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Monday, May 31, 2010

Special Needs School and Orphanage

As the head of the school, Francis got the idea for the special needs school in 1998 because of his own physical disability. He wanted to get more people off the streets and turn them into a productive, sustainable force. So in 2002, the institution was created. It was hard to sustain at first because most children with special needs come from poor families, which do not send them to get an education because they have no extra money and see it as a waste of time. When a child has a disability, many people have negative attitudes towards them and will view it as a curse from God.

The approach the school now uses is a 5:1 ratio. For every 5 normal students admitted and paying tuition, one child with special needs is let in. This includes those who are physically disabled, deaf, blind, autistic, time-takers, or intellectually challenged. A series of specialists interact with and assess the children so they can place everyone in the correct class level. Part of the school goes from nursery to Primary 7, and the vocational group is made up of those who can work but are not good with education.

Most students start the day with class at 8 am, play time at 10, and break tea at 11. Then they have free activities and can meditate on their lessons for about a half hour. They have more lessons, lunch, and then end the day with exploration of more specific studies or disciplines. The children go back home around 3 or 4 pm. This schedule varies based on the needs of each child. Most go to school everyday, but others may come only three times a week or a couple hours of the day.

The school has a total of 286 students, 30 of which board there. Ages range from 3 to 19 years, but they leave at different times depending on when skills are gained. Classes have about 25 students in each, which is very small for Uganda. The average classroom has 50 students or even 100. Funding for the school comes from the 5:1 ratio as well as local fundraising and handcrafts the students make and sell. Wings of Support, a Dutch organization, donated the chairs and toys for the school, while another Dutch organization helped with construction, especially the bathrooms and doors. The school also carries out agriculture on about 20 acres of land, so they sell when there is excess.

The special needs school has a doctor for medical check-ups and physical therapy exercises for mostly rehabilitation. They provide chapel services for all students and some specifically for the deaf. Teachers must be able to sign and talk during class, and brail must be prepared for those who are blind beforehand. Pets such as rabbits and chickens are used to help some of the children with communication, unruly behavior, or teamwork. The school includes bedrooms for boarders, a kitchen, computer lab, and sewing machines.

The main mission of the school is to teach children to become self-reliant job makers, instead of job seekers. They want to get rid of the stigma in the home and the community, and let others see the person before the disability. The school is integrating those with disabilities into the rest of the community so that they can also be educated and productive.

We were able to tour the school and see inside each of the classrooms. We met some of the faculty members and students. We even got to see brail being made, a service for the deaf, and one of the students write with her feet.

Did the school meet your expectations?

How is it similar to or different from the way people with disabilities are viewed and treated in the U.S.?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Agriculture in Uganda

Authored by Jennifer Kaiser

We started the day traveling to Kabimbiri, a rural town Professor Senteza grew up in. It was about an hour from the city. We split up into two groups to visit with different farmers. Boda Bodas (small motorcycles) were our mode of transportation. My group visited Henry Lwanga, who stressed that cocoa production was the new vision for agriculture in Uganda. Lwanga farms a 50 acre cocoa plantation that his grandfather began when he was young and that he took over after graduating from Mackere University. He explained the lifecycle of cocoa plants. It takes about 2 ½ to 3 years before a cocoa plant can begin yielding (poorly); the plant won’t have high production until its 7th year. In the 7th year, the farmer will have to harvest the cocoa plant every 14 days (germination cycle). Shearers are used to harvest the cocoa plantations which ensure that the pod is not destroyed when removed from the cocoa plant. The pod is then broken open, the seeds are taken out, and the beans are placed in boxes to ferment. The seeds are placed in one box for 3 days, moved to another for 3 days, and then to a final for the last 2 days to complete aeration. Next, the seeds are ready for drying, so they are laid out on the ground for the sun’s heat to dry them. After drying, they are bagged and ready for the market. The cocoa is then sold and made into chocolate, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, tea, and so on. Lwanga uses a product called PUSH which is an antiherbal bio-fertilizer that increases yield for cocoa pods. He applies it four times during every cycle: 4 leaves, pre-flowering, pod formation, and before harvest. This allows for quick maturity and reduces flower shedding so more pods are formed. It takes about 150 days from flowering to the ripening or maturing of the pod. Lwanga prunes and weeds his cocoa trees for optimum cocoa production. Common pests for cocoa plants include capseeds, millibugs, scalespests, aphids, monkeys, and moss. Cocoa plants require continuous harvesting throughout the year, but some months have more production than others, so some farmers will sometimes employ others in the community to help them for a few weeks. My group did not get to see the pineapple and banana plantations because we were rained out, but the other group did.

Agriculture in Uganda is much different than in the United States. The average farmer in Uganda owns 2.5 acres. Anything bigger is considered an estate! I can’t imagine farming only two or three acres of land when field sizes that my parents operate can range from 80 to 400 acres. Ugandan farmers do everything by hand with the use of no machinery. Spraying, working the ground, and harvesting take so much longer for smaller fields than in the U.S. It’s shocking how behind Ugandan farming is. Unlike the city, it has not grown. Production levels were higher in the 1980s than they are now; I think this is a result of splitting up farms. Furthermore, Ugandan agriculture is not protected by crop insurance (if natural disasters strike, farmers are accountable for all they lose), there are no government subsidies (like CRP-growing/raising grasslands, trees, plants, etc. for profit), and technology is limited.

