Archive for July, 2009

Montute

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2009 by cparcanada
A tradional welcome, a song and the big tree

A tradional welcome, a song and the big tree

One Last Post from Uganda

 OK, I’m actually on my way to Tanzania but I didn’t want to leave Uganda behind with out one last story.

 

This one’s about a very special group of women who call themselves “Montute”. Montute means ‘women can do it’ in Acholi and the group truly lives up to that name. The women are part of a program that CPAR’s Gulu office is implementing called SPRING with funding from USAID. Quite a few acronyms n’est pas?

Montute is based near Burkwoyo Village which is down several dusty roads from Gulu. The women farmers have received training and supplies to help them plant improved varieties of ground nuts. Ground nuts are the same as peanuts and an important source of protein.

 The group of about 20 women welcomed us with a traditional song before describing how the project is helping them and their families. The area has been in a near drought situation and the ground nuts have proven to be very hardy. They then gave a demonstration of how they harvest the crop by hand.

 Montute? Yes they can.   

Montute members learn to plant groundnuts by row which improves the harvest

Montute members learn to plant groundnuts by row which improves the harvest

Harvesting ground nuts by hand

Harvesting ground nuts by hand

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Ugandan Roads

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2009 by cparcanada

One of the first things you notice when you travel in northern Uganda is the roads

Life in the fast lane on the road to Gulu

Life in the fast lane on the road to Gulu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re almost always bumpy and when you get close to a trading center or town, they’re busy with everything imaginable.

Traffic calming bumps outside of Lwero, every 25 ft for 10 miles

Traffic calming bumps outside of Lwero, every 25 ft for 10 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The road from Kampala to Gulu (which goes on to Sudan) was a lot better this trip thanks to upgrades that were done in 2007 as part of the Commonwealth Conference.

Road side service...kebobs, live chickens, fruit...you name it

Road side service...kebobs, live chickens, fruit...you name it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still, the trip was very eventful in many ways as you can see. I’ll never complain about the 401 again!

Where's the road?

Where's the road?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving for Tanzania tomorrow!

Searching for Carolyn

Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2009 by cparcanada

On my last trip to Uganda I met Carolyn Dapar, a remarkable farmer in the Adekekwok sub-county just outside of the town of Lira. Carolyn had received training on raising livestock and crop diversification as part of a CPAR program and had become a trainer herself.

She was also very generous and made sure we all got sodas at the end of a long hot day. You don’t forget those things especially considering the poverty that has gripped this area for so long. I wanted to find out how she and her family were doing now.

The problem was finding Carolyn. There’s no phonebook in this part of rural Uganda and I had met her at a training center and not at her homestead. There are thousands of homesteads in the area. So where to start?

The search started with a photo I had of Carolyn at a training site. Juma, CPAR’s Lira office manager suggested we start at the Adekekwok sub county office. We were received by several sub county councillors and after some introductions (which can take some time!) the photo was passed around. We were advised to try a small crossroads trading centre down the road. To help our search, the local youth representative, Benson Quom, tagged along.

Benson Guom joins the search

Benson Guom joins the search

We headed off down the bumpy dusty road to the crossroads but no luck. No one recognized the lady in the photo or her name. They did suggest that we carry on another mile to where a distribution of vegetable seeds was taking place. If Carolyn was still around, these farmers would know.

Sure enough we were given directions to her home but when we got there, the place was disserted. We learned from a neighbour that Carolyn and her family were out working their fields. We made an “appointment” for 8:30 the next morning.

When we arrived at Carolyn’s home the next day, she was there. She hadn’t changed much and after many Apwoyo’s (thank you in Acholi), we showed her the photo and quickly got caught up.

Carolyn’s farm has grown to 7 acres from 1 acre since I was last there thanks to the oxen and training she had received. Her farm is prosperous and the funds she realizes from selling her surplus crops help pay to keep her 8 children in school. I also learned that Carolyn had a good sense of humour. Carolyn only spoke Acholi for the first little while and then suddenly started talking to me in English. It seems she wanted me to learn a bit more Acholi.

