DataKind
People often say that this is the era of data; after all, data mining and extraction often prove essential for widescale business operations and more. Still, even as the demand for data analysts and data scientists rises every year, projects focusing on social change do not get the same advantages in this field as large private enterprises. Expansive tech corporations still hold most of the resources and information when using data analysis as a tool for operative efficiency.

However, many organizations seek to change this. One of them is DataKind, a volunteer-based organization dedicated to putting data in the service of others. The organization works on short and long-term projects addressing topics from poverty and access to services in developing countries to health care and education.

Why DataKind?

DataKind works with nonprofit organizations that have access to large quantities of gathered information and delivers high-quality analyses. These analyses help effectively streamline resources, creating new goals for NGOs and nonprofits so that more people can receive aid. In this way, DataKind has shifted the trends of big data and data analysis toward humanitarian projects.

CEO Jake Porway stated, “In 2010, we had the big-data boom, but the things that people would do with it seemed so frivolous — they would build apps to help them park their car or find a local bar. I just thought, ‘This is crazy, we need to do something more.’ ” After realizing that data analysis has a place in the nonprofit realm, Porway founded DataKind in 2010. Based in New York City, it originally had part-time data scientist volunteers working on short-term projects, but now the organization collaborates with more than a dozen international bodies such as the U.N.’s Global Pulse and the World Bank.

GiveDirect

GiveDirect is an organization that focuses on transferring money to the poorest communities in Kenya and Uganda. These funds can go into communities, helping individuals pursue their own goals. To identify which villages will benefit from this, DataKind stepped in to analyze data from satellite images. It identified which households and villages were the poorest in each region. A programmed algorithm detected the materials of individual homes; thatched or metal roofs can be an indicator of a community’s needs. This proved to be more efficient and less costly than a traditional census in these remote areas.

VotoMobile

This organization has a dedication to amplifying the voices of marginalized groups in West Africa by using mobile surveys in local languages. It targets remote communities’ main necessities, gathering insight on groups typically not represented in common censuses. DataKind enhanced data repositories and built interactive data models for VotoMobile to use for future data collection. With DataKind’s help, VotoMobile is now focussing on standardizing its surveys so they are easier to analyze and compare. When this stage is complete, VotoMobile will be able to take many more voices into account, prioritizing specific types of aid for rural villages in Uganda and Senegal.

The World Bank: Anti-Corruption Solutions

To effectively tackle poverty, it is necessary to root out corruption in development projects. In one of its most ambitious projects, DataKind collaborated with The World Bank, working with collected data from across the globe to identify possible corruption cases and create innovative solutions. It closely studied food prices, inflation rates, vis-a-vis surveys and phone data. Participants in this project have carefully mapped what variables are missing in the data. These strategies are not limited exclusively to future frameworks in data collection. They can also contribute to ingenious solutions for rampant corruption around the globe.

In the future, DataKind hopes to keep delivering new data-based solutions for international organizations and institutions, bringing new volunteers into the era of philanthropic data analysis.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Movement in Uganda
The women’s movement in Uganda has fought for women’s rights for nearly two decades. In 2021, it has reason to celebrate as two bills passed through Parliament that significantly improve the rights of Ugandan women. Even with this recent example of progress, the women’s movement in Uganda continues to strive for further rights.

Discrimination against Women in Uganda

Until 2021, women in Uganda faced discrimination in cases of inheritance and land ownership. The previous law granted preference to male children. Families of widows would often force them to leave their homes. Women could not possess land or income, leaving many women in Uganda poor and vulnerable to violence. More than a fifth of women aged 15 to 49 in Uganda experienced some form of sexual violence, according to the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey. Furthermore, 13% of women in the same age group experience sexual violence annually.

In 2012, a policy to regulate marriage and divorce continued to make little headway; it was pending for more than 14 years. Without this law, there was little protection for women in marriage. Although the Ugandan Constitution “provides that the minimum legal age for marriage for both men and women is fixed at 18 years,” customary laws in rural areas allow early marriages for minors. As a result, girls have higher drop-out rates because of early marriage and pregnancy. In addition, these customary laws allowed polygamy, but women in polygamous relationships had no protection in the case of divorce.

History of Women’s Rights in Uganda

Despite historical discrimination against women in Uganda, significant progress has occurred for women’s rights and empowerment in Uganda. This year, women make up 34.9% of the Ugandan parliament. In addition, 75% of legal frameworks “promote[s], enforce[s] and monitor[s] gender equality, with a focus on violence against women.” Over the last 15 years specifically, legislation has passed to protect women from both gender discrimination and violence.

In terms of violence against women, Uganda has passed multiple laws. Uganda passed the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act in 2009, which works to eliminate human trafficking and contains multiple actions related to the issue. Meanwhile, in 2010, the country passed the Domestic Violence Act and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act. The Domestic Violence Act provides protection and relief services for victims of domestic violence and punishes the culprit.