Ugandan agriculture does not seem sustainable to me. Too many people think that land is all that matters to them, not the profit from the land, or even the amount of produce the land yields. Until farmers have bigger farms and more acres, nothing will change. Communal land or fewer farmers would be beneficial. Programs that NAADS is trying to introduce need to provide better incentives to get farmers more interested in forming groups of 5 to make their land area bigger. Mindsets need to change; land should not be the pride of a farmer, but the amount of income he can achieve from working in his fields. True entrepreneurs in agriculture are needed. Until the farmer is willing to work for money and not survival, true business at its prime, Uganda won’t experience growth.

The main problem I notice is education. People need to understand that not everyone can be a farmer; it won’t work. More people need to become educated (University level) and enter the business world, or the private sector. Fewer blue collar workers are needed and more white collar positions are for countries to experience exponential growth. The U.S. does this; which shows education is key. Most children in rural and farming families can’t afford to send their children to school. An uneducated workforce causes even more problems and economic decay. Furthermore, splitting up farmland among families hinders production. Western culture has proven that bigger farms are linked to technological advancements and economic stability. Economies need stability, relying on one commodity for 90% of the GDP is detrimental. The change needed to happen yesterday.


it has been a tough time guys from the day we begun the Owino walk to today at the School with Children with special needs. This so far has been my most captivating moment on the tour so far. It is a story to tell and also reflect about, the Kids how they survive and integrate in Society.

Did i see tears and resignation about life by looking of some of you? Yes. Here is my story about SURE Prospects Institute. I flew back from the US to Uganda on the 22nd April and the next day on the 23rd, i ended up at that school to drop of someone who had business at this school. As i waited in the ar with my son Jonathan; he walked out and came back running. Daddy, there are Kids with no Limbs and some cannot see or hear.i was struck by this and I looked at out the car to have a look around. A sense of hopelessness struck me but I had to act fast to help this young boy understand the situation. I sat with him in the car and tried to explain to him that yes indeed some people had certain defects and they are still part of society. I sent him back to the same kids and watched him play and get along, which was a huge relief to me!

But then I still had thoughts going through my mind, what is it I can do for these kids? I still have not got an answer or solution, but I thought that with you guys (Drake) visiting as well we can put two heads (oh thirty heads) together to find something. I was really impressed by the Director’s welcoming speech and also seeing that the teachers also are with disabilities as well as seeing a church service for the deaf. I am now sitting back at home happy that your visit brought a smile to these kids. Thanks for your contributions and gentleness!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Inspector General

Written by Jacki Debb

Today was a very interesting day at the Uganda inspector general’s office. At first I had no idea what an inspector general did or who he was for that matter. So first thing for me was to find out what and who exactly this person was and what he did. When we first got there everyone sat around or near this big table waiting for the Honorable Raphael Baku, the general to come in. When he came in he had an entourage of people, about three men; one of which we knew (James from Kabale). He walked in and we were told to stand for him which everyone did once told to. After that he said thank you and we sat down. It reminded me of a court room where everyone has to stand for the judge. After the sitting and standing dance James announced and gave a brief overview of who the man standing before us was and what he was going to talk about. Raphael had a packet of papers with bullet points in it of what he was going to talk about; he introduced himself and then went into what exactly the Inspector General’s office does in Uganda. Raphael has been the general for two terms. In order for the general to be put in this office or in his position he must be appointed by the president and approved by parliament. The goal of the Inspector Generals office is to reduce corruption. They go about this by following and investigating complaints that people make about companies, corporations or people that may be involved in corrupt activities. Raphael said that there were about 25 definitions of what corrupt activity could actually be. He did not go into all the examples but the main ones he mentioned were fraud, bribery, nepotism, and failure to account. The office starts out by following complaints that have been made. They then investigate and if need be they prosecute. When Raphael was concluding his speech he mentioned the main parts of the office and what the Inspector general does. To promote and foster the rules of law set forth by the constitution, eliminate corruption, enforce laws, supervise disciplinary codes of conduct, investigate acts of corruption and give a recommendation as to what the next step is, and lastly, stimulate public awareness of what corruption is and how to prevent it. The inspector of government was created by the constitution and therefore has constitutional independence. The office cannot conduct its own trials but they make inquires and investigate what needs to be looked in to. The people that are appointed are the deputy who is appointed by the general and the general is appointed by the president. The most interesting thing I thought that was talked about was the new act that was passed in 2009 named the Anti-corruption act. This stated that with this new act private sectors can be prosecuted and it also included some new offenses. These new offenses were influence penalty, conflict of interest and nepotism. Raphael talked about how even though the Inspector government is a private entity it does work with the president and government to ensure that corruption is stopped He talked about how assets are recovered when someone is found guilty of corruption and where the money goes. The money either goes back to the proper place that it should have been in like the company it was stolen from or it goes into the Inspector government’s bank account where it then will be given to the treasury. After his discussion he allowed time for questions and there were quite a few. The main questions had to do with the fact that Uganda is still considered a corrupt country and what are they doing about it. To summarize the general said no country will ever be free or corruption but the goal is to reduce it as much as possible. Overall, I thought that the presentation was very entertaining I went in knowing nothing about the inspector general and what he does to knowing exactly who he is, what he does and how he does it. It was very interesting to see the power that he has and the respect that had to be shown to him. When it was time to leave everyone had to stay seated until Raphael and his entourage were gone. Once he left everyone stood up trying to remember and organize everything that was said and then we were on our way out of the office. The experience was definitely a learning experience for me and something I probably would not do again. It was interesting but if politics and government are not really your thing, then this was a somewhat boring talk. I think that Raphael was straight and to the point about what he does and how he does his job. I think it was extremely informative and I am glad I am not so clueless as to what an inspector general does anymore.

