These last couple days have been a blast! After some airport mishap and miscommunication, Brian finally arrived in Soroti late Thursday night. We now have a mentor – score!
Friday began early as we headed out to Angole for an evaluation meeting before we headed to Okidi to pour concrete.
Only members of the executive committee attended the meeting in Angole. There were initially 189 members of the MFP group, or the Angole Farmers Development Group. However, the number of members dropped to 70 as many were not able to pay the registration fee. Members of this group come from five different villages in the area. Customers come from 5 km to use the MFP but otherwise would have to travel at least 8 km to use the nearest MFP.
The executive committee members of Angole described some of the issues at the new site. One of the problems, which we were already briefed on by Pilgrim, is the poor quality of the processed rice from the combined maiz/rice huller. The community members grew much more rice this year in anticipation of the rice huller but now do not expect much profit. The community also raised concerns about the speed at which the belts were consumed. The community had already had to purchase new belts within the initial two months of owning the MFP. There seems to be an issue with the attachment of the mill, as the belt that is attached to the mill is shredded. Mze Paul will be visiting Angole shortly to rectify the problem. His work will not be considered complete (he will not be getting his last payment) until all parts are working properly. As of now, the community is only operating the huller as it only needs one belt to run. The huller was fixed last week and has been working since.
The community believes that these problems have cut into the group’s profit. As a result, the community has not yet been able to close the house. Furthermore, they are not paying the engine operator- the operator is only provided lunch. There are 6 trained operators, but only 1 operator works at any given time. The site manager, along with two assistants, is also usually at the MFP with the operator because the executive committee decided they did not want the operators collecting money. The MFP is usually running from 10 AM to the evening, but most customers do not go to the MFP until midday. Three to fourteen customers are expected per day. When more profit is realized, the group hopes to split some of it. Furthermore, they hope to complete the housing structure and add to it storage and an office. They also loan money with interest and begin their own projects. The community has been a part of numerous projects. They have been given maize and groundnut seeds, livestock such as goats and sheep, and have been trained in beekeeping. While the beekeeping failed, the other projects have continued and been successful. Hopefully this means that our project will be a success in the area as well. With the organization we saw from the operational logbooks and treasurer’s books, it seems likely that this will be the case.
The MFP group charges 600 shillings to mill one basin of cassava and 120 shillings per kilogram for hulling maize. The community has not yet decided on the oil press price as it has not yet been used besides from testing. While the community believes the lack of profit is a result of the MFP’s malfunction, it could be as a result of the low prices to use the MFP. Furthermore, the registration fee to become a member of the MFP group was 10,000 shillings, which is a significantly lower price than the registration fees in other communities. It is likely that the problem mainly stems from the low prices. Quantity of business is certainly not lacking, as the logbook is filled with names of customers. Also, the MFP has been using 40 L of fuel per month, meaning it must be very active! They paid 128,000 shillings for the 40 L of fuel from Soroti which they buy in bulk. They have also changed the oil once, but they are not aware of the price as the oil was provided by Pilgrim. The members have also not yet decided on the discount the members receive, as they have not sat down to discuss this. The general group has only met twice since they received the MFP and the executive committee only met three times. However, the executive committee complains that the general members do not come to the meetings when called.
As of now the MFP has been mainly used to process food for consumption. Very few community members grow sunflower. The community hopes to receive sunflower seeds and training on how to grow sunflower from Pilgrim. They then plan to sell sunflower oil in the market. Furthermore, if the rice huller begins producing a finer quality product, then the community members may also sell rice in the market. In addition to training for growing sunflower, the community hopes to have more training in management. Angella assured the attendees that Pilgrim will be returning for two more training sessions when the machine is operating properly. She also assured them that they will be receiving tools (crescent wrenches) so they can fix minor problems on their own. The community has an on-site technician who has already spoken to Mze Paul about the mill and has begun sorting the issue. Hopefully with some more tools he will be able to keep the engine and its attachments running. The community hopes to establish their bilaws this month and register with the subcommittee so they can open their bank account. Despite the issues with the machinery, the MFP is still aiding the community. Hopefully after a raise of prices, the group will benefit from a greater profit. With more training and tools, we have high hopes that this community will soon be self sustaining.
