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Sunday, June 16, 2013

U.S Embassy Visit - Julien Lamberto

After our interesting visit at the coffee processing plant our journey took us to familiar territory at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda. Once we arrived at the U.S. Embassy I immediately noticed a difference in the security measures as well as the building architecture. There were multiple security checkpoints, which was something many areas of Uganda lacked and the architecture was very well assembled. After traversing the multiple security checkpoints our class was greeted by one of the Foreign Service Officers stationed at the U.S. Embassy. One of the first things I noticed after entering the building was the air conditioned rooms - something that had become foreign to me after weeks of the natural heating and cooling provided by African nature.
All of the funds that are used by the U.S. which go towards sustainability are brought to bear by agencies such as U.S.A.I.D. and the C.D.C. and so the U.S. has no direct say in how the funds are allocated. Because of the effectiveness of this model, several other donors that wish to contribute towards Uganda's continued growth and avoid the risk of misallocation of funds have turned to the U.S. and their model of aid that has worked quite effectively in distributing foreign aid while avoiding the misappropriation of these funds. The projects that the U.S. currently focuses on are many and widespread all of which share the same end goal of promoting sustainability within Uganda. For example, the U.S. through U.S.A.I.D. has invested significant funds to develop HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment centers, other areas of support focus on development of Uganda's rich agricultural resources that can be used more productively if sold in foreign markets. The health measures that the U.S. is implementing through agencies such as the C.D.C. and U.S.A.I.D. promote the development of a more equitable social and economic atmosphere within Uganda because people can focus on more than just surviving their illness, they can start businesses, they can farm, in sum, they can become self-sustaining. This also ties into the viability aspect of sustainability because if a population is plagued by illness, preserving the environment will likely be on the bottom of their priority list and so by addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS within Uganda you also strengthen economic and environmental viability. This also ties into bearability because if someone is sick with illness they cannot farm which is a huge part of Ugandan culture and lifestyle and is an inextricable part of their everyday lives, but if an individual is sick they will be unable to farm properly and so the social and environmental situation becomes unbearable. All of these are addressed by U.S. efforts within Uganda, but there is still much work that needs to be done as the Ambassador himself claimed.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Midwesterners Talk about Weather: Religion in Uganda

Midwesterners Talk about Weather
Religion in Uganda

Written by Cara Lutes

Midwesterners talk about the weather—a lot. Ugandans don’t talk about the weather—at all. Midwesterners use the weather as conversation starters. “Wow, isn’t is (insert weather adjective here) outside?” We use them as conversation fillers. “So…ummm...How ‘bout that weather?” And we use them as conversation conclusions. “Enjoy the sunny day!” or “Look out for those snowy roads.” We often use weather as small talk. We often avoid conversations with acquaintances about politics and religion. I have found this not to be true here. (Ugandans don’t need to talk about the weather because it is always glorious and warm, so our MUBS friends make fun of us for making many comments about the weather :) ) 

One of our first days in Uganda, we were on the good ‘ole “Big Blue” bus, and one of my MUBS colleagues turned to be and out of the blue asked, “What’s your religion?” That has been a fairly common occurrence throughout this trip- the conversation starter about inquiring about religious beliefs and background. Usually when I am home, I find myself on the topic of religion after onion layers have been peeled off and I have had time to share my personality, my life, and myself. Later on in friendships, I explain my beliefs and views. Even though it is my foundation of how I desire to live my life, I am cautious when and how I bring up the tact. The very astounding fact it is a cultural norm for Ugandans to bring up religion like a Midwesterner brings up the weather. I think it was an adjustment for us Americans, but it is fascinating to engage in a culture where religion is discussed frequently.  Over the past few weeks, it has been a noteworthy endeavor in taking and processing the influence of religion in the Ugandan culture. Religion is more integrated and more present in the culture than it seems to be in America. Religious messages are written on the taxis. Religious schools are nearly more common than governmentally funded schools. Many stores hold religiously based names. Nearly every speaker has mentioned his or her beliefs in the presentations. Many non-profit organizations are faith-based. Ugandans talk about their beliefs more and ask about others’ religion more than the typical American. 

Religion is obviously a very complex entity with endless influences and factors. The following explanations are the understanding I have come to through conversations, presentations, and observation through the course of the trip. I know that I don’t have the entirety of understanding of the religious landscape of the Pearl of Africa, but this is what I have gathered.

  One thing I have really learned is that religion is very associated with how one grows up. One normally adopts his or her father’s religion because of cultural ties and respect. For example, a MUBS friend asked one of my fellow Drake students, “What is your religion?” She replied, “Oh I’m not very religious.” The MUBS student inquired, “What is your father’s religion?” She responded, “My dad was born Catholic.” “Oh, then you’re Catholic,” the MUBS statement stated.  This contrasts much of American culture in the fact that most individuals choose or come to various religious conclusions.