What are your views on Uganda being a corrupt country?

Do you think he was honest with his answers that he gave during his talk?

Do you really think he is an unbiased party being appointed by the president?

Do you think that the inspector general should be appointed by the president or elected by the popular vote?

Do you think another government body should be there to check the inspector government to make sure they are not corrupt?

Gender Issues in Uganda

Friday morning (5/27) -

This morning we went to the MUBS annex campus to listen to a talk on gender isses and the law by David Batema, a former attorney and high court judge. Mr. Batema began his lecture by asserting that law is inherently male because it is created by males and therefore has a male point of view. The consequence of this is gender marginalization, disempowerment, negative biases, and injustice. Before 1995, when the new Ugandan constitution was written, marginalization used to be much more pronounced. Only men were allowed to inherit land and money, legal standards differed for women and men on adultery, female teens who became pregnant while in school were expelled while no punishment was given to the father of the child, and judges used to question and examine women more harshly than men because women were seen as more likely to fabricate (Mr. Batema admitted to this himself). Before 1995 cultural and tribal influences, that in Uganda mostly favor the superiority of men, were strong. Gender was distinguished many ways - through various foods that were culturally accepted as being eaten mainly by males or females, in marriages where women were seen s as inferior to their husbands, in the workplace where women did not pursue jobs, and other areas. Mr. Batema went on to outline the changes in gender roles that have resulted from the new constitution, which focuses on creating gender equality and condemns the cultural and tribal practices that differentiate between gender. Under the new constitution females can now inherit land and money, have equal rights in marriage and divorce, have an extended maternity leave from 45 to 65 days, and every district is required to have at least one woman representative in which the language 'chairman' has been replaced by 'chairperson.' Affirmative action policies have also been adopted under the new constitution to help relieve the marginalization of women. Mr. Batema stated an example that in an application pool where a girl and boy have equal qualifications, the girl will be selected over a boy because the girl has more disadvantages in society. In addition, the new constitution prohibits cultures, customs, and traditions that are against the dignity and welfare of women or marginalized groups. This means that some traditions that are rooted deep in Ugandan tribes are now outlawed by the government. Challenges that Uganda stil has to face in gender equality are that men are still viewed as the 'bread-winners' of the family and are the main source of income and control many of the family resources, women are viewed as a homogenous category and not as individuals with ranging emotions and opinions, and the conflict between tribal and religious practices still present that oppose gender equality.
It seemed that everyone was engaged in Mr. Batema's presentation and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is impressive how far Uganda has come on the issue in recent years. Mr. Batema personally has had much influence in creating the new gender policies for Uganda.

What did the MUBS students say about Mr. Batema's presentation? Do they feel that gender roles in their lives agree with what was discussed?

Do you think it is ok that the government has outlawed certain tribal practices and customs in order to decrease the marginalization of women? What effects will this have on the deep traditons of Ugandan tribes?

Does the new Ugandan constitution show too much effort on behalf of women, to the point where it is almost hypocritical of trying to eliminate gender differentiation?

Does gender equality promote sustainable development?

Rural Visit - Family and Culture

Today we got the privilege of going on one of the most looked forward events from the trip - the rural visit. We left straight after breakfast to drive about an hour and a half to go into the very rural part of Uganda. We arrived in the town center to the welcoming of probably about 30 children. Then we split into two groups so that we could visit two different farming family homes. One group walked to their destination; my group got to ride boda boda's (which are like the taxi's of Uganda, motorcycle style). Don't worry parents, the drivers made sure to go a slow and safe speed on those things.

We got to meet Henry Lwanga who taught us all about his cocoa farming and family life. Before we had arrived, I was expecting a town that was very lacking; a town full of sad people who would do anything for some food (like they show on the commercials all the time) but I am very happy to report that that is not the case at all. The town is thriving! There is more food then they need and they have access to health care (there is a pharmacy and health clinic in town as well as a hospital 10 kilometers away) and education without too much hassel.

Henry got his Bachelor's degree from Makere University and came back to farm, something that is actually rare. Most farming families don't have that much education, children usually stop after primary school so that the kids can help out on the farm. Henry's family, however, is exceptional and all of the kids attend school. He has 10 children by the way and the ones that aren't yet at university help around the 50 acre farm that the family owns.

So here is what Henry tells us the typical rural Ugandan day looks like:
He wakes up around 5 am and plans everything out so he has a "mission for the day." Then he actually begins the work around 7 am with the help of his children. The kids usually can only help out for a little bit since they need to get to school. He works out on the farm all day while his wife stays home and works on general upkeep, cooking, smaller plants, etc. The kids help out more on the weekends and on holidays but even afterschool there is always some sort of project to do around the home. On a cocoa farm, there is never lack of something to do - they have to harvest every 14 days. I asked about who inherits the farm, expecting to hear the usual "eldest son" answer, but Henry says that's actually something that is put in the will and is kept a secret until the father passes away, and this is not always (or even usually) the eldest son. But no one will know until the time comes; I found that very interesting.

After seeing some of the cocoa plants and learning about the agriculture aspect of their life, we had to retreat to the pourch of the house to get out of the pouring rain - bad timing huh? But we got to ask more questions and hang out for a bit so it wasn't terrible. When the rain stopped, we headed back into town to have some lunch. The wives of the farmers who had been showing the two groups around had cooked us a feast; there was so much food there! And most of it was very different food then we are used to eating. What I liked most about the feast was that, according to Dr. Senteza, all of the food came from within a 5 kilometer radius. It was all home grown. Well, this is excluding the soda that we had to drink of course. But the food was pretty good and there was more then enough there, which is a great testimony to how the town is thriving.