After Angole we drove to Okidi. There we met Okeju Richard, our contractor. A large group of adults and children from the community had gathered. They were both awaiting our arrival and admiring the shiny equipment in large wooden crates. After a little bit of mulling around and the contractor taking measurements, he used string and some wooden stakes to define the borders of the base so community members. At this point two or three members of the community started digging and within a few minutes there was the shape of a base frame about one foot deep.
Meanwhile outside, other community members began the concrete mixing process. This involved mixing sand and cement with shovels, and then raking into a flatter pile so that granite stones could be mixed in. Water was poured onto the pile and two or three people used shovels to mix all four ingredients thoroughly, one small pile at a time. Once a pile of good concrete mixture pile was mixed, it was shoveled into a wheelbarrow which was carted into the building and dumped into the pit. Shalni, Julius, and the contractor worked on distributing the concrete in the pit, and correctly placing the anchor bolts (which will ultimately hold the base frame to the concrete bed).
After a couple of hours of this work, and everybody trying their hand at one task or another, the foundation pouring was completed! Now we just have to wait for the contractor to pour the finishing layer of concrete and we will be able to assemble the machinery and the base frame early next week!
On Saturday we left around 10am to drive to Sugur to pour the concrete for their foundation. The process was almost identical to what we did in Okidi on Friday except much more streamline. All the digging, mixing, pouring, and anchor placement was finished in just two or three hours. Angela said a few closing remarks thanking the community for participating and showing their dedication to the project, and we departed home to wash the concrete splatter out of hair and clothes.
Angella called this morning to let us know that the contractor had not yet arrived in Soroti as he had insisted he would yesterday. Because of this, we were not able to pour the concrete in Sugur, but we still visited the older site in Tubur.
Silas, David, and Julius accompanied us to Tubur, where we met with the chairman and two engine operators of the Tubur Farmers Group (TFG), who are collectively in charge of the MFP. The Tubur Farmers Group comprises of 76 total members, who each paid a 23 000 shilling registration fee. We learned that there are five subgroups within this larger group, and that there were initially 100 members but some dropped out when the construction of the housing structure began. The TFG are committed to growing cassava, and previously, sunflower as well. However, they had stopped growing sunflower when the oil press component broke in May. Apparently, the machine gets clogged even when the seeds are manually fed through. They had a technician in to locate the problem, but even he was unable to fix it. The peak seasons for harvesting sunflower seeds are August and December to January.
The team was surprised to learn that there are two other milling machines located less than a kilometre away in either direction (both of which are older than this one). There is competition between these three mills, which all charge the same price, so naturally, the MFP gets most business when the other engines are not functioning. We were told that the other engines break down more frequently than the Lister one at this MFP. While the members did not know what kinds of engines were used at the other sites, they mentioned that they were a type of Chinese engines, and they were red, leading our team to suspect that they might be Changfas. However, one of the others recently invested in a huller, which detracted costumers from using the MFP site.
In general, the Tubur Farmers Group has not run into any major problems with the engine. In June, there was an issue with compression escape in one of the valves, though it was fixed in mid-June (cost of repair: 15 000 shillings) and has been working well ever since. We found out that basically none of the members of the TFG use the MFP, despite their 200-shilling discount, because most live quite far and prefer to use mills in their respective vicinities. Initially, this machine was meant to be in a different location, but the group decided to move it to the current one as they thought it would be a more central location and would attract a bigger market.
