April 17, 2013
More coverage for Uganda! Although this was painful for me as I much prefer to be behind the camera I lent my side of the story to Pink magazine for their April issue.
Read the full story here: Cover story Pink.
April 10, 2013
In my ongoing quest to share the story of how Ugandans lives are changing for the better as a result of the partnership between the Canadian Co-operative Association and the Ugandan Co-operative Alliance, I made this video.
I hope that it provides clarity on the purpose of our mission and just how much can be accomplished by communities when they work together within a credit union and/or co-operative.
December 27, 2012
Today the story of the Candian Co-operative Association’s international development work and highlights from my own personal adventure were the subject of an article in local paper, the Leader-Post. Many thanks to the Leader-Post and to Will Chabun for sharing this.
December 14, 2012
The look of sustainability
We visited numerous farms during our time in Uganda. One thing that became clear very quickly was that the land is ultra fertile and the diversification among the crops farmers can yield is quite vast.
Below is a photo essay capturing a few of the commonly seen commodity crops that provide sustainability for the farmer’s families; their communities and whoever is on the receiving end of the exporting trail. Most important to note though is that the farming practice is the livelihood of many Ugandans and it truly sustains their families and provides a life with potential for future generations.
Cassava - a root vegetable, starchy much like the potato. It is a main source of carbohydrates for many and considered a staple crop. Another staple crop not pictured here, but grown extensively is maize (corn).
December 2, 2012
It may be a never ending handshake. But, that is a good sign. This is a short clip on how Ugandans shake hands.
December 2, 2012
I must preface my blog posts to this page. Although this blog is generally based on travel, the content I post on the mission to Uganda may not fit the normal profile you have been used to reading on this site. I assure you there is a reason. This and pending posts regarding the IFAPI project describe what are important conclusions from my perspective. I also feel strongly they are stories that deserve to be shared.
So onward I go.
We all know just how difficult it is to change attitudes. It can be harder still to change habit. Generally changes in habit occur when someone has become enlightened or has experienced a paradigm shift. The difference in how one approaches life after such revelations can often bring on positive change to themselves, their environment and others.
I was fortunate to hear a story of a man who experienced such a shift he attributes to an educational experience. Deo, a farmer with the Bomido SACCO received various training sessions run by the Uganda Co-operative Alliance (UCA). One such session he shared had a significant impact on a very important relationship in his life; the one with his wife.
After receiving gender equality training by the UCA Deo realized that there would be more to gain in life if he took a different approach to this important relationship. He said that “after 30 years of marriage I have now learned to respect her, we now have peace, we now work together.”
Wow. That was powerful. As a woman who has experience a relationship with mutual respect; had the opportunity to educate myself; and the ability to exhibit and be proud of my independence and freedom, it made me think a lot. In fact, it has been four days since we spoke with Deo and now I sit thinking of our conversation while I type this post from a van that is travelling through the rural parts of northern Uganda.
Admittedly, I was truly taken aback when Deo cited this training and his change of habit as the biggest and most important life changer. It wasn’t only because he was so honest but rather it was because I haven’t had concerns about gender equality as it relates to me in terms of a relationship. My following thoughts were that gosh, his wife must be so happy and now feel so empowered. To be considered a partner and be provided with the much-needed level of respect, having accessed her independence must be life changing for her.
In Uganda, women do not always have the same rights or access to the same opportunities that men do. However, through the co-operative movement, lives are changing and the role women are playing is evolving. This has become clear to me on this journey as I continue to meet enlightened men and incredible women who now, through education and a more level playing field are doing amazing things.
Women, given the chance to excel and doing just that is not shocking to me.
It is also not shocking to me to learn the women who are involved as members in the SACCOs are more successful with saving. Additionally, once given the opportunity to work and make their own money they then have the ability to change the quality of lives for their entire family, no longer dependent on one income.
This means the basics can now be covered: food, water, shelter, clothing and education for their children are now not such a struggle.
Deo and his wife continue to work together and their success together is noteworthy. Of all the farms we have visited, their expansive property, which included an astounding nine cash crops, was one of the most diversified and sustainable. We can sometimes take for granted the education we have access to but we also sometimes forget that once you have it, its what you do with it that matters.
In a country where access to life’s general basics is hard to achieve for most, knowledge is light.
Below you will find a video of Baptise, Chair of the Panyango SACCO speaking specifically to the reasons why gender equality makes sense and helps achieve sustainability for the entire community and the commodities they produce.
November 28, 2012
Everywhere you go in Uganda an expression often heard is “you are most welcome here.” This certainly applies to all of the wonderful hosts that we have had over the past week. Ugandans are very gracious hosts to say the least.
Here is a small snippet of this display from yesterday as we were sent off by the folks of Akoloda.
November 26, 2012
Today is a day I will never forget. Although it was difficult I will cherish it for so many reasons. Those first world jokes we pass around and laugh off – over it. You don’t know first world problems unless you have been to the third world my friends.