The people are so happy there; it was wonderful to see! Also, there was an overwhelming sense of community. One of the staff members from MUBS was telling me that while he was growing up in a farming community, he was able to disappear for the whole day and no one would worry because in those town, everyone knows each other and no one needs to worry about being robbed or kidnapped or anything. What a great place to be!

Some questions for the students to think about:
- If you could grow up in a place like this no knowing what you are missing out on from America, would you want to? Why?
- How is this way of life different then your own?
- What most suprised you about the way of life in rural Uganda?
- How has this experience changed your perspective on life, Uganda, America, etc?
- How are small farms key to the sustainable development of Uganda?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Half Way Gone

We are officially at the half way point of our stay in Uganda.  During the first half I have been reflecting on this year and past years.  The road work on the way to Mbarara is progressing well, it looks like by next year there will be a very nice, modern road in place for the vast majority of that trip.  It was interesting seeing more large construction equipment this year than in the past, a small sign that the country is progressing in industrialization.  The thing that has made the largest impact on me so far was the primary school day.  In reading the blog it is easy to see that many of the students feel similar.  The impact for me was much different than that for most of the students.  I had seen the school conditions and wanted to help out for each of the last three years.  It was great to finally devote a day in the program to leaving the school in better shape.  However, I feel like there is so much more we can do.  I wonder if experiences like this are the most important thing we do and the best learning experience for the students.  Maybe we will spent to much time in the classroom.  At the beginning of the class I asked students to talk about their expectations.  The half way point is a good time to reflect on what you expected and what you have experienced.  Everyone has been doing a great job in your journal --looking over the first half of the trip what one thing would you tell friends and family to describe the experience so far?  In other words, now that the trip is half way gone - what has been your greatest "a ha" moment"?

President’s Reception and Cultural Gala

After the two presentations today and exchanging some more money downtown at the Grand Imperial Hotel, we headed back to the campus of MUBS for a reception put on by the president of MUBS. To open the reception, a member of the administrative staff who is also a student in the masters program showed off for us doing what he does in his spare time: circus tricks. He walked across a wire, made tea while balancing on a stationary bicycle, and a few other stunts. It was entertaining for us, if a little strange for the MUBS students, who see him on a daily basis.

Right after that we were entertained by a dance and drumming troupe who performed a traditional Buganda dance for us. The instruments were essentially the same as what the students at the primary school had just a couple of days ago, and it was fun to see a little native culture in action. The dance troupe was excellent as well, and they got a few of our students and the MUBS students up to attempt their dance. A number of the MUBS students are Buganda, and were trying to teach us the dance as well. It seemed really simple, but you could see how much practice the dancers had put in as the evening went on. Some of the students were even up with the dancers for a good while, and could hold their own in the feather-shaking, hip-swinging style the dancers used for the night.

As we mingled with the students, faculty, and staff from MUBS at the reception, we had time to get supper and get to know some of them more. The music was always on, either from the hired DJ or the drummers. You can definitely hear where they get their preference in dance music from, though, because the beat just kept going. As darkness fell, the DJ started playing a combination of old school American pop and newer Afro-pop. All the students were out having fun, and the mixing of dance styles was just as fun as the music. We were all disappointed because there was a noise ban at eight o’clock, and the music had to stop. It sounded like everyone had a great time this evening, and we hope to get some more opportunities to see more of this integral part of Ugandan life and culture.

Finally, a few questions: Given that the Inspector General said today that Ugandans do not worry about copyright laws, do you think that the country is able to sustain a music industry? Artists can make money from hiring out to parties (like the one tonight), doing shows and events, but not from recordings. Does this still allow for development, or are artists limited by piracy? Also, did you enjoy the music? What similarities did you hear between their cultural musical heritage and their pop music?

Takeaway Restaurant, Equator Shops, and Crocodile Farm


Today we had the chance to return to the Takeaway Restaurant during our journey back from Mbarara, and yet again it was a delicious pit-stop along the way. We had the choice between chicken or talapia, the whole fish, head and all, and everything was delicious. This restaurant is one of the last along the route before entering another city, so it is a great place to snag a bite before getting back on the road. I would estimate the Takeaway to seat approximately 75 customers, which I would think it could easily occupy.
We stopped at the Equator Shops on our way to Mbarara, but just had to return on the trek back to accumulate even more souvenirs. Everyone seemed to enjoy standing in both hemispheres, and of course it was the perfect photo-op for our group on this trip. Shops were all bunched together along the road, about the length of a city block, along both sides, and this was the perfect test for us to try our hand at bargaining. The skill is almost expected in the area, but it was shocking in some cases at how much the seller is willing to drop the price to make a sale, but it just goes to show, they need us to make a living.
The Crocodile Farm was a very interesting place, and a little intimidating I must say. When we first walked up we came upon a storage house for the younger crocs, which then turned into the juvenile crocs, those under 5 years of age. It is at this age when the animals are then used for meat and making products such as bags, shoes, and belts. Our tour guide would not give an approximate asking price for any of the items, but from what we gathered they sell to buyers in Korea who then turn around and sell again for profit. Because the farm does not have many expenses, it must do pretty well in terms of income, which is great hope for small businesses in Uganda.
Small businesses like these all seem to do pretty well in retrospect, but I really feel that they could make so much more profit by making a few changes. First of all, these places could use more advertising. Businesses like these need to get the word out that they exist, especially to tourists like us, otherwise they will never get the foot traffic needed for a large income. Tourist attractions are huge, so maybe more of that mentality at these places could turn mild success into major growth. Now, tourism doesn't always have a positive effect in all countries, but it could be the thing needed to stimulate this country financially. Small businesses are a big thing in Uganda, and that can be used to their advantage if they are operated in such a way that can impact the country in a positive manner. In the long run this could help the economy of Uganda, which in turn could truly effect the rest of the world.