To use the milling machine, they charge 1000 shillings per basin of cassava, 3000 shillings for maize, and 4000 shillings for a mix of maize/sogum/millet/etc. For the oil press, they charge 14000 shillings for one 70-80kg sac of sunflower seeds. Occasionally people bring in some shea, but it is usually in very small amounts. Currently, the MFP site gets between 2 and 10 customers per day, and operates on a schedule dictated purely by demand (usually evenings, for convenience of customers). They use about 3 L of engine oil and 20 L of fuel per month. Overall, the machine is profitable, as last year they used the 400,000 shillings of profit made from June to December of 2012 to buy out the land upon which the site is situated (they had previously been borrowing the land from a member). However, since December, they have only made 80,000 shillings in profit. This significant decrease in revenue is primarily due to the breakdown of the oil press and the new huller at the competitor mill. If the oil press was in full working condition, they would expect at least 20 customers, just for the oil press, per day during peak season. The broken machinery has presented a huge loss in business for the group this season. The chairman determined that is all of the machinery was in perfect working condition with no technical difficulties, the MFP would generate 1.5 million shillings in net profit each year.
The Tubur Farmers Group has developed a plan for collectively growing, processing, and selling cassava. They plan to use the income generated by the MFP to extend the structure and build a computer lab for the group. Additionally, if finances allow, they would like to establish a poultry-keeping project for the community. The TFG meets twice a year, and the executive committee meets four times a year. At the last TFG meeting, there were only 20-25 members in attendance, as the others were busy tending to their gardens and some claimed they were not notified on time. The executive committee members have changed once, as the initial chairman was found to be putting his personal objective before the group. He was immediately kicked out and the current chairman was elected.
Another challenge that came up in discussion was changing the belts on the engine when they must switch between using the mill and the oil press. In addition to requesting a second engine to solve this problem, they also requested on behalf of the whole Tubur Farmers Group if Pilgrim could provide them with a maize huller so that they can keep up with their competition.
As we were walking back to the car after the meeting, Eric joined some kids who had started playing soccer when school was out. The kids were laughing and shouting gleefully, evidently quite impressed with the Mzungu’s skills. On the way back, Julius let us try some corn freshly picked in Tubur, and we gave him some of our North American fruit snacks.
Tonight, we plan to dine here at Golden Ark since Edward is driving Brian up to Soroti today. We are all very excited to finally meet our mentor, and we’re looking forward to pouring concrete with him in Okidi tomorrow!
Shalni, Gabriella, and Eric
Silas arrived early today, around 9 o’clock, so that we could get out to Okidi (coordinates: N 01°28.467’ E 033°21.862’) by 10am for our pre-implementation meeting. Today, Patrick (the finance minister at Pilgrim, Soroti) joined us in place of Angella. When we arrived there were a few members of the community putting the finishing touches on the mortar for the MFP building. From our arrival, we noted that the community was quite quiet compared to the two we visited yesterday, and they were extremely respectful; the young children even shook our hands and the women kneeled to greet us. We got together and had a meeting inside the housing structure, beginning and ending with a prayer. The building had a sturdy and well-made wooden door, something we haven’t seen at the other sites, though it still lacked shutters on the windows, a security issue that should probably be addressed by the committee once the engine is installed. At the meeting, there were about 10 members of the community at the start and 4 more latecomers.
The meeting was lengthy. Our team had many questions for the community, and received quite a lot of useful information. We were introduced to the members of the executive committee of the MFP as well as the registered members who were present. The executive committee had been chosen by election, where 61 voters were present. We learned that there are 45 registered members in total, though many were absent because they were busy with their harvest. Initially, the member fee had been 25 000 shillings, but it has since been increased to 35 000 to cover the expense of building the structure. We learned that Okidi itself is a parish comprised of four small villages, from which all the members hail. They expect that the MFP will be used by 25 villages, the farthest of which is 14 km away. Prior to installation of the MFP, farmers had to travel to the town of Serere (9 km away) to mill their cassava and maize, and all the way to Soroti (about 48 km away) to use an oil press. Because of this, farmers who used to grow sunflower stopped harvesting such crops, as it was not worth the time, cost, and hassle of travelling to Soroti to process them. Now, the main crops harvested in the Okidi area are maize, cassava, sogum, green peas, and rice. The community members told us that their biggest source of pride is the richness of their soil, as it is extremely fertile and moist, so it can grow a vast variety due to Okidi’s proximity to Lake Kyoga.