Traditional African history has had a large and long history since ancient times. In a 2002 census, 1% of the Ugandan population adhered to only following traditional religions. Usually now these beliefs are combined with other religious beliefs. In a survey taking place in 2010, it stated that about 27% of Ugandans believe that ancestors and spirits will protect them from harm through the offering of sacrifices. Very integrated within this culture is a focus upon calling on ancestors’ spirits. The influence of these spirits is often called African Chemistry in today’s Ugandan culture. From what I understand from conversations with the MUBS students, the power of the ancestors is said to heal diseases, bring success, and/or bring curse. Spells can be cast on others to create friction or distress. These influences are rooted in African culture and are some of the first religious influences in the area. This throughout is deeply rooted in beliefs and thinking of many Ugandans, so matter what stage of life they are in. A random side note—I find it very interesting that many MUBS students are very skeptical and frightened of cats due to the African Chemistry beliefs. Other Drake students have told me about advertisements for African Chemistry they have seen at various times throughout the trip.

            Islam was brought to Ugandan culture from the East in the 1860s. There was many converts but this also contradicted their culture because Islam claimed there was one God, which apposed the polytheism that was prevalent in African beliefs. As of 2002, about 12% of the population aligns themselves with being Muslim. While driving on “Big Blue,” I have been able to identify various communities where there are stronger Muslim ties. Muslim schools clearly have the Muslim symbol displayed on their signs, and one can see pupils and students throughout the schools’ courtyard. In addition, men, adolescents, and boys wearing kufi caps congregate together throughout village hubs. Many taxis hold messages such as “Allah Reigns.” At Savannah Coffee Bean Processing Center, there was an official mosque area that was open for employees to participate in prayer throughout the day.
                Catholicism is another influential faith in the Ugandan culture. French missionaries brought this influence in 1877. 41.9% of the population adheres to the Catholic faith as of 2002. Having the chance to visit the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine was an informative experience about Catholic influence. This shrine was constructed to remember and pay respect to the twenty four  Catholic martyrs who were put to death under Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda in the South of Uganda during the years of 1885- 1887. The martyrs would not recant their faith, so many died under the flame. We also were in country for the remembrance and national holiday of Martyrs Day. Over a million people travel as far as the Congo and Kenya (often by foot) to come to the Shrine for the remembrance, for mass, for prayer, and for the community support. We visited Reach Out, a catholic non- profit organization that provides HIV/AID education and care as well as a microfinance program. It is their Catholic convictions and beliefs that drive their mission and partnership. There are many other Catholic charities and organizations that have similar backgrounds, visions, and practices that Reach Out has.

Catholics travel on foot from afar to remember Martyrs Day at the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs Shrine 
            Anglican influence also plays a strong role in religion within Uganda. This Anglican influence came from England throughout colonialism.  In a 2002 census, 35.9% of Ugandans aligned with the Anglican faith. There were also eight Anglican martyrs who died in the killings from 1885- 1887. Now though, Martyr’s Day is more prevalent among Catholics than Anglicans.  The village health clinic in Kiewkaanda is being built in partnership with the community as well as Dr. Santeza’s father’s church—which is an Anglican church. Along with Anglican influence, there is protestant influence as a whole. Within the protestant influence, Anglican plus other protestant denominations make up 43.3% of the populations.  There are many other protestant organizations that are established within Uganda—from children homes, to AIDS clinics, to women empowering organizations. Fellow Drake elementary education major Leah and I had the opportunity to visit and teach preschool at Amani Baby Cottage in Jinja. This is a faith-based children’s home for ages newborn through six. There are many organizations that spread love and care for those in need. Even organizations or schools who are not necessarily Christian based, often carry a Christian message our group has observed. For example, when we visited Sure Prospects School and City Secondary School, which are not officially religiously affiliated, there were still Christian messages portrayed and taught. When with children at Sure Prospects, I asked them to teach me songs. It was a joy to share a gift of music with these pupils. All songs that they sang were Christian songs, and they all seemed to know and be familiar with them, so I concluded they probably learned them at school.

         Secularism and Atheism is also becoming more common in Uganda now up to above 4%. I think that many younger citizens are becoming more independent in thought, opposed to just adopting what their father believed or practiced. I have not observed much of this thought, but I have had a few conversations with MUBS students about the increasing number of people who affiliate with no religion or align themselves culturally with a religion but not belief-wise.

        Obvious religion and belief in any place is multi-faceted and more complex than I can explain in a blog post. I have seen religion incredibly more integrated throughout culture and daily life than what I have observed in the United States. I know another surprising factor that our group has experienced is speakers who we assumed not to bring up religion did bring up religion with comments like biblical references or assumptions that everyone held their same religious perspective. Though at times we do not look at the world in the same manner, this has been an amazing experience to hear various perspectives and immerse in a culture and see and live a different way of life. Yet the beauty is, we all have many similarities despite our different ways of life. We are all brothers and sisters.

A few questions for my Drake students: Does religious freedom help sustainable development? Why or Why not? How is religion integrated in culture different than what you expected it to be/what you are used to? 