We have so many everyday luxeries that we take for granted. Food, water, shelter to name a few. What if you didn’t have those? Would you still want the Prada purse? Or would you choose a harder life in order to educate your young?
These are decisions that Ugandan women have to make everyday. With the exception, substitute the purse for food. Sometimes, it isn’t even a matter of a decision, as their choices are nil. It has been an overwhelmingly rewarding day. When you get to see the best and worst parts of life in a short period, it leaves you with a lot of thinking to do. Mostly, I am wondering how I can make changes in my life to live as graciously as the women that I have met here.
I have an in depth story to tell regarding today and I will apologize in advance for cutting this post short. I need to really process what I saw, heard and documented in order to present the realities of this trip and how life changing it really is becoming. All I can say though is that in Canada, we have a good life.
I have prepared a little photo essay from today and will try to expand on today’s experience a little later on as I am admittedly exhausted. The day was spent in briefs preparing us for the upcoming visits to multiple northern rural towns in Uganda, and we were also to enjoy a little free time today where we took in a craft market and the Gadafi National Mosque.
So after a couple of days in Uganda I know a couple of things to be true:
1. It is hot here and I hear we are just coming off of the winter season.
2. There are a lot of people here, albeit, friendly, warm people (35 million-ish, comparable to the population in all of Canada in the space of about 1/2 the province of Saskatchewan).
3.On a journey to discover how highly functional co-operatives can be in a country such as this I have I already learned that even the Ugandan birds co-operate.
Yes, I have found a way to sneak the birds into my Uganda stories. But there is a point, I promise.
Enter in two Marabou Stork mommies in a tree, with two nests and multiple babies each. These massive birds, who are noted as having the largest wing spread among any living bird, are literally everywhere (see pics at the bottom of this post).
On the street in front our hotel, there must be at least at least 8 adults living in large nests and they are not alone, there are also multiple babies in these giant nests! For a twitchy birder like myself I cannot help but stare in awe at these feathered wonders. The neat thing? They seem to share their space with ease.
Immediately the birder in me thought how could these giant storks have babies and nests in the same tree, so closely? Then I realized it – they had established co-operative housing.
This early morning lesson in bird co-operation was followed up by our first briefing from the Ugandan Co-operative Alliance (UCA), which allowed the eight communicators on this journey to understand the current (and past) reality of the role and significance co-operatives play in Uganda.
The specific project that we are here for and focused on is the IFAPI – an agricultural and finance project where the goal is to contribute to improved livelihoods of small holder farmers in Uganda.
IFAPI provides services that help improve people’s lives. Specifically the project enables and promotes: capacity building; increased production and productivity; and the ability to provide access to financial services for those who need it.
For the resident farmers of Uganda who are co-operative members, IFAPI makes their lives easier, for it allows for them to come together to gain strength and access to the financial services and markets that they need and desire.
The point of our journey as communicators while in Uganda is to: bear witness to how the co-operative model for IFAPI works; understand what this means to the people involved in a diverse array of agricultural co-operatives; and then share those stories.
After reviewing and discussing the detailed itinerary for our journey, I suspect that the birding co-op is merely the first of many stories and that soon I will discover many other well functioning co-operatives that exist here.
In my coming posts I am excited to share with you how the IFAPI project has been able to make such a large difference specifically to the lives of Ugandan women.
I cannot express how grateful I feel to be part of this journey. Knowing just how significant this project is, is truly one thing. But, the ability to see how this co-operative model and project in particular has positively affected many rural communities and agricultural producers is another. I am vibrating with excitement for the coming days.
In the mean time, it is comforting for me to know that wherever I travel the birds are there for me. Among the many other pictures I will take and stories I take they will remain as a nice focal point, distraction or reference that makes me feel at home. Plus, I am in Africa! Can you say birder’s paradise? Um, yeah.
Follow along on a journey to Uganda
I want to take the opportunity to share an experience with you. In a little under a week, I will arrive in Uganda, Africa as part of a mission to learn about the Canadian Co-operative Association’s (CCA) highly acclaimed Integrated Finance and Agricultural Projects.
As the lone member chosen from Saskatchewan, I will be one of eight individuals who were selected from across Canada. All who were selected are communicators and will be trusted as storytellers to share the work that is being done by the CCA.
This project will expose me to the creative alignment between co-operative farmers, credit unions and marketing. It is a glowing example of how co-operatives play a key role in strengthening entire communities and can help bring people from poverty to prosperity.
I will be live blogging as much as possible and sharing my journey on my own personal website. I invite you to join along, learn about the ways in which co-operatives are changing lives in Uganda and share it with others.
I hope you enjoy hearing about my daily learnings and viewing the photographs (I hope to post) on life in Uganda. Please feel free to comment and share any of your experiences with me as well.
For more information on the CCA, visit their website: http://www.coopcca.com/.
Core funding for this program is provided by the Partnership Program of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and CCA’s charitable funding partner, the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF).