While at our lodge in Kisoro I began chatting with a man from Canada named Shawn, a Harvard graduate who founded the organization, Raising the Village. The organization works with some of the poorest communities in Uganda, with an average household income less than 10 cents per day.
The NGO aims to educate the communities on proper agricultural and sanitary practices.Since I studied international development in university, and have also worked as a large animal veterinary technician, Shawn invited me to join him to visit all the communities and check on their progress. 😀
As a traveler, this is the type of experience that I long for. I was able to walk with Shawn and his local partners, Clement and Jolly, to visit four communities and farm fields surrounding Kisoro. ❤I shook hands with each and every man and woman in that village. I didn’t take many photos of people out of respect, considering I wouldn’t want someone taking photos of me going about my day back home. I’ll be honest though, it was a grim scene, as many of the children appeared malnourished, and walked around in dirty and tattered clothing, which is expected considering access to clean water and proper nutrition is an ongoing concern.That being said, everyone greeted me with waves and a smile. Although there are over 53 languages spoken in this area, I always found kindness to be universal. Shawn spent a lot of the time joking with the community members and strengthening relationships, yet at the same time, giving them constructive criticism on ways to improve their agricultural harvest and maintain healthy livestock.
Before he founded the organization, the villager’s main crops were beans and corn.
In order to improve community nutrition and generate income, the organization has since provided the communities with greater crop variety, including carrots, yams, passion fruits, tomato and cabbage. They are able to sell this produce for profit, and consume anything that is left over.
Shawn’s organization also provides a savings and loan program, where the villagers are able to invest money in a project, such as a new cash crop. The funds also support the community by helping them to build latrines with soap and water stations, plus extra money to properly house their livestock. They are also hoping to set up bee hives along crop fences, which prevents elephants from raiding their crops. At the same time, this also reduces interaction between farmers and wildlife.
The organization deals with many ongoing issues, such as pest control and poor crop harvest. For example, in the last 10 years, they have had a banana bacterial outbreak which has destroyed nearly all of their banana trees. As a larger problem, access to proper medical care is challenging in these remote areas, and malaria outbreaks are a constant concern. Overall though, after spending the day with the organization, I really found their progress to be inspiring. You can see there is obvious improvement in each village. 😀
He’s also noticed that the communities are receiving foreigners much better now compared to when he first began his visits. He believes they understand now that they know he is only there to help, and they are less shameful of their economic situation, since it is slowly improving. That being said, when we arrived at one of the last villages on the border of Uganda and the Congo, he told me I was probably the first white person they had ever seen. They called me Mzungu, which means, “white person.”In the future the organization hopes to implement these sustainable and innovative agricultural practices across the entire country. Feel free to click on their website to find out more. 😀