Additionally, we found out that there are four secondary schools and over twenty primary schools in the Okidi area. The nearest primary school has 1300 students. There are also many churches of various denominations, with a number of Pentacostal, Anglican, and some Catholic. The services are every Sunday, and the churches sometimes hold other programs, such as workshops etc, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Some previous government-aided projects that the community has come together to work on include projects with Africare and NAADS. Everyone in the community is very excited about the MFP, as it will be the first of its kind in the area, and will be used by thousands of people throughout three sub-counties.
After ending the meeting with a prayer, we had a picture in front of the building and departed for Anyara. Unfortunately there is no way to cross the river between Okidi and Anyara, so we had to drive back to Soroti to cross before heading over to Anyara.
There were only 4 or so people for the meeting with Anyara (coordinates: N 02°01.024’ E 033°19.890’), but there was much to discuss. We got the impression that the community did not have anybody who was capable of making minor fixes to the engine. Because they had the attitude of relying on Pilgrim for everything, they were not establishing any self-sufficiency. For example, there was hose that has been leaking fuel for three weeks now, yet they only contacted Angella to notify her last week. They had wrapped a cloth around it but it still leaked. They complained about this problem but could not organize as a community to buy a hose clamp or three inches of vinyl tubing. While other communities, such as Orungo, had used the proceeds of the engine to hire a technician for repairs, Anyara had simply stopped using the MFP much and contacted Pilgrim to find someone to fix it for them.
We learned that the executive committee had still not opened a bank account to deal with finances. They also lacked an organized record of financial transactions, so it was difficult for our team to evaluate the financial success of the project. The executive committee was not even fully present at the meeting – apparently, Anyara was under the impression that Pilgirm was sending engineers to fix the leak today, not a CUEWB team to evaluate the state of the project.
There are 70 registered members in Anyara who paid a 25 000-shilling fee, which all went to building the housing structure. The 6 members of the executive committee were elected. The community comprises of five smaller villages within a 10 km radius, each of which has an elected leader registered as a member for the MFP group. The chairman informed us that an average of 30 members (less than half) show up at the regular meetings, and about 10-12 people showed up at the training sessions.
In terms of MFP usage, they have on average 6-8 customers per day when the MFP is in good working condition. An average customer processes between 10-20 kg of cassava. There are about 80 regular users from around the area, with occasionally some others from farther away when those other mills are not working. The frequency that an average farmer comes depends on the family size, though it can range from every 1-2 weeks to once a month. They charge 50 shillings per kilogram for milling cassava and 60 shillings for sogum. The machine is profitable when it works well, but profits are minimal to none right now because of the leakages. To date, they have not yet changed the oil filter or belts.
Initially following the installation of the MFP, there were a number of both technical and community-related issues. It seemed that commitment among the community was low, though we were told that sickness and harvest season are the main culprits for poor turnout at meetings. In the past, Anyara had a NAADS beekeeping project, but that was not sustained successfully for long. Additionally, Pilgrim once tried giving tomato and cabbage crops to the community, which were prospering and growing well under the care and keeping of community members, until a heavy rainstorm destroyed all the plants before they were fully grown. Hearing about this project was promising, as it showed that when a project is successful enough to cultivate interest, the community does have the dedication necessary to take care of it and help it grow independently.
Because the MFP has not yet been very profitable, the executive committee has not yet decided how they will allocate the income generated. As of now, they are planning to give dividends back to the registered members, though they have not earned enough profit to distribute yet. However, they asked us for our opinion on what to do with the profits, since a final decision had not yet been made. We asked if they had considered saving up to buy another component for the machine, and they said they wanted to seek advice from us and Pilgrim on what they should buy. Because we want this project to become independent, we asked them to think about what they would most benefit from, as none of us know the needs of the Anyara community better than its members. They told us that they harvest maize, cassava, millet, sunflower, sogum, rice, soy beans, simsim, ground nuts, peas, and beans. Once we got the discussion of possible machinery going, they expressed that if they could generate enough money, there would be a lot of potential for a brick-making machine. Also, because there is a nearby swamp, they mentioned that securing pumps in the fields for irrigation during dry season would help them produce a number of vegetables, such as tomatoes, onions, and cabbages. They had calculated that 10 acres of tomatoes would be 11 700 plants; if these all survived, they could generate 10 million shillings per year. Patrick had an idea about grinding millet, which is very viable. Currently, they don’t produce very good quality millet because sand gets in when it is ground. If proper concrete were put in place, they could grind it cleanly and easily, and if they could package it, they would be able to sell it very quickly and easily, as there is always a large demand for ground millet throughout Uganda.
The conversation in Anyara ended on a more positive note. We headed back to Soroti after a long day of field work, though not before playing and taking pictures with the children and dogs of the Anyara community. We went to the landmark hotel again for dinner, and we all went to bed before 10pm, ready to be up bright early to pour the concrete in Sugur tomorrow.
Gabriella, Shalni, and Eric
When we woke up this morning, the power and water were FINALLY back! Yay! Silas picked us up at 10:00 and we first went to Calvin’s for the photo opportunity he had promised the night before. We were there for about 45 minutes. Once we got a few photos with Osborne and Calvin, we went to the office to pick up Angela before we headed out to Aboiboi.
We arrived in Aboiboi (coordinates: N 01°53.568’ E 033°55.216’) after about 1-1.5 hours on a bumpy dirt road. The MFP was running upon our arrival so we took the opportunity to see it in action. Some members of the coop were hulling maize. The maize hulling seemed to go much slower than the grinding we had witnessed at Orungo. At first the output of the huller was not so good, many kernels of maize were not properly hulled. There was a screw on the output channel of the huller that could be adjusted. The operator toyed with this screw until the output became better.
Once the maize was hulled it was milled. During the meeting, most members (about 16 showed up) expressed a large degree of gratitude, but also a little frustration because some poor craftsmanship on the mill attachment had caused a bolt to break and damage the sieve, making the mill unusable from July 4th-11th. They were elated to hear that Mze Paul (the contractor) had warrantied the work for 8 months, so he would be visiting to help out in those circumstances. The last time there was a problem with the mill was last week. It was not operational from August 4th to August 11th however since it was fixed on Sunday there have been no problems. The operator said he believes the problem is due to the bolt coming loose and getting caught in the sieve. Also there are some cracks in the mill due to a hasty implementation. This presents a risk to the operators as they must stick their hand into the mill to push the crops through. There are two operators who work daily, yet they still are not paid and therefore will not be able to continue to dedicate their time.
All the crops that have been processed thus far have been used for personal consumption as the harvest has not been bountiful. However, the community members have plans to use the MFP to bring their crops to market. There are a total of 60 members who belong to the MFP. These members come from four different villages, which are all within 2 ½ km of the MFP site. Before the MFP was brought to Aboiboi, these members traveled to Soroti to process their maize and rice and traveled to Katakwi to process cassava.
Apparently there have not been issues with the rice huller or oil press, but this is not certain as these attachments were only tested during implementation and have not been used much since. However during testing, it was determined that the oil press worked better for shea than for sunflower, yet Angella claims that the sunflower seeds will stick less as the attachment is used more frequently. The community raised concerns about the large amount of fuel the engine uses. Angella proposed that a larger sieve for the flour should be used (1 ½ inches instead of 1 ¼). With a larger sieve, then the flour will flow quicker and the engine will not have to run as long to process the same amount, thus reducing the fuel consumption.
At the end of the meeting we were given the financial report. Since it became operational, the MFP generated 100,000 shillings in profit, yet the community has not planned what to do with the earnings. Angella suggested the profits be used to close up the housing structure for the MFP as it has not been closed off. The community raised concerns about the lack of security of the MFP.