What do you think could be done to promote small businesses such as these? Do you think an increased amount of tourism would have a positve or negative effect on the country?

take-away restaurant/ equator shops/ croc farm


Hi everyone,

Today we traveled back to Kampala from Mbarara. We passed by the Equator Shops and the Take-Away restaurant. The shops have a number of hand made crafts, such as, knives, bags, baskets, earrings, animals, and African shoes. The Americans learned how to bargain at the shops. The restaurant had chicken, fish, and local foods. We then went to the Croc Farm. It has over 4,600 crocodiles! Three are over 50 years, and the rest are young. The crocodiles feed on chicken and beef. The young crocodiles are fed twice a week and the old ones are fed once a week. This is because their digestive system is slower. The crocodile eggs are got from Murchison Falls National Park. They are put in an incubator for two months to hatch. When they reach three years, they are killed to get skins. They are sold to one Korean buyer. They are used to make shoes, bags, and belts. Then we traveled back to Kampala.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Primary School Visit

Today was a very busy day at the primary school in Mbarara. Some of us left the hotel at 6:45 to start working and the rest of us left at 8:45. The school was very close to the hotel so we were able to walk there. When the early shift of people arrived to the school they removed the books and furniture from the classrooms so that they were ready to paint when the rest of the Drake and MUBS students arrived.

After everyone had arrived at 9:00 a.m. we had an assembly with all the students at the primary school. Their head master welcomed us to the school and had the children sing the national anthem of Uganda. We were then introduced the faculty of the school. After their introductions each of the students from Drake and MUBS stood up and said their name and what they were studying at school. Once we had all had gone around we allowed the children to ask us questions about school or the United States. At first the students did not have many questions but once we started passing out candy if they asked a question there were a lot of hands up with questions. One the students asked us to sing the national anthem. We had some Drake choir students lead us so we would not sound so horrible.

When we were done with questions we had a lot of time to interact with the students of the primary school. Many of us took pictures of the kids. They loved seeing pictures of themselves on the camera. Many of them would just come up to us asking if we could take pictures of them and then seconds later you would be surrounded by kids wanting to be in a picture. They thought that seeing their picture was one of the coolest things.

Once we were done taking pictures and playing with the kids it was time to get to work. Our project was to paint the outside and inside of one of the school building. All the paint and supplies we used was donated by Kristin Kowalski’s friends and family in memory of her mom. It was a very generous donation and we had plenty of supplies to finish the job.

All the students from Drake and MUBS worked very well together so we were able to get the job done very timely. In the afternoon to take a break from painting many of us went to the classrooms to pass out candy to the students. They were all so happy to receive the candy and a little break from studying. When classes were done for the day all the children came running out the their classrooms to get more candy. We were all swarmed with children pushing to get more candy. Within five minutes we no longer had any more candy to pass out. Once all the candy was gone we put the finishing touches on the school and cleaned up our work area.

It was a very busy and long day, but it felt really good to be able to help out the children at the primary school.


Was there anything interesting that you learned about the school systems in Uganda today?

What did you enjoy most about the visit to the primary school?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Queen Elizabeth National Park

The visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park has finally come and gone! I definitely circled this event on the itinerary out of excitement. The experience I had at this park was amazing. Queen Elizabeth National Park is the top two largest national parks in Uganda. This park is home to over 95 animal species and 614 species of birds. Before entering the park, we stopped alongside the road at the National Park lookout. This fall mountain that bordered the park provided us with an amazing view of what stood below. The park is very large. Inside the park lie two large lakes; Lake George and Lake Edward. Lake Edward is massive and its borders stretch into Congo which is Uganda’s neighbor to the west. The view was simply amazing. Both of these lakes were nothing less of breath taking.

It was really nice to see the animals in their natural habitats. We saw all kind of beasts including Elephants, Hippos and Water Buffalo all feeding on the banks of Lake Edward. My favorite was the Elephant. I enjoyed learning all kind of information about this large animal. During the game drive, the group got the chance to see a mother elephant walking around with its offspring. Elephants are very protective of their young. The young elephant often hides under the legs of its parents to hide itself from any danger. Elephants have no natural predator. The only predators to elephants are humans who hunt them for their tusks. Queen Elizabeth is home to about 500 Elephants. This figure has dropped tremendously from years back! At one point of time, there were about 5,000 elephants in this park. During the reign of Idi Amin he slaughtered thousands of elephant for their precious ivory which reduced their population greatly to about 300 elephants. This species is slowly but surely growing.

Our tour guide Moses was pretty cool. He talked about the conflict between the park and its local people. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to 11 villages. These villagers are often farmers, salt miners of fishermen. This is how they make their living. Recently there were 5 lions poisoned to death by local farmers. The lions were preying on their cattle causing the farmers to lose money, so they took action to end this. This is having a negative impact on the ecosystem as well as tourism. There is often conflict between the park and local residents. Moses explained to us that the local people would sometimes hunt the animals inside the park for food. They would also pollute the water and land with trash which both have a negative impact on the environment. This can decrease the amount of local tourists who visit this park resulting in lack of revenue. There have been constant efforts from both the Uganda Wildlife Authority and local villagers to compromise. Moses stated that the park tries to help fund schools for the local village people to promote a healthy relationship between inhabitants and environment. This is definitely a way of sustainable development. It is a combined effort from the government; UWA and local village people to upkeep this beautiful park.

