Entebbe Botanical Garden (10 October 2013)

Entebbe Botanical Garden

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Sign at the entrance of Entebbe Botanical Garden
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Kim is our guide; a guide is essential to enjoy Entebbe Botanical Gardens.

Some human uses of plants:

  • Hibiscus as a blood creator
  • Astorokia elgens seeds against malaria
  • Canarium when burnt keeps mosquitoes at bay
  • Gum fron tree used for puncture repairs
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All local fish species wiped out by Nile Perch (only 17 species are now left)

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Legend has it that parts of the first Tarzan movie were filmed at Entebbe Botanical Gardens.
Legend has it that parts of the first Tarzan movie were filmed at Entebbe Botanical Gardens.

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Mowing in progress
Mowing in progress
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Yesterday today and tomorrow plant (white is the final stage)

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Flowers from the 'yesterday today and tomorrow' plant
Flowers from the ‘yesterday today and tomorrow’ plant
Nest of the hammerkop
Nest of the hammerkop

And another highlight of our last day in Uganda was a trip on a boda boda (driver + 3 fares on 1 motorbike) before flying home.


Independence Day, Suggested Trees, A Thought On Partnership (9 October 2013)

Independence Day

Last night after an elder sang ‘God Save The Queen’ for me, Rev Alfred and +Daniel walked us to our guesthouse, we smelled all the wood fires everywhere.

Today we start with Breakfast at the Bishop’s house. Yesterday’s elder didn’t want to sing ‘God Save The Queen’ because it is independence day today.

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We pass many people wearing the Cranes shirt (nickname of the national football team), and we drive past many gatherings with political speech broadcasts.

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There seems to be some discontent (I overheard someone saying ‘with life like this, what are we celebrating’?) while in the newspapers the government blames the current situation on the legacy of the British Empire (something along the line of: the ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels we inherited from the British were only self-serving to the British, we will now introduce more vocational training) – 51 years after independence.

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Avoid monocropping eucalyptus

We then head to Mbale to meet Bob Arnold, where Rev Alfred receives advice not to plant eucalyptus:

  • eucalyptus is tempting to grow (it grows fast, there is a ready market, leaves rot easily so little maintenance, probably good for swamps)
  • eucalyptus ruins the land (nothing grows under it, nothing will grow for a while after the eucalyptus has been harvested).

The suggested alternatives include:

  • plant when the rains start (May)
  • you can get some local trees for free via a local Pont-Mbale partner but they must not be cut for 10 years
  • avoid monoculture, plant indigenous species that are well-adapted to the land, plant trees that will be cut at different times

Example of a mix:

  • azizi
  • mahogany (just 3, to harvest in 50 years time)
  • gravelia (good for the land even though it isn’t indigenous, forms a good canopy to grow crops under. With global warming coffee on mount Elgon does not grow as well as in previos years unless under a tree canopy. Gravelia is an idea tree, the down side is it can be attacked by termites).
  • caliandra (for firewood, legume that fixes nitrogen, leaves are good to feed animals, good for mulching)
  • lasiaia (for firewood, legume that fixes nitrogen, leaves are good to feed animals, good for mulching)
  • coffee as a cash crop (see note on gravelia above).

A thought on partnership

We also reflected on the need for a feeling of ownership so that people can say “I did this” instead of “Muzungu did this”. For partnership to work, every side needs to contribute. Otherwise it looks like a man carrying another (which is like the parent/child relationship the Bristol-Uganda Link is determined not to be).

Extract from Ed's article published in Rapport, the magazine of the Lee Abbey Movement
Extract from Ed’s article published in Rapport, the magazine of the Lee Abbey Movement

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Food, health and nutrition at conference by Ed and Aggy Palairet (8 October 2013)

‘Beyond sustainable production’

Growing a healthy crop is only part of the story. For the ‘crop’ to become ‘food’ (accessible and edible), a few more important technicalities need to be planned for. This technical session covered the following topics:

1. Post-harvest technology: storage, transport, food processing

  • Avoid contamination at all stages
  • Safe storage
  • Dedicated storage areas free from pests and moisture
  • Choice of container
  • Create conditions that protect the food from mycotoxins
  • Some packaging can enhance shelf-life
  • Storage conditions are crop-specific.
  • Before storing a crop check the moisture content and temperature

When building a store, consider:

  • Orientation (ventilation and sun)
  • Floor: above ground level to avoid water
  • Access for vehicles
  • Construction materials must not be friable
  • Protection against moisture
  • Protection against temperature
  • Controlled atmosphere (temperature, moisture loss)
  • Protection against theft
  • Protection against birds and rodents
  • Protection against insects
  • Consider management (e.g. If going for cheaper materials is it more work later?

Safe food principles

Preserving techniques e.g. drying

2. A few easy steps to a healthier you (by using your existing resources)

  • Grow different crops so you can have a balanced diet
  • Nutrients
  • Avoid eating raw cassava root because of the associated exposure to cyanide
  • Storage
  • Dryer
  • Juicer
  • Multi-cropping
  • Different cooking
Linking agriculture and nutrition is the way forward
Linking agriculture and nutrition is the way forward (see also this UN report)

At this point, Aggy Palairet MSc ANutr  presented an engaging talk on the nutritional content of locally available foods, which generated a good level of audience participation.

3. Access to markets – a few questions


To get the best price: Do you just sell to a middleman and lose your bargaining power or do you know the strict criteria your buyers use to put a price on your produce?

Example criteria for a tomato:

  • What flavour do they want
  • What colour
  • What size
  • What appearance (e.g. Crack/fall)
  • What supply needed (e.g. All harvested at once to deliver quantity – or do they need year-round-supply for a restaurant maybe?)
  • How do they want it stored?
  • How does it ripen after harvest?
  • How watery?
  • Good for certain dishes
  • Seed content
  • How firm?
  • How long will it last after picking before it rots?


Do you sell as soon as possible because of school fees/need for urgent cash/because the crop will go off? Did you know that if stored, the value later in the year can be 75% higher (cost of storage is about 25%) – potential profit if everyone else is selling at harvest time.


  • Know your markets (world market, local market, national market, can anyone afford a premium food)
  • Prices fluctuate over time, do you know the up-to-date trends? E.g. If right now there is a very low world market price, export would not necessarily be your best outlet.
  • If you are looking at ways of obtaining a premium, who can afford to pay for a premium food and how much does it cost to reach this audience? What does the customer want?

Who are you currently selling to? Have you checked: if you did things differently whether your business might be more profitable

Example of targeting a different market (urban, Uganda, neighbouring countries, Europe, USA).


Example of a mango – which is most profitable?

  • Sell fresh, consumer needs to prepare it, and you need to sell it now so it doesn’t go off
  • Sell ready-to-eat
  • Sell juice that can be stored, transported to different markets which attract a higher price (or sold locally in the dry season)

Time costs your business money, but it also costs your customers money: in what way can you save them time?

Point of differentiation: different things are important to different consumers:

  • Natural (e.g. Not  contaminated on farm or in store)
  • Ethical (Organic/Fairtrade/Low food miles/No child labour)
  • Quality (e.g. you only sell tomatoes that are ripe and ready to eat)
  • Flavour
  • Origin
  • Story: some urban consumers think that beans come from the supermarket – tell them about you and your product.
  • Suitability for more than one dish means consumers will buy it more often
  • Convenience = less work for the consumer
  • Safety: hygienically prepared, I won’t get ill
  • Not anonymous: something we can relate to e.g. A brand we can start to recognise, a face, a name. Something that makes us want to buy more of your product next time.

Leadership conference (8 October 2013)

Rev Andrew Doarks presented content from the Global Leadership Summit he had attended in Chicago earlier in 2013.

He also shared a helpful definition that probably wasn’t from Chicago: stress is when you have been given responsibility but not the authority to make it happen.

Rev Andrew Doarks on Leadership
Rev Andrew Doarks on Leadership

Courage required for leadership

‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ (Joshua 1:9)

‘This is a cause for which I am fully prepared to die.’ (Nelson Mandela)

1/ Vision: a picture of the future that creates passion and energises. The sense of where you want to go is even stronger than the sense of where you are now. “Where there is no vision, the people perish […]” (Proverbs 29:18). Many of us are given a vision by God that is too scary.

2/ Define current reality: declare an emergency, set a fire, pour on fuel.

3/ Build a fantastic culture (is there joy/honesty/accounability/integrity?)

4/ Establish values (before the vision), people can change!

Right title, wrong kingdom

This session left the following questions:

  • how can I be the best “Jesus” I can?
  • is there room in my chariot for someone else?
  • does my leadership expand the kingdom of God? or my reputation?
  • what difference does the Holy Spirit make in the way I lead?
Seek first the Kingdom [...]
Seek first the Kingdom […] (Matthew 6:33)

Multiplying your impact exponentially

1/ Matthew 9:37-38 – the size of the harvest depends on how many leaders you have

2/ Psalm 71:18 – vision only survives by investing in the next generation

3/ Numbers 11:10-17 God said pick your best leaders; so if there aren’t any pray them in.

4/ Mark 12:30-33 What must I do? Instill love in your leaders

5/ Acts 4:13 Courage is key. Spend time with Jesus.

Never do ministry alone. Togetherness is important. Jesus spent 9360 hours with his disciples, how much time are you spending with your leaders?

Mastering the skill of influence

Leadership is intentional influence that can be learned. Need to start by measuring things. Focus and measure. Importance of right targets and measures.

Mastering the skill of influence
Mastering the skill of influence


UWCM at Conference (8 October 2013)

Suuvi Margaret from UWCM
Suuvi Margaret introduces the activities of UWCM

Uganda Women Concern Ministry (UWCM) is an indigenous organisation set up in 1991, it now operates in five districts of the Elgon Region. It started as an advocacy organisation to address some of the issues facing women; children programmes started later and church and community programmes are now widespread: they have teams on the ground to mobilise the church and community.

UWCM already runs some projects in the diocese. Since they know their funds might end overnight, they ensure that the structures (e.g. forum groups) that are set up are owned by the communities.

Here are a few themes that were explored during the session:

  • Empower the most vulnerable by promoting the best environment, education, healthcare and capacity-building through community grass-root structures.
  • Combat poverty, live a dignified life.
  • Prov 31:8 speak up for the voiceless
  • Building self-confidence where people lack it (show their importance in society, what they contribute)
  • Facilitators must follow Christ as the model facilitator
  • Even in our homes we must have a vision of where we are heading
  • Without good leadership we cannot achieve our vision.
David from UWCM
David explains the PEP process – his notes can be viewed in the photos below

Sustainable Agriculture at conference by Ed Palairet – Part One (7 October 2013)

When I started planning the trip, I really did not want to make incorrect assumptions. So during the planning stages and also while in Uganda I kept on reminding myself “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Because of this, we made sure the conference was at the end of our trip and not at the beginning. This really helped my talk, being able to refer to things I had heard and seen, making universal concepts relevant to local situations.

Technical session on sustainable food production

A- Introduction

I introduced myself and explained my background, including some moments that have led me here such as:

  • The Ugandan Yash Tandon’s comments at WDM’s Africa Conference which roughly paraphrased said ‘we don’t want your aid (with its strings attached), we want you to walk with us as we fight our own battles’.
  • A Ugandan Forest Garden I visited in Dorset (UK) using organic and permaculture design (alternative to chemicals, not monoculture, designed to avoid agronomic problems, multi-layered to increase production per area) where a British farmer was trying to learn from a Ugandan visitor.


Below are a few concepts I introduced to the delegates; with the support of a local extension worker. In this part of Uganda where agricultural inputs are inaccessible (either because of lack of availability or high cost), these are all organic principles in action – practical solutions that can be applied by all. As this is technical content that took over an hour to talk through, below is simply the outline of my talk.


B- Realise the potential of your soils

B1- Reversing soil degradation:

  • Increasing the soil’s organic matter content
  • Composts
  • Manures
  • Plant-based fertilisers
  • Understanding nutrient cycles to plan effectively
  • Examples of how to prevent erosion
  • Think of the soil as physical + biological + chemical
  • Cover crops
  • Rotation
  • Green manures
  • Reduce tillage
  • Nitrogen-fixing legumes (food/feed/trees)
  • Water-holding capacity
  • Nutrient balances
  • Raised beds for vegetables in hunger season

B2- Increase soil fertility

  • Building fertility – rotations – balance of fertility-building and fertility-depleting,
  • Not monoculture
  • Nitrogen-fixing trees (other benefits of trees include natural insecticides, products with monetary value, trees survive droughts, access water table, leaves, fruit, range of foods for diet, diversity means resilience)
  • Nutrient-budgeting
  • Sustainability
  • On time, to high standard
  • Know what minerals are deficient, can you address these deficiencies over time?
  • Compost, plant and animal manures

C- Increase yields and get an edible crop

C1- Pest and disease control (a healthy crop is less prone to these)

  • For resilience, protect pollinators and biodiversity
  • Crop-specific (timing etc.)
  • Agroforestry
  • Rotation
  • Rest the land (Leviticus 25)
  • Maize intercropped with local legumes and grasses
  • Crop spacing
  • Companion planting
  • Sacrificial crop
  • Choose the right seed

C2- Weed control

Weeds are competing for light, water and soil nutrients. They can also be habitats for pests and diseases of your crops. So ensure weeding is carried out:

  • on time
  • to high standard
  • pre-drilling
  • post-germination
  • choose/make/adapt weeding tools that are better designed for one’s back
  • thermal

Pastor Thomas Lubari at ‘Christ-centred leadership and sustainable agriculture (7 October 2013)

The next speaker at the conference was Pastor Thomas Lubari, founder and director of Life Gospel Ministries in Jinja.

Based on the foundation of Christian ministry found in Matthew 9:35-38, the Church cannot just be preaching and teaching. When Pastor Lubari concluded that the Church is both spiritual and social and therefore needs to look after both kinds of issues, he decided to study Development (having also worked as research assistant for the Department of Agronomy). He has worked at developing both church and community together: church as the platform to reach the community (both spiritually and socially).

Since witnessing the effects of poverty on people (often creating a ‘dependency syndrome’), Pastor Lubari has been sharing skills so people can come out of poverty. In this way, he sees teaching people as part of the Great Commission: the Gospel is not just Good News at a spiritual dimension. He encouraged the audience to become agents of change using biblical principles to develop community. Transformational development starts with witnessing: “let people see your life”.

Here, farming is often seen as a last resort (when other avenues fail). In contrast, Isaac farmed as a business (it really must be seen that way): Genesis 26:12-13 speaks of a good harvest and Isaac becoming very rich from farming. We too need to look at it from a business perspective… and we need to love it! Farming is the first job God gave to man – it is not to be despised. This is reflected in the notes below:

Pastor Thomas Lubari explains composting techniques
Pastor Thomas Lubari explains composting techniques

He then presented Foundations For Farming‘s principles for success

1/ on time

  • prepare the land early so that you can plant on time (if you plant late, the crop is affected by insects and fertility has been washed away already)

2/ at standard

  • with the correct spacing (canopy of crop covers the soil to stop weeds growing and prevent competition within the crop)
  • no dig: affecting creation and biodiversity. Some bacteria are meant to stay underground or they die.
  • cover: mulch reduces evaporation of water and facilitates water penetration, reduces erosion and increases yields.

3/ no wastage

  • don’t waste seeds or your energy
  • don’t work to exaustion (so that you can come back to the field and love it).

4/ with joy

  • “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • Right method, right spacing and mulching: makes the field look beautiful.

And a few final comments from Pastor Thomas Lubari:

  • Live beyond subsistence level to be able to build something.
  • Mulch is especially important on slopes (otherwise rain just runs off).
  • Importance of dedicating the land and seed to the Lord.

Next week you can read about my first session on sustainable food production at the conference.

A Rocha Uganda at ‘Christ-centred leadership and sustainable agriculture’ conference at Buhugu cathedral (7 October)

A Rocha is a worldwide conservation charity that was set up 30 years ago; it has had an office in Uganda for 7 years and Sara and Adrine joined us from A Rocha Uganda for the first session of the conference. Here’s a summary of their presentation, tailored for the audience of church leaders:

Creation-care is central to the Bible and close to God’s heart:

  • Genesis: work the land and tend it
  • “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1)
  • The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel said we affect the Earth.
  • Solomon studied creation (see 1 Kings 4:33)

Community-based projects

  • because God is relational
  • working with different cultures and non-Christians
  • working in partnership
  • working with the Church which is God’s great agent of transformation
Sara and Adrine from A Rocha Uganda
Sara and Adrine from A Rocha Uganda

The Church is called to:

  • encourage the wise use of resources (use them as God wants)
  • model sustainability (Church will not leave the community)
  • take the lead and not wait for governments
  • change hearts (influence others)
  • reach the wider community
  • be salt and light
  • be love – God so loved the world (not just the humans)
    • show love by caring for God’s things!
  • care for creation: it’s our Father’s world: how can we let others destroy it?
  • share: if you hear something and don’t share it, you will never learn.

Biosand water filter (BSF)

Adrine presents the concept of the BSF
Adrine presents the concept of the BSF

These water filters make water potable through four processes:

1/ mechanical trapping (the sand particles in the container are packed so tightly together)

2/ biological trapping (the ‘biolayer’ formed at the top of the sand is a mixture of microbes that will kill the pathogens)

3/ adsorption (a layer of film is formed naturally around the sand particles, which means the pathogens get stuck)

4/ natural death (as pathogens reach the lower levels of the tank, they die for lack of food or temperature).

The water is now safe to drink and the sand and stones in the filter only need to be changed every eight years!

Basic sanitation and hygiene courses

If you attend the ‘basic sanitation and hygiene’ courses you will also be taught a skill. For example income-generation by making liquid soap cheaply.

Integral mission (aka MICC aka PEP)

Advocacy (speak about the cause of the needy)

Fireless cooker: after initial heating on a fire, place the pot in a basket designed to keep the heat and continue cooking the food even when no longer heated by the fire. There are several benefits of this method:

  • reduced quantity of firewood usage (the fire doesn’t need to be kept going for as long);
  • frees up time which means mothers can participate in meetings for example;
  • potential income generation: you can make your own or create some and decorate them and sell them for 70000UGX.
Sara demonstrates a fireless cooker
Sara demonstrates a fireless cooker

Fuel briquette: Many fuel briquettes are currently being imported from Kenya. A Rocha can show how to create one’s own using local ingredients such as dung, banana peel and sawdust (thus adding value to waste products).

Sara shows us a retail bag of briquettes
Sara shows us a retail bag of briquettes

Programmes take time.

Environmental education (for 4-14 year olds) – if people don’t understand the value of a tree in monetary or social terms, they won’t value it. Education programmes help communities understand this, and influence behaviours e.g.:

  • My fresh water comes from somewhere, I need to protect the catchment area.
  • Our community uses lots of charcoal-fuelled cookers; we need to plant trees.
  • Adopting creative approaches such as ‘children and young people as partners in disaster reduction”
  • Sack gardening is useful because land is fragmented by having many children.
  • If you can measure something you can care about it.
  • Good farming includes good management of soil and water, which benefit the farm as well as the community and environment.

Opening of ‘Christ-centred leadership and sustainable agriculture’ conference at Buhugu Cathedral (7 October 2013)

Christ-centred leadership and sustainable agriculture conference at Buhugu Cathedral

Delegates from all 7 arch-deaconeries in the diocese of North Mbale came to the two-day conference. Rev Sam the diocesan secretary confirmed that for this rural diocese, the themes of raising leaders and farming sustainably were areas where training was needed (and feedback received afterwards showed a real desire for transformation in these areas).

at Buhugu Cathedral
Bishop’s opening remarks at Buhugu Cathedral

The bishop of North Mbale diocese the Rt. Rev. Daniel Gimadu’s official opening of the conference included the following two readings from scripture and the take-home message “value what has been given to us: as a rural dioceses we have been given much.”

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Prov 31:8-9)

Not a bad place for our breaks from the seminars, lectures and workshops
Not a bad place for our breaks from the seminars, lectures and workshops

At times it will be difficult to hear the speaker because there aren’t any windows in the cathedral and the winds will gain some speed during the two days! 

To call all the delegates to start, the people who were on time started singing – absolutely stunning a capela singing, I would love to have recorded a CD that day.


Rev Andrew Doarks commented that $3 trillion in foreign aid has not solved poverty, which is why this conference isn’t about aid.

The conference delegates (we only remembered to take a photo after many had already left)
The conference delegates (we only remembered to take a photo after many had already left)

On his previous visit, an elder had asked Rev Andrew to bring glasses (spectacles); so we came with a bag full of spectacles. Not all of them had prescriptions on them so we were told that Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau have opticians who could help.

Over the next few weeks you can look forward to reading about what content was covered on topics ranging from education, land management, leadership, nutrition and much more. The next post will show highlights from A Rocha Uganda‘s presentation on day one of the conference.

A relaxing Sunday? (6 October 2013)

One cost of life here is time. Example:

6.00am Our driver gets a call from UWCM saying that their car got stuck on the waterlogged road last night and their battery is now flat, they have tried to sleep in the car. Frustratingly, we learn that local people who had tried to improve the roads had been reprimanded by the police who said that they are not allowed to interfere with government property.

6.45am The first service starts at cathedral. Interestingly, during the service some food producers offer food instead of cash as an offering. The food then gets auctioned off as part of the service so that the church receives cash.

7.15am Rev Andrew (who is preaching at the service that started half an hour ago) finally arrives at the cathedral, having been waiting for a driver and someone to show the way. One of the themes his preaching will touch on is “do not believe the lies like ‘God hasn’t provided enough'”

8.00am Our driver finally has some wires (thin insulated wires instead of jump leads) and just as important: someone who knows the area well enough to show the way! He’s off to rescue the UWCM car.  Unfortunately, by the time he reaches them, they’re already out of the ditch.

The word “sorry” gets used a lot without any inference of blame – only now do I realise it must mean something like “sorry to hear that” instead of an apology.

Here I find out about the following attitude to working the land: everyone has land so after getting an education if one has no job, children “come back to the land”. We arrive during the second season of beans. Sadly, many beans are rotting because it’s too wet to dry them! Food crops go to market – often miles away (and I’m guessing that on these roads whatever hasn’t sold probably isn’t worth bringing home = wastage). Coffee beans go to societies that have collection points nearby – this usually results in a premium being paid to the farmer, although apparently not nearly as much of a premium after recent political interference, I don’t know the details.

My dad would have had fun spotting spelling mistakes here (even on school stationary). Have a go at guessing what the following two things are: “VISTOR BOOK” and “STOBERI MILK SEK”.

My next post will be the first of a mini-series covering the “Christ-centred leadership and sustainable agriculture” conference.

The Curate’s Hat (5 October 2013)

Guided by UWCM, we visit several communities today. Although these community projects are open to all, we happen to visit on a Saturday which mean none of the Adventists were able to attend.

A local leader mobilised the youth to plant a 'cassava garden' on land owned by the church - to help feed the local community during the dry season (January - May)
A local leader mobilised the youth to plant a ‘cassava garden’ on land owned by the church – to help feed the local community.
Because matooke doesn’t grow here, cassava is essential to survive the dry season (January-May). Some beans will be ready in June, but it’s a long wait until then. They currently grow cassava, groundnut, cotton and potato. The produce is sold at market: “it’s not far, it’s about two hours up that hill in the distance”. 1 litre of milk gets sold for 1000UGX when it is delivered by bicycle  in the town suburbs.

There is a strong desire from the community to own the project; they all participate in this Christian initiative without outside help or intervention. They emphasise the theme ‘working together’ (even within families, it is important to plan together). We hear that most of the community is not educated but CCMP (PEP) training has been transformational. It has helped develop a sense of partnership between church and community. Now – they explain – they understand that they have to solve a problem and not wait for outside help. They express gratitude to the trainers. Since they have started working together more, they have found that they are using land more effectively, which allows them to raise funds for the local project. There is a local government school but it is the other side of the river – with no bridge nearby we hear that children drown while crossing the river, every year!

As a community, they are planning on dedicating five acres a secondary school. The government introduced free primary education in 1997 but in this area this sometimes means 200 children per classroom.

At Mpogo CoU the church building is used as a nursery school. Rose was very grateful for PEP: ‘before PEP I hadn’t realised all the resources we had: even the soil we walk on can be used to make bricks to sell. PEP has helped mothers and widows. We have now started savings and microfinance.’

Later that day near Sipi Falls, which is a tourist place, children walk up to us saying ‘give me money, give me 500’ while other children were begging for money to buy textbooks (5 subjects so need 5 textbooks costing 15000UGX each).

Walk past crops of coffee, maize and yams to Sipi Falls
Walking past crops of coffee, maize and yams on our way to Sipi Falls

En route to the guest house, the car gets stuck in the mud. Locals will push us out for 10000UGX so instead I try to push the car myself and get plastered with mud from the spinning front wheel! So we do end up accepting the help.

Our white car is stuck en route to Buhugu
The white car is ours = very stuck en route to Buhugu

When we do reach the guest house, we are offered some bananas and Kiddawalime Bakery’s Special Brown Bread (a sweet loaf that contains eggs). I then head to bed. We obviously aren’t synchronised with Ugandan time because when I’m already in bed, we get called for dinner.

Success! The mosquito net is now up; thank you Kenneth.
Success! The mosquito net is now up; thank you Aggy and Kenneth.

So what of the curate’s hat you may ask. Rev. Andrew lost his hat for most of the day; a topic he will use tomorrow in his sermons (he will preach at the 06.45, 09.00 and 11.00 services at the cathedral). Unfortunately for him, it’s only today that he finds out that he’s preaching tomorrow – and the sermons he had prepared before the trip are in the bag that gets lost!

Graduation ceremony (4 October 2013)


The Rt Revd Patrick Gidudu, Bishop of Mbale, preaches on Psalm 116:12-14 at the graduation ceremony for students who have completed the vocational courses. He wants graduates to share the message “Jesus is my hope”.
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Graduation ceremony outside Mbale diocesan office
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Graduates receive a toolkit suited to the vocational training they have receive (carpentry, tailoring, hairdressing, etc.). The Bishop asks them not to sell the toolkits that are given by the Swiss donors, but instead to consider them as a “seed”.


helping people help themselves (4 October 2013)

Today we visit Bungokho Rural Development Centre which is an education centre.

Here there is a clear aim of helping people help themselves; this a costly and long-term approach, but empowering people is the only form of sustainable development I’ve encountered.

At the Assembly, we receive the following welcome: students and teachers warm their hands by rubbing them then clap their hands and we ‘catch’ their good wishes.

The following prayer is displayed in every classroom and in the staffroom too.
The following prayer is displayed in every classroom and in the staffroom too.

There are different vocational classes including:

  • agriculture – I met a student called James. He’s been there one year and he has one more year to go. He will then farm a 2 acre plot. Here 80% of the population depends on agriculture. The land on site is used to grow food for the students.
  • tailoring –  my wife Aggy tried on one of the 15 blue gowns the students have made for the local choir
  • carpentry – we saw desks and other wooden objects
  • hairdressing – because of the cost of getting to town, there is a demand for rural hairdressers.
  • building – students here have built a guestroom and the staff toilet
  • we also visited the computer room.
Manure is piled up in the centre of this vegetable plot so that when it rains the fertility spreads to surrounding seeds. The plot is of a specific size with a slot for human feet!
Manure is piled up in the centre of this vegetable plot so that when it rains the fertility spreads to surrounding seeds. The plot is of a specific size with a slot for human feet!
We visited the tree nursery, which was growing the following species which are then given for free to local communities to mitigate against deforestation, draught and landslides.
Macsopsis aminni
Grevillea robusta / silk oak
Calliandra (Nitrogen-fixing and the leaves are fed to the goats)
False muvule
Chogm flowers
Natural pesticides are made from local plants such as neem, red pepper or tobacco. I am told "if you don't spray you don't get a crop"
Natural pesticides are made from local plants such as neem, red pepper or tobacco. I am told “if you don’t spray you don’t get a crop”
A recurring comment I hear about organic and/or Foundations for Farming is that people struggle to find the manures or mulches needed to make it successful. It seems that here you have to go out of your way to collect materials that will compost or mulch... Here, rabbits are kept for their droppings - well, not just for that.
A recurring comment I hear about organic and/or Foundations for Farming methods is that people here struggle to find the manures or mulches needed to make it successful. It seems that here you have to go out of your way to collect and store materials that will compost or mulch… Here, rabbits are kept and their droppings put to good use.
The two fish tanks
There is a fish farm on site to sell fish. The fish are fed lucerne leaves and plankton. I am told there are not many pests of fish here. They use low stocking rates but once the tank is emptied they use lime to kill the predators of youngstock before restocking.
This wooden structure is used for drying, to avoid direct contact with the soil
This wooden structure is used for drying, to avoid direct contact with the soil

The muzungu and their PEPmobile (3 October 2013)

On our drive to Mbale, I ask our driver “will I be able to get sugar cane on the side of the road?” to which he answers “Edward, you can do anything you like as long as it isn’t evil”.

In rural areas children often ‘greet’ us by the term “muzungu” shouted at us excitedly. It means “white man” (or at least that’s what I was told!). At other times sadly, it was clear that in some people’s eyes “muzungu” equals “human wallet” as the Rev put it. We soon realise just how embedded the belief is that: “We are simply too poor to do anything unless a white person gives money”.

Happily, Uganda Women Concern Ministry (UWCM, see leaflet below) staff have helped:

– guide us through some of the behaviours to avoid in order to avoid perpetuating the myths and behaviours surrounding a ‘dependency culture’. As an example of what not to do, we are told that if we just give things without also giving people a feeling of ownership or skills, when a donated thing breaks, it’s seen as the donor’s problem.

– individuals see that they have a lot to contribute.

– communities understand it is their responsibility to look after those who need support, and not see their responsibility ending at their own family.

For example we met an individual who had been orphaned age 15. In this culture, no one thinks of caring for orphans or sick people: the assumption is that everyone has relatives who will help them. UWCM paid for a hairdressing course and bought her a toolkit. One year on, she’s got a hairdressing business and is even training two other orphans.

Through community mobilisation, the community has also helped build a house for a displaced mother of ten whose house was destroyed in the landslide that killed her husband and one son. She now supports her family by working on other people’s farms and renting some land to work on.

Tearfund’s Umoja is called PEP here (participatory evaluation process); we’re so impressed with the programme that we affectionately name our car the PEPmobile.

Read more about PEP in my blog entry about the conference (coming soon), but to summarise the five stages of PEP are:

A- Relationship-building

B- Community description

C- Information gathering

D- Information analysis

E- Decision-making

UWCM take us to visit communities that have work plans in place for the next few years. In the communities, we are greeted with rejoicing, and a ceremony where we are the guests of honour and young girls curtsy to us. These communities have received capacity-building training as well as PEP, and they are proud to show us their achievements.

For example in the Khabutoola community, the proceedings were as follows:

1. Prayer

2. Introductions

3. Welcome speeches

A quote: “The overall objective was to facilitate the Church and the Community to discover their own problems and empowering the people of Khabutoola parish to holistically transform their current situation using God-given locally available resources.”

4. Communications speeches

5. Stories of transformation from individuals

6. Remarks from local officials

7. Remarks from UWCM official

8. Remarks from Guests of Honour

9. Reactions

10. Visiting projects

The land here is fertile so good for growing matooke. There were two small huts for 110 children at the primary school. Their local government can give little, which is why the whole Community is active in the programme.

When we arrived in the Bumasokho community there was a similar format to the proceedings.

Here the school has 4 rooms and 640 children. The government pays, so it is free education. The parents contribute towards the meals, but the teachers sacrifice from their salaries to pay for the childrens’ food.

Their PEP group have developed a constitution and have plans such as improving agriculture, reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS which is high in orphans, and having a library that school children can use.

UWCM leaflet p1
UWCM leaflet p1 – click to enlarge
UWCM leaflet p2
UWCM leaflet p2 – click to enlarge

Church and community mobilisation (2 October 2013)

Today we meet Pastor Thomas Lubari in Jinja – a Foundations for Farming Champion, and founder of Life Gospel Ministries and Life Gospel Outreach. He says that giving people skills is giving them empowerment; he sees his role as training people to train others – across his different ministries:

  • Agriculture: In training farmers, he always goes to see the farmer. He offers a two week training programme with follow-up. He is well connected (e.g. tool factory, seed distribution) and by working closely with the extension service, he secured contracts for local farmers to produce food to send to those displaced by warzones.
  • Health: Treating malaria costs US$40 per patient – who can afford that? He often hires a doctor, nurse and lab technician for the day and sends them wherever he knows there’s a need. The people who are visited are only charged US$0.20.
  • Education: Instead of receiving a salary, he put a chunk of his income into a scholarship fund to help children go to school.
  • Mission and discipleship: Training those who are called to ministry, as well as discipling those who have received the Good News.

The local community don’t have many funds to contribute to the church, so he has to create new forms of income-generating activities to fund his ministries.


Pastor Thomas

After inviting Pastor Thomas Lubari to speak at our conference, we drive eastwards. Since it’s lunchtime, the sides of the road are very colourful: each village we drive through is a different colour as children on their lunch break walk on the roadside in their village’s colourful uniform. There are a number of tethered cattle and goats on the side of the road. Our driver explains that cattle are either for ploughing, for milk or sold for meat. Maize cobs are drying on the side of the road (later on in the trip we’ll see coffee beans sunbathing in the same way) – the tarmac is hot!

We head to Mbale where we go straight to the Diocesan Office to greet Bishop Patrick (Bishop of Mbale diocese). We are surprised that Bishop Daniel (Bishop of North Mbale diocese) has made the trip (on infamous roads) to welcome us too! We also meet some other representatives from the North Mbale diocese and Mbale diocese who will accompany us this afternoon to visit some communities.

Mbale Diocesan OfficeP1010455

Uganda Women Concern Ministry based near Mbale have experience of church and community mobilisation as a channel for poverty alleviation. They use Tearfund’s Umoja initiative for transforming communities and over the next few days we are going to see what it looks like on the ground. They see community mobilisation as a holistic approach to development (working in partnership to develop ‘impact’).

In the communities we visit today, as the church is equipped to be ‘salt and light‘, I very soon agree with their enthusiasm about their work. The process takes several years, and in my eyes is holistic and sustainable. The participants are equipped to engage with the whole community, for the community to accurately describe their current situation, identify the community’s existing resources, identifying any gaps and take ownership of its future by taking responsibility for working together on the issues they decide are a priority for them.

When we saw their proposals, work in progress and accomplishments and sense of ownership, it was clear just how different these communities are now compared to before Umoja (which means ‘togetherness’ in Swahili). Sign up to receive updates from this blog so you don’t miss out on real life stories of transformation, and more!



Please leave comments below with your thoughts about sustainable development, I’d really like to know about the best examples you’ve come across (e.g. empowerment, people becoming the answers to their own communities’ prayers, etc.)

To learn more about the Umoja initiative and how to support it, please follow this link: http://www.tearfund.org/en/about_us/what_we_do_and_where/initiatives/umoja/

Day Two: 1 October 2013

The electricity wires are being upgraded around Buddo so there is no mains power. Our accommodation has solar panels so we are told there is enough power to charge a phone but a kettle or hair dryer would break the circuit (we hadn’t planned for any electric so it was nice to have lights). Having said that, if my phone was switched on whilst ‘charging’ the percentage battery left went down.
Hot water is served in thermos flasks and we discover ‘African coffee’ (coffee and milk brewed together) and ‘African tea’ (same concept but probably a weak tea with milk and cinnamon).
Today we meet Augustine, a Foundations for Farming (FfF) Champion who got FfF training in Zimbabwe. He shows us how his plot of land is meeting several aims including demonstrating best practice (the soil is covered, legumes are used to fix nitrogen, soil structure and water retention are improved and much more) and sharing best practice with others. He talked about locally available sources of nitrogen and organic matter ; how it’s safer to grow maize when everyone else does so that the bird damage is reduced.
The main principles are planting and weeding on time, using all available resources wisely, working to the highest standard and doing things with joy.
Putting all this into practice obviously means working differently to – and the farming system looking different to – their neighbours. This emphasises the importance of knowing the approach really works – which helps when exposed to ridicule by those who do not understand or see the wisdom of doing things that are slower and take more effort than traditional methods (e.g. seed broadcasting is faster but less effective than the careful spacing of seeds).
Maize is a plant that responds instantly to good management, so neighbours do ask for training eventually.
We all left inspired.

Gayaza FLR Centre

Day One: 30 September 2013

The African landscape looks distinctive from above.
Retina scan and all fingerprints catalogued at airport Security.
The Highway Code must be a bit different here: overtaking on all sides, no right of way even on roundabouts or side roads, on roads with potholes it’s acceptable to drive towards oncoming traffic, not many motorcycle helmets. Very grateful for our driver Kenneth, because I don’t know the rules and it feels very much like a game of pushing and shoving – thanks to him, a collision-free experience. When asked what he does in his spare time: 1) pray 2) sing with his children.
We get scanned by security at many entrances. We’re going to meet Sara from A Rocha Uganda and Alfred from the diocese of North Mbale to discuss their potential involvement in the communities we are about to visit. Really helpful conversations about training, information transfer, advocacy, research, environmental education, community empowerment (to reduce dependency tendencies) and difficulties around engagement.
With the youth far outnumbering other age groups of the Ugandan population, it’s a different situation to the environment I’m used to living, working and thinking in.
HIV/AIDS posters sponsored by USAID are dotted around Kampala. Many shops have religious names e.g. ‘By His Grace Groceries’, ‘Blessed Hardware’, ‘God’s Will retail centre’, ‘Glory be to God shop’ but not just shops: ‘Grace High’, ‘Salt and Light Academy’, ‘God Cares Medical Clinic’.
Many buildings have their mission statement or purpose painted on the outside walls (in English).
And the car we use gets scraped by speed bumps here too – it’s not just in Knowle West! I do hope the car survives the whole trip.

Day Zero: 29 September 2013

Weather forecast for Mbale, Uganda: 30°C max and heavy rain every day for the next week.
After more than a year of talking about it, we’re on our way to Bristol coach station where a coach will take us to Heathrow Terminal 5. Ouch, the car full of passengers and luggage gets its underbelly scraped by the Daventry Road speed bumps.
Whoops I forgot to pack my walking boots and the right connection for the portable solar panel I was going to use to charge my phone. We’ll see how essential they really are by going without this time.
We board the L-reg coach and we are on our way!

Asking the right questions

As the date of our outbound flight to Entebbe approaches, I’ve been busy trying to prepare to answer queries, deliver lectures and lead workshops about soil structure and fertility, composts, weeds, pests and disease control, safe food/preserving, storage, transport and alternative routes to market. I’m so pleased my wife Aggy will link the growing with themes on nutrition and health: it all needs to be taken into account at the system level – and where better to start then the smallholder farms we’re about to visit: if they can grow what they need to be healthy, we’re on the right track. And where better to do so than Uganda where the soils and climate sound so well-suited to food production?

I’m aiming to give people information, ideas and case studies… and questions. Questions on their own when people don’t know all their options just isn’t helpful. But neither is information overload without the “right” question – maybe a specific challenge to think about, or more importantly a new way of thinking about an issue.

New perspectives might mean looking from the market and community needs, and to do this I’ve been busy networking widely so that I can put people in contact with others locally. It’s so encouraging that Tearfund’s Umoja programme is already helping communities identify their own resources and mobilising themselves to create local solutions to local problems – now that’s empowerment!

Imagination is a powerful stimulant and we’re going to need to adopt extreme creativity to overcome the hunger season (the period between food running out and the start of the following harvest). You can read about what works well just across the border here: The Last Hunger Season

Exciting times full of potential!

A journey from Bristol to Uganda