The reason they have not yet decided on how to spend the profits is that there have been no member meetings since implementation. At first blame was put on the members as no one attended the meetings. After a threat of taking away community members’ membership, one of the women spoke up that they were never aware of meetings. Therefore, the mobilizer of the committee has not been successful in conveying the information to all members of the MFP. Hopefully with better communication, issues with the MFP can be addressed properly. Before leaving, Angella made all members agree on a date for the community’s first group meeting.
After Aboiboi, we sped off to Sugur as we were already late. We were surprised to find over one hundred people waiting for us, including a full troupe of musicians! Woman immediately started doing the “yiyiyiyiyiyiyi!” thing really loudly and everybody cheered at our arrival. It was like no other experience we have ever had. We sat down in the chairs they had set and everybody gathered around us. The musicians began to play songs they had written for us and Pilgrim in Ateso, and the woman came and danced, including an ancient lady carrying a stick with a cloth attached as a flag. The chairman got up and spoke for a little bit in Ateso (a board member translated). Next, Angella addressed the community, thanking and congratulating them, and quizzing them on the MFP (all in Ateso). She then gave us an opportunity to introduce ourselves and the group clapped enthusiastically for each of us. They then played more songs, and it was truly moving. It was amazing how united the people were and welcoming they were towards us. After the music we moved to the site of the MFP building, which was in fact quite large, probably big enough to fit two or three MFP’s. We learned that there are 63 members of the MFP as of today and an executive committee of nine. We took a series of photos of everybody before departing. On the way home we stopped for simsim (essentially, sesame and cane sugar rolled into balls) and roasted cassava (which tasted a bit like a more flavourful potato). They were both very good! We were still smiling when we got back to the Golden Ark; it was a long time before that heart-warming feeling from the whole Sugur community ebbed away.
Eyalama noi, Aboiboi ido Sugur!
Eric, Shalni, and Gabriella
Today Silas picked us up around 9:30. We went to the Pilgrim office to meet with the contractor Mr. Okeju Richard. We discussed the implementation process, the price of Portland cement versus standard cement, and how the portable rubber stand works for mfp implementations. He will show us some other installations around town when we have time. The funding came through today so he is going to Kampala to oversee the transportation and loading/unloading of the machine equipment. Tomorrow we will have a preliminary implementation meeting with Sugur after we meet with Aboiboi with the plan that we will pour the concrete base in Sugur on Wednesday.
After our meeting with Okeju, we left for Orungo with James, David, and Silas. It took about an hour and fifteen minutes maybe – though a significant part of the journey was the last four km which is not much more than a bicycle path through the brush. We arrived finally and had a meeting with the chairman of the MFP coop, Odongo.
Odongo is an enterprising man whose leadership has helped the Orungo MFP become one of the most successful implementations. We asked him many questions about the MFP and the coop and he provided a lot of useful information. The Orungo MFP gets quite a lot of use – usually 6 days a week for a couple of hours each day. People use it for milling all year, whereas the oil press is used seasonally.
Through our meeting with Orungo, we learned about how the MFP has been operating in the community. When first implemented, the MFP had many issues and would stop working almost every two weeks. However, after more use, the issues became less severe. The engine has been running continuously (with only a few slight problems) since last April! Pilgrim has not had to make any trips recently to Orungo, as the small issues were solved by the community MFP operators. With its lack of technical probems, the MFP has brought much business. The MFP is used around 30-35 hours per week. The most busy season is from October to December. In busy seasons about 20 customers come to use the MFP per day. The MFP runs 6 days a week and even half a day on Sunday.
There are two engine operators that run the MFP. These operators are also farmers. They are paid 500 shillings per hour operating the engine. Other costs of the MFP include fuel, oil, and additional belts when needed (belts last 2-3 months on average). 30,000-40,000 shillings are spent per month on average for maintenance. With a revenue on average of about 50,000 per month, the MFP generates and average of 15,000 shillings each month. This profit can be, in part, attributed to the fact that Orungo has an electric generator that allows the site to still be operational at night and during power outages. This generator is also connected to the lighting in the office about 30 meters away. This profit is then put into a group fund where members of the MFP project can borrow money and pay back the loans with interest.
