninety percent by foreign investors such as USAID and the Swedish Foreign Development Fund. The program is split into small parishes and is available nation-wide. However, there are a large amount of farmers who are skeptical and refuse to be told new ways of doing things. With promises of success also come possibilities for failure.
After spending the entire first week in the city of Kampala, I had almost forgotten that the majority of Ugandans live in rural areas. Getting out into the country helped to remind me of what a huge part agriculture plays in the lives of most Ugandans. Sadly, most farmers do not experience success stories like Henry and Robert. A lot of them are merely subsistence farmers who earn little more than enough to send their children to school. Yet the successes of both Henry and Robert are enough to keep me optimistic that more success is possible with continued education and unwavering hard work.
After experiencing the rural visit, do you think sustainability is needed more in the cities or the rural areas of Uganda? What do you think is the biggest obstacle farmers face in trying to become more sustainable?

Winding Roads and Speed Bumps

If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past couple of days, it’s that you should add at least two hours to your estimated arrival time when you travel in Uganda.

Our day began with some hasty packing and running around…we weren’t sure as to our exact departure time thanks to our bus having to rotate some tires. We arrived at MUBS for our 10 am breakfast. After that, we waited…waited…went shopping across the street…waited…celebrated Kelsey’s 20th birthday with some cake and balloons…and waited. We finally left for Mbarara at 1:30 pm, a mere three hours after our scheduled departure.

The road to Mbarara was bumpy and slow, thanks to speed bumps that are cordially placed about every 100 feet in the roads…I have yet to get a good answer as to why they do this. Oh, and the potholes are about the size of a grown gorilla. Thankfully (and miraculously) we never got stuck in one.

After an eight hour trip (it was supposed to be six) we arrived at Lakeview Hotel in Mbarara at 9:30 pm, tired as ever. Most of us immediately ran straight to our beds, hoping for some plush beauty sleep. Instead, we were welcomed by mattresses that felt like nailed together two-by-fours.

All in all, though, the Lakeview Resort is a great place, complete with swimming pool, a spa, a bar and some great food. It will be nice having this place as our home for the next few nights.

But going back to the whole question of the more laid-back culture in Uganda…has this been a refreshment from our fast-paced and schedule-driven American lives, or are you frustrated by the seemingly lax schedules that Ugandans have?