To attract visitors Queen Elizabeth National Park provides numerous activities. Some of these include boat rides, forest walks, hill climbing, and chimp searches. These activities increase the numbers of local tourism. This promotes sustainable development because by keeping this park as natural as possible, the higher the amount of tourism and revenue for the government. National Parks are great for sustainable development. They allow for the a huge pieces of land to go untouched and ruined by development which are turned into a way of local as well as international tourism. Maintaining this park requires a lot of labor will increase jobs for people such as Moses. Overall, I think that tourism to National Park is a sustainable industry. The Uganda Wildlife Authority should continue to focus on the upkeep of this park. By promoting a healthy relationship between the village people and the wild species, the park’s population will continue to grow in numbers which will attract more tourists resulting in more money for the park. This money could help aid the village people’s schools and general lifestyle to decrease the conflicts.

Posted By Matthew Hancock (through Brittany's Account)

Visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park

Greetings everyone.

Today we visited Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda.On our way to the park, we stopped at the Kajara Tea Estates,which is one of the largest tea estates in the region.

We all got off the bus and took pictures with the workers who were picking tea leaves.Surprisingly, the highest paid tea-harvester earns 10,000sh(5 dollars) per day.The method of picking tea leaves is manual and highly labour-intensive.The tea leaves picked are taken to a nearby factory for processing.

The park is found in the western arm of the East African Rift Valley,and it is the second-largest game park in Uganda after Murchison falls park with an area coverage of 1978 sq. km. It is located on a plain near Mountain Rwenzori,which is the highest mountain in Uganda.

We were excited to learn that there are 95 species of mammals and 614 bird species,and the numbers in the park are increasing. Earlier in the day we had a boat ride along the Kazinga channel that connects lakes George and Edward,from where we saw elephants,buffalos,hippos,birds and crocodiles. Among the birds we saw, there is the spur winged prover that is able to pick meat from a crocodile's teeth. The bird enjoys a special relationship with the crocodile.

The park has about 200 tree-climbing lions however we were not able to see any.
Visitors to the park are able to find accomodation at Mweya Safari Lodge, which has separate cabins for the President of Uganda and the Queen of England.

The park offers various activities such as game drives,boat rides,chimpanzee tracking,guided nature walks and camping,among others. We had a game drive and a boat ride on our visit to the park.

The park encounters the following problems:poaching,bush burning,encroachment due to population pressures,poor roads,pollution and road accidents involving the animals along the Mbarara-Kasese highway.However, some of these problems are being dealt with.

We left the park at about 7pm local time.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lake Bunyonyi

Hello All,

On Sunday we traveled from Kampala (In the Central Region) to Mbarara (In the Southwest region). We are staying at the Lake View Resort Hotel here in Mbarara. This morning we all met for breakfast at the hotel and then loaded "Big Blue," the bus we travel on. We headed further into the southwest region to visit Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Bunyonyi Land Resort, located on the shore. The southwest region of the country is hilly and mountainous. These mountains are more similar to the Appalachian mountains than the Rocky Mountains. Due to the steep terrain the local people use terraces in order to preserve the land and prevent mud slides

On the way to the lake we took a short hike to see the farming plots and terraces closer up. James, is originally from this area and explained what we were seeing. On the hike we passed right next to a cell phone tower. I have noticed that there seem to be more of these than in the United States and the residents seem to have pretty good service every where we go. After talking to some of the Ugandan students about this I also learned that some of their cell phones have two cards built into them allowing them to receive service from two different networks/carriers. That would be like our cell phones in the U.S. being able to use Verizon and U.S. Cellular with the same phone. Wouldn't that be nice!
After our short hike we re-boarded "Big Blue" and continued to Lake Bunyonyi. Lake Buyonyi is close to the city of Kabale. Uganda is one of the only places in the world you can see wild gorillas. (They are in the mountain region intersecting Uganda/Rwanda/Congo). Kabale is the last major city before heading into "Gorilla Country" and offers a more upscale place for visitors to stay before they begin their gorilla tracking adventures. We drove through Kabale and turned onto a winding, narrow rode that would lead us to the lake/resort. This part of the journey was an adventure as there were steep drop offs next to the road and lets just say "Big Blue" wasn't built to drive on a narrow, winding, dirt rode.

Once we arrived at the lake it was beautiful and we were all very excited to take pictures. Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Africa and 3rd deepest lake in the world, reaching depths up to 6500 feet! We walked through the dining area of the resort down to the lake, where there were boats waiting to take us for a ride around the lake. We were split into four different motorized boats for our tour. There are several islands in the lake and one is called "Punishment Island". This island is very small and made up of just marshy grasses. It used to be used as a punishment for young women who became pregnant out of wedlock. They would be taken to this island and left to die. (There is no food on the island.) This was thought to make an example for other young women who were thinking of being promiscuous. Except the women didn't starve to death, as men who couldn't afford to give a woman's family money to ask for the daughter's hand in marriage (dowry) would rescue the women and marry them. The local people believed the girls were dying, but they were actually living in other villages.

The tour around the lake lasted about 1.5-2 hours and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous! The weather was also nearly perfect, about 80 degrees and partly cloudy. Many of us, including myself, discovered first hand the sun at the equator is definitely more powerful than it is back home;) Seeing all of the beauty around the lake and lack of visitors led me to think about the possibilities for the area. The lake is quite large, and would be great for recreational boating/skiing/swimming. If more nice resorts were built next to the lake I think it would be a wonderful vacation destination. I especially think it would be a nice place to stay and relax either before or after several days of gorilla tracking. What do the rest of you think? Do you think more tourist development in this area would be good? Do you see any potential negatives? Would you be will to stay here? Why/Why not? Is it sustainable? Of course there are many obstacles that need overcome before developing this location into a tourism hotspot can occur, but the possibilities are nearly endless! What are some of the obstacles you think have to be overcome in order to develop this area as a tourist destination?

Upon returning to shore after our boat tour, we were treated to tea/coffee and some sweet rolls. We then had a chance to further explore the Lake Bunyonyi Land Resort. They had several docks, both attached to land, and floating in the lake for sunbathing/swimming access. As I stated previously the scenery is absolutely gorgeous and the plant/flower life in the area is spectacular! This resort offers cabins which are kind of like tree houses for the guests to stay in. They are right off the lake and of course offer amazing views.

After exploring for a while we had lunch at the resort. Lunch had many of the usual options including, salad (similar to coleslaw), Matoke (banana used for cooking, similar to potatoes), mashed potatoes, rice, cooked vegetables, beef, and chicken. There was also a small craft store adjacent to the dining room which many of us had to hit up. Several students honed their pool skills on the pool table and others sat around and discussed our adventures.

Once we were all finished eating we loaded "Big Blue" and headed back for Lake View Resort Hotel at Mbarara. Once we arrived home, we all met up again for supper at the hotel. We head out at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) for Queen Elizabeth National Park, where we will have a water cruise where we should see Hippos/Waterbuffalo/Crocodile and a land game drive later in the afternoon. We are all very excited!

Hope everyone is doing well back home, we'll update you again soon!

Cydney Karstens

Kabale - Agriculture

On our way to the Lake Bunyoni Resort we stopped at a town near Kabale. We hiked over to an edge with a beautiful outlook on the agriculture-based town. Our Ugandan colleague, James, explained to us what agriculture looks like in Uganda. The terrain in this region is very steep. In order to prevent erosion, the individual plots are very small and are surrounded by much larger bushes. The bushes keep the soil in place and prevent mudslides. Plants we saw included; Cabbage in the lowlands, sugar cane, maize, and sorghum. I learned that sorghum is used for flower and alchol, and is much like millet, which is used to make simsim. James explained that most of the crops grown here are for consumption. However, they will sell the food that is left over. How does growing crops mainly for personal consumption affect sustainable development? Would it be possible for these families to sell more of their crops and still provide for their families?

This district has no electricity or running water. This means that each time a family would like to use water, they need to walk down to the bottom of the hills to the spring or well and fill up containers. They then need to carry the water back up the hill. They use rain water to water the plants instead of manually watering them. How does lack of electricity and running water affect the production of the farms? If the village got eletricity and running water, causing the production rates to increase, I would think the farmers would need more land which did not appear available in the immediate area, what would be a realistic move for these farmers in regards to making a profit and sustainable development?

The region has a primary school, church, and a medical facility. While the medical facility is very nice, it serves a very large area. Besides the main road, however, there are no roads with in the farm areas, which makes it very hard for the people to travel to the hospitals. James also said the that region is made up of 99.99% Christians.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Oli Otya!(Ohlee-ohtee-ya) That means hello in the local language: Luganda. After our morning visit to the Ugandan Parliament, we traveled back to MUBS campus for a lunch of traditional food. Most all of the group was brave and adventurous as we tried the different menu items. These included traditional rice, vegetable greens, and matooke (a side dish made from bananas that are steamed and mashed a thick, creamy texture). Our MUBS friends were excited to share the experience of trying new foods with us.

After lunch, we headed back into the city to the Bugandan Parliament grounds. This parliament represents the Buganda Kingdom and is governed by Bugandan royalty. Additionally, they still fall under the rule of the Ugandan parliament, and this is the cause of debate on many issues. Some questions that were brought up in our discussion and should be considered by my colleagues are: How much power does the Bugandan Parliament have under the power of the Ugandan Parliament? How does having an unelected king represent the Bugandan people affect the government positively and negatively? What measures can be taken to insure that the Bugandan King and Parliament are accurate representatives of their constituents?

As we explored these issues, we got the chance to hear a presentation from the Minister of Education on the general procedures of the parliament. It was informative, but as we asked him questions, there seem to be some tension in the room as we discussed particular issues, especially those involving student protests. An additional question for my fellow students is: how did you react to the tension that came about during discussion today?

The thing that struck me most about the visit was their pride for Buganda and their king. They kneel before the king when they greet him, they sing a sort of Bugandan anthem at the start of meetings, and they accept no national funding for their salaries or programming. It was neat to be able to see their passion for their culture.