Carolyn at her cassava field

Carolyn at her cassava field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I met Carolyn’s husband Benson and her children and after a wonderful visit it was time to leave. The search for Carolyn was a success. We agreed to meet again and next time, I’ll know exactly where to find her.

Carolyn, her family and us

Carolyn, her family and us

Return To Gulu

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2009 by cparcanada

Return to Gulu

Its been two years since my last visit to Gulu and five since my first.

The first time, the civil war still smoldering in northern Uganda. While Joseph Kony’s LRA activity had quieted down, people still lived in fear and for good reasons. IDP Camps across the region were packed with 25,000 people each. Villagers around Gulu feared that their children would be kidnapped by Kony’s troops and sent them into Gulu for safety each night. I met hundreds of them, the night commuters, one night in Gulu. Sleeping in the dark in make shift quarters, they sang and laughed themselves to sleep while the few adults around lingered in disbelief. Its something I’ll never forget.

Two years ago, things were a bit different. There was a temporary peace but nobody trusted Kony. Most stayed in the camps and some still sent their children into Gulu. NGO’s like CPAR were already looking ahead to the inevitable return of almost 1 million displaced people to their villages after a 20 plus year absence.

This time the difference was evident. Oddly, it’s a change that has happened without almost no exposure. Almost 1 million people relocated in 2 years and nobody new. Not everybody has gone home but about 80% have. Those who haven’t returned to their villages to restart their lives remain in “Satellite” camps of 1-5000 people waiting for the inevitable. The night commuters have been replaced in Gulu by a busy vibrant nightlife. Soldiers that patrolled the highways are gone. People generally seem at ease and talking to them, you can hear the determination in their voices to never go back to the camps. There is peace.

The challenges they face after being away from home for over two decades seem insurmountable. Land must be rebroken. Huts must be built, crops planted, livestock purchased, water sources repaired. Skills must be relearned, lives must be rebuilt. Without any money.

One group of returness making it work is “Dok Cen Paco” which means Going Back Home. I met this group of 30 determined people at Attiak Satellite Camp today. They are in the process of moving back to their villages. While at the camp they joined together to prepare for their return. Knowing that it would very tough, they sent a proposal to a program called Quick Impact which is funded by the UNDP and implemented by CPAR.

Their proposal was accepted and they have received 60 goats that they will use to reproduce. They plan to keep the original goats as a nest egg and sell, distribute or consume the surplus. The group is planning to stay together to run the goat project even after they are back in their villages. The goats will give them an asset base on which to rebuild.

Group Secretary Okwoya Sam told me the project “gave life back to the people”. The humble goats have helped return their dignity, a dignity that was lost in the camps and war for twenty years.

Two years ago, I heard a young man at an IDP camp recite a poem that still gives me chills to this day. He cried out and demanded, “peace, where are you peace?”

This trip I’ve seen that peace has returned and now that people like Sam have returned to their villages. I’ve returned to a much different Gulu and to a people now fighting a new battle of sorts, one to rebuild their lives and keep their peace. They have a new enemy now, a severe drought that has killed their maize crop. One more hurdle for a people that have had many more than their fair share. But the peace remains.

Peace for north Uganda, peace for Gulu town.

Doc Cen Paco members with their goats

Doc Cen Paco members with their goats

Moreme!

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2009 by cparcanada

Welcome to my blog. I will be making my third trip to east Africa and I can’t wait.  Over the next 3 weeks, I’ll be visiting  communities and villages mainly in rural areas of Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi.  I work for a Toronto based NGO named CPAR and so my trip will give me an intimate look into the lives of the wonderful people of these countries.  I’m looking forward to meeting many old friends  and seeing how their lives have changed since my last trip 2 years ago. This time, I’m bringing along a travel guitar to show my appreciation in song.  Moreme means hello in Acholi, the langauge of northern Uganda around the town of Gulu.  Check back later to hear my song “Gulu”  and about my trip.

Apwoyo bino!

Dwight