The executive community is in charge of this group fund as well as the MFP itself. The executive community is made up of a chairman, secretary, treasurer, and two trained members. The executive community has yet to vote on anything- instead they are able to sit down and discuss any issue with the MFP and come to a decision as a whole. There is a registration fee to become a member of the MFP, but then the members receive a reduced rate for using the MFP and also can utilize the group fund. There are approximately 100 members of the Orungo MFP. These 100 members belong to 5 different groups/villages. The closest group is 4 km away from Orungo and the furthest is 8 km away. Most customers are members of the MFP, yet some customers do come from outside these villages. Customers come from 15-20 km away to use the Orungo MFP as they do not have any means of milling, hulling, or pressing near their homes. Members of the nearby villages had to travel for half a day to process their crops before the MFP was brought to Orungo. Many farmers are now able to sell their crops at a higher price because it is processed. For example, 1 bag of sunflower seeds can be sold at 60,000 shillings if unprocessed but it can sell at 100,000 shillings if processed. To use the MFP to press 1 bag of sunflower oil costs 20,000 shillings. So these farmers make a 20,000 shilling profit on each bag of sunflower oil they sell. Still though, the MFP is mostly used by sustenance farmers, especially when the harvest is not as bountiful, which is the case this season. A customer usually comes on a daily basis to mill maiz, three times a month to mill casava, and on a weekly basis to use the oil press when sunflowers are in season.
Orungo is very optimistic for the future. The community has plans to use their growing profit to purchase a maiz huller. While other communities do have this attachment, since Orungo was one of the first MFPs implemented, they did not receive this attachment. However, they hope in three years they will be able to purchase the huller. They claim there will be a very large market for the maiz huller, as community members now go to Soroti in order to hull the maiz. Perhaps one of the reasons the community has been so successful and ambitious is because they have experience with many past projects. They have received numerous goats, oxen, and ox plowers from both NGO’s and government funded programs. Also, the government provides some agricultural technology to the community along with seeds for ground nuts, sunflowers, and maiz. Furthermore, the governmental program held training sessions on how to grow these crops properly and utilize the agricultural technology. In all, the future of Orungo’s sustainability looks promising and it will definitely be a model for future projects.
After we left the MFP site we came upon dueling dance troupes. One group was from near Lira, and they were competing against a group from Orungo. Everybody enjoyed this greatly (especially James). Our Pilgrim associates also purchased some charcoal to bring back to Soroti and a LIVE chicken!
We returned to Golden Ark in the evening. Around four-thirty we received a phone call from Angela saying that Calvin, the CEO of Pilgrim wanted to invite us to his house for dinner and to swim in his pool. We were happy to oblige. Shalni and Eric enjoyed the pool greatly, and although Gabriella was not prepared to swim today, she also experienced the pool after a (rather comical) slip in footing.
After swimming, we enjoyed a fine evening of dinner and conversation, another power failure, and lots of very impressive lightning flashes before finally retiring to Golden Ark.
Eric, Gabriella, and Shalni
We discovered early Friday morning that the power and water were out in the hotel. James came by mid-morning to let us know that Angella had not been in the office that morning, but would probably be there after 2pm this afternoon. He also mentioned that the Pilgrim office was without power too. After lunch, we made a list of points to discuss with Angella, and then headed to the pilgrim office.
Angella briefed us on the structure of the meetings that we would be having in the small communities, which gave us a good idea of what to expect and how to best manage our time there. We went over the schedule of community visits for next week: Orungo on Monday, Aboiboi on Tuesday, Anyara on Wednesday, Tubur on Thursday, and Angole on Friday. While she still hadn’t managed to contact Usuk, she will try to fit that into the schedule as well when she hears back.
We also talked about the current funding situation, as well as managing the MFP-related finances and the respective EWB and Pilgrim budgets. Angella said that we can expect the funding for the two new MFPs by Monday, which would allow us to be finished implementing the first new site by the end of the following week, and the second site the week after that. We were happy to hear that as of right now, our implementations are on schedule, though we are still wary of unexpected delays, as experienced by the May/June travel team.
After some more discussion revolving mostly around MFP attachments currently in place and additional prospective/alternate components, we thanked Angella for her time and information. We sauntered back toward Golden Ark, stopping on the way to pick up some groceries and, more importantly, a Uganda soccer jersey for Eric.
By Saturday morning, there was still no water for Eric and Shalni, so we took turns showering in Gabriella’s room. Eric sat out on the porch to eat his lunch outdoors. Shalni and Gabriella chatted with Esther, of the Golden Ark, about things to do and see around Soroti. Esther took Shalni and Gabriella for a walk all the way around Soroti Rock and back to the Golden Ark, pointing out people and things along the way. The Rock looked really cool up close, and we are very excited to climb it once we get a permit.
Walking in the sun had made us extremely hot, so we were drinking some Emergen-C when Eric reminded us that we had made popsicles last night from pina-colada juice, an ice tray, and sticks from our first-aid kit. They were deliciously refreshing, and cooled us down nicely. We went to the Landmark hotel for dinner, and it was pretty inexpensive and extremely filling.
On Sunday, Shalni and Gabriella took Eric along the path that Esther had shown them yesterday. When they reach the Rock, we decided to sit at the base for a while. We had barely stopped walking when a boisterous group of children surrounded us, chatting and laughing, intrigued by our cameras. We played with the 20 or so children for a while, enjoying how they would howl with laughter when we showed them pictures of themselves on our little camera screens. They kids must have ranged from about 3 to 13 years old, but every one of them was just as amused. Finally, we continued on our walk, but four five- to six-year-olds followed us like little ducklings. We kept walking, but once we got near the town and realized they were still trailing behind us, we walked back to the Rock to take them home.
Gabriella, Eric, and Shalni
Again awoken by cock-a-doodle-doos, we ate breakfast at the Golden Ark with James, who had come over to make sure that we were doing well. He also came to let us know that the Pilgrim office is closed today because of Eid, which is recognized as a national holiday because of the large Muslim population in Uganda. He told us that Angella has contacted the old communities, and is putting together an itinerary for us to begin visiting the previously implemented sites on Monday, and was working to have us visit one MFP site tomorrow.
The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. We were able to use the modem to connect to the internet for the first time in days, so we finally added all of our previous blog entries to the site. It was pretty slow, though, hence the large amount of text and lack of photos (we tried uploading them, but it was much too slow). We also got some emails out to the CUEWB team back home, and we found out that Pilgrim in Seattle has sent the money for the new MFPs, and it should reach Uganda by early next week.
Afterwards, we went out to the supermarket to pick up some groceries for lunch and dinner. We cooked some penne pasta with veggies in the kitchen of Golden Ark, and then retreated to our rooms to read for a bit (the three of us are all in the middle of pretty engrossing novels). Gabriella and Shalni went for a walk to explore the quieter streets of Soroti, where they saw lots of piglets, hogs, baby goats, and big goats. We walked past many local children, all of whom grinned widely upon seeing us and waved excitedly, sometimes yelling “Msungu!” and other times yelling “Have a nice evening!”, “Goodnight!”, and “Safe travels!” We’ve learned that everyone here is so friendly and warm; it is customary to smile and greet everyone you pass on the road, and sometimes even carry on a full conversation with them. It definitely makes us feel welcome in Soroti. The sun sets very early here, so when it started to get dark, Gabriella and Shalni headed back to the hotel for fear of getting bitten by evening mosquitos.
Back at the hotel with Eric, we briefly connected to the internet again to check if we had heard from Angella or James about whether or not we were visiting a site on Friday. After a few rounds of Charades and a number of rounds of the word-game Contact, we watched some good old Friends episodes. We fell asleep to flashes of lightening outside the window and the sounds of heavy rain and thunder, as an unexpected thunderstorm poured down on the town.
Eric, Gabriella, and Shalni