We continued our visit by traveling up the street to the Bugandan Royalty grounds. Here we were greeted by an awesome view of the city, a helpful tour guide, and a bunch of sweet young children. This was the highlight of the day for many students. We concluded our day with an evening meal at Fang Fang Restaurant where we enjoyed some Ugandan, Chinese food. Our trip is off to a great start, and we look forward to learning more. Welaba! (Way-la-ba, meaning goodbye)

City Tour/Owino Market

Today we started the day off by meeting the MUBS students. After getting to know them we got on the big blue bus that has been our mode of transportation since we arrived in Uganda and headed to exchange our dollars for shillings. As we rode the bus we were able to see a lot of what the city of Kampala looks like. This was our first day time look at the city. I had the pleasure of sitting by one of the MUBS students, Sharon, on this bus ride. She had lots to share about the city. She pointed out the many hotels in the area such as the Kampala Serena Hotel which had a beautiful landscape. She also talked about an area beyond a wall that we passed that held several different types of restaurants which she called fast food restaurants. She said you could find almost any type of food that you would want there. Lastly she pointed out an important building to note, the Ugandan Bank of Commerce. We were then dropped off at a Shell station right next to the Grand Imperial Hotel where we exchanged our dollars for shillings. After all of us did this we headed for a walk to our lunch destination, Nandos. This place served a variety of burgers, chicken, and wraps. Many of us learned that sweet and sour sauce tastes good with fries since ketchup appeared to be replaced with this restaurant. The meal process took a while but once we had all eaten we gathered and split into several small groups. Each group of Drake students also had two to three MUBS students in them. These groups were to travel together to the Owino Market. My group was led by MUBS students Robinah and Miria. When we split off into our groups is when everyone’s experiences and sights they saw really differed. The route we took to this market was one I would never be able to repeat. We took several streets creating a maze as we walked between parked cars, motorcycles, and bikes. Along these roads were several shops and stands selling anything and everything you could think of. We even went through the old part of the market we were heading to. We finally made it there with a half hour to explore. We were told to keep our belongings close and that if someone tries to get close to get you to buy something to pretend that they do not bother you and to keep walking. No one in my group was prepared for what we were about to enter. The market had a tiny walk way that was scattered with people and the items they were selling. Every vendor was selling a variety of items. The entire market contained items from food to electronics to clothing. Every vendor wanted you to buy something and maneuvering through the market was a difficult and draining task. After winding our way through the market for a short period of time my group was ready to go. After meeting back up with the rest of the Drake and MUBS students and faculty we were told that this market would be our biggest culture shock here and we completely agreed.
What sights did you see on the quick city tour or what information did one of the MUBS students provided you with during this tour? How were you feeling while walking through the Owino Market? What stood out to you? How can you connect what you learned in the city tour and the Owino Market to sustainable development in Uganda?

First Impressions

If I were being perfectly honest, my Ugandan impression as we walked out of the airport was one of the overwhelming, sweltering heat and the immediate onslaught of insects. As the night went on and we got more comfortable and onto the bus, I definitely cooled down both mentally and physically. I don’t know what it was that I noticed first – maybe the immense blanket of dark night sky, the particular smell (that of bonfire mixed with salt and the scent of the city), or the fact that the Ugandan community was still bustling despite the late hour – but needless to say I spent that first bus ride immersed in the act of trying to absorb as much of the Ugandan countryside as possible. Despite the fact that the open window was blowing cold air on me, to the point of raising goose bumps all up and down my arms, I simply could not pull myself away.

While sitting on that bus seat in the dark, I tried to figure out what it was about the countryside that had me so captivated. Originally, I thought that it was the fact that I was in a new country – one strange and completely different from my own, but as time went on I realized that it wasn’t because my surroundings were outside of my ordinary. It was because despite the fact that everything was new and different to me, they were things that were completely ordinary for others. Driving past the Ugandan landscape and citizens, I only saw a slight glimpse of their lives and even though their way of living seems so out of the ordinary for me, I was so captivated because their day to day lives were being laid out in front of me just on the other side of that window.

After meeting the MUBS students, this captivation was simply enhanced. I learned about their lives and their communities, their likes and their dislikes. I learned bits and pieces of what living life in Uganda was like and as the events of the day pressed on, I learned about the culture even more.

In the end, despite the fact that this course is about sustainable development in Uganda, for me it is about the people here. This is more important to me because in the end, all development is implemented for the benefit of the people. Their day to day lives are affected by the development of this country and that is why sustainability is so important for their community.

-Katrina Widener

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Friends it is good to see you all here, it is quite a sight especially the big number you but this just spices up the excitement. I am recalling the arrival at the airport yesterday and congratulations for having made it through Europe! I am informed that Wednesday night and part of thursday morning was PIZZA time, well it is time we took out for Luwombo and Mulokony, oh maybe Rolex!!
On a good note, welcome back from Owino; Yes it was a cultural awakening but that what i also got a few weeks ago in Des Moines. No People on the streets. However, I did not see any buys with anyone from our Walmart store!
I hope you all have wonderful days ahead.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Today at 3pm we had a brief meeting with MUBS students about the Drake Visit and all of them are very enthusiastic to see you all. They are interested in knowing about Drake and IOWA.


Dear All,

As you get ready to come to Uganda;I would like to welcome you to Uganda and wish you all a safe Flight. We are all awaiting you eagerly and the weather is just perfect for your stay here.
We have lots of things on the program for you and we all hope that you will enjoy this year's trip.
On behalf of my colleagues and students, Karibuni Sana! Safari Njema!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Back to Uganda and Giving Back

We are getting close to the departure date and everyone is excited to finish finals and head to Uganda.  Since the last post we have added a service day at a primary school which we have visited in the past.  This year we will spend a portion of the time painting and working on cleaning up one of the school blocks.  The money for this endeavor was raised almost entirely by the family of one of the students on the trip (more on that in a later post - thank you so much!)!  Additionally one of the sororities on campus added some funds.  We are looking forward to giving back to the school which has been such a wonderful host in years past.  I hope this is the first of many such endeavors we will attempt in future years.  The faculty are excited for the opportunity to help out our colleagues in Uganda and looking forward to continue to work on formalizing  our relationship with MUBS so we can hopefully begin faculty and student exchanges.  Next week you will start to see posts from the students as this year's trip gets fully under way!