Jinja: The Nile Special

While spending two wonderfully lazy nights at the King Fisher Resort in Jinja, our group was able to visit the source of the mighty Nile River, walk through an open-air market, and tour the famous Nile Brewing Company. Jinja was initially established as a manufacturing and industrial hub due to the proximity to Lake Victoria and the Nile, although over time many of the industries slowed down which left scattered facilities throughout the city. The stark differences between Jinja and Kampala were the amount of open space, the lower population, and the amount of greenery.

We passed through neighborhoods with grassy lawns and sidewalks lined with shady trees until we reached a curious golf course at the top of a hill. The Nile sat at the bottom of a riskily steep flight of stairs bordered by small wooden shacks full of the recognizable arts and crafts we have encountered in touristy areas. Once reaching the shore of the river we observed a large monument to Gandhi, remembering when his ashes were spread down the Nile River. Through a rusty yellow gate we were able to reach the edge of the river and look upwards to the source. We were able to take some pictures and enjoy the scenic view before heading back up the winding staircase and heading off to the open-air market. This market was strikingly different than the ones we have seen in Kampala, considering we were able to walk through without struggling too terribly or getting lost among the vendors. Produce was sold in the first part of the market, followed by tables full of butchered fish, sheep, pigs, and innards of all shapes and smells. Stands overflowing with fabrics and clothing were at the end of the market and just outside of the main cluster of carts was the large taxi yard where boda bodas and taxi buses quickly pulled in and out. Experiencing the atmosphere of an open-air market was definitely exciting and surprising, although we could not have made it very far without the aid of our wonderful MUBS tour guides.

The following afternoon was designated to touring the Nile Brewing Company. This is the manufacturer of nine different beverages, but most notably the Nile Special. One unique trademark of the company is the use of (purified) water from the Nile River to create drinks with a special touch. Before entering the manufacturing plant we were briefed on safety and visitor regulations and given lovely hairnets and protective glasses to wear. We first passed a loading platform covered with sacks full of malt barley, which had been harvested and dried before entering the plant. This barley is emptied by hand, transported inside the facility, and mixed with water to create a substance called wort. Yeast is then added to the wort, aged at a controlled temperature, and then separated from the liquid. The excess yeast is then killed and made into a meal-like substance or cakes that are sold to local farmers as cattle feed. The soon-to-be beer continues its way through the facility into the boiler chambers, then slightly cooled, combined with a preservative substance for a longer shelf life, and then poured into the bottles. The process was very mechanized and fairly similar to industries in the US. Of course the trip could not be complete without enjoying complementary samples of Nile Company beverages at the on-site pub. The visit to Jinja was very relaxing compared to the hustle and bustle of Kampala and far bus rides through heavy city traffic.

Questions for thought: What did you find to be the most striking difference between Jinja and Kampala? What components of sustainability do you see being most prominent in Jinja (economic, social, environmental)?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Don't Spill the Beans

After another wonderful breakfast at mubs, we went to Savannah coffee processing plant. After a brief discussion about cameras, as this seems to becoming a theme among a few of our visits, we began our tour of the facility. This facility is owned entirely by Ugandans, and supplied by the local farmers. The beans are grown all across the country, in the central area, where we are; it is the Robusta coffee that is grown. Western Uganda is one of the only places were both Robusta and Arabica beans can be grown. In addition this facility processes the local sorghum, wheat and barley.
This facility buys its coffee beans directly from the farmers, about ten thousand small farmers; the plant will buy as little as one kilogram provided it meets the standards necessary. The relationship between the plant and the farmers is a key part of the operations for the process, seeds are given to the farmers for planting every year and this relationship is this locations competitive advantage over other processing plants. Each and every bag of beans that enters the facility is tested for quality and contaminants and weighed before being processed.
The process starts with sorting by size, both for quality and foreign material, the larger beans get more coffee and therefore worth more money. As the beans continue through the process all of the rocks and dirt are removed. Once he beans are ‘clean’ they are dried to twelve percent moisture content from about twenty percent when the beans arrive. The beans now sorted by size are then sorted by color and then density; after about a sixty-day process the different results are packaged into sixty-kilo bags for shipping free-on-board to Kenya where they are shipped by the thirty to forty distributors to Europe, Asia, and America primarily.
Under the lense of sustainable development coffee production in Uganda hits all three areas, but focuses on economic the most. There are of course the obvious economic impacts directly tied to the process such as the farmers and plant facility workers, but there are aspects that are not quite so obvious. An example is the Ugandan coffee market, the facility we toured exports about ninety-nine point five percent of what it processes. Practically none is consumed locally, the coffee is available in most local markets as well as in restaurants, unlike America, however, I have only seen two coffee shops since we arrived. Knowing that Uganda used to be a British colony, tea is the drink of choice over coffee, and Ugandan tea is very good. From a person who does not drink nor really like coffee all that much, the coffee we had at the facility was rather good.

Is there room and a way for a primarily tea drinking nation to accept coffee as a daily drink? Is coffee production sustainable in a nation that does not consume it?