The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation prohibits female genital mutilation and girls and women who are at threat of female genital mutilation. Additionally, Uganda passed the Equal Opportunities Act in 2007. The policy gives the government the power to punish discrimination against any individual or group including on the basis of gender. It further allows the state to take affirmative action in favor of marginalized groups in order to readdress the imbalances already held against them.

Women’s Movement in Uganda

After decades of lobbying for women’s rights, the women’s movement in Uganda has seen the passage of two bills that address better women’s rights and discrimination this year. In March, the passage of the Succession Bill addressed women facing discrimination in terms of inheritance and land ownership. The previous law had gaps and ownership of property was given through inheritance to the male child. The gaps are now addressed, and children, regardless of sex, receive the property. In April, the passage of the Employment Bill seeks to prohibit sexual harassment in workplaces.

The bill states that “all employers are now required to put in place measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, and to prohibit abuse, harassment or violence against employees.” The bill also provides support for unpaid domestic workers as their work is now acknowledged as formal. In addition, these workers are to receive pay and the tools to report abuse.

Looking Ahead

While the women’s movement in Uganda has made significant strides in improving women’s rights and gender discrimination in the country, the movement will continue to strive for further rights and address the issue of gender-based violence. Furthermore, with recent momentum, there is a reason for the hope that the women’s movement in Uganda will continue to make a difference in the country.

– Kyle Har
Photo: Flickr

Frauen Initiative Uganda and Sexual Violence VictimsFor developing countries, all forms of gender-based violence can be detrimental to socio-economic progress. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 43% of Ugandan women aged 25 to 29 were married before turning 18. About 20% of Ugandan women between 15 and 49 years of age had experienced sexual violence in their past compared to 10% of the men who have reported the same. In order to manage gender-based violence, countries need sustainable, funded and functional medical and gender justice institutions. According to data from UNWOMEN, Uganda still needs a lot of work in this area. Ugandan women between the ages of 15 and 49 often face obstacles when trying to access sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, the country lacks effective legal frameworks to promote gender equality with a focus on violence against women.

Frauen Initiative Uganda

Frauen Initiative Uganda is an organization of 22 women who help victims of sexual violence find safe spaces. It was created when young women in Uganda mobilized over social media to create an organization in response to the rising cases of sexual violence during Uganda’s first national COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Safina Virani, co-director of Frauen Initiative Uganda, told The Borgen Project in an interview that while reports of rape were swarming the media, there was little being done to help the rape victims. “The founders and I recognized that something had to be done for the rape victims. From that thought, we decided to create an organization that provides legal, medical and psychological aid for free to rape victims,” she explained.

Frauen Initiative Uganda offers three main services for free to victims of sexual violence in Uganda:

  1. Medical aid. The initiative provides rape kits and medication to protect victims from contracting HIV. This is the most basic of medical examinations recommended to rape victims but getting $5 is hard to come by for most Ugandan rape victims.
  2. Psychological aid. To deal with the trauma of gender-based violence, Frauen Initiative Uganda offers a way for victims to access psychological help. This proves to be the most costly as securing mental health requires ongoing therapy sessions.
  3. Legal aid. Frauen Initiative Uganda has partnered with the Women’s Probono Initiative, a non-profit that advances women’s legal representation through pro bono work. This has been important in ensuring justice is achieved.

The Shadow Pandemic in Uganda

The “shadow pandemic” is a phenomenon that recently occurred due to emerging data from all over the world showing all types of violence against women and girls amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID-19 continues to strain health facilities across the world and as more infectious coronavirus variants spread through the developing world, domestic violence shelters and facilities have reached their capacities. Uganda is hardly an exception. The country became a statistic of the shadow pandemic with studies showing that about 46% of women faced a fear of violence as the COVID-19 crisis heightened. About 22% of the women experienced sexual or gender-based violence during the first national lockdown in 2020; such cases had increased by over 3,000 with a little over 1,000 being reported to the police.

Economic Challenges, Barrier to Justice

The economic impact of COVID-19 in Uganda has had implications on gender-based violence. It was cited in a UNDP report that women would face economic disadvantages due to the pandemic restrictions in Uganda. This would expose them to violence, especially women who live with abusive partners.

The economic downturn also has impacts on the work of Frauen Initiative Uganda. Safina Virani explained that due to the economic challenges in Uganda, it is difficult to carry out operations. While Frauen Initiative Uganda has a hard time reaching victims, it becomes more daunting in rural areas. In these areas, gender-based violence rates are highest and low incomes prevent women from accessing internet-enabled devices to seek help.

Even if victims of gender-based violence access internet devices, Uganda’s internet tax makes it difficult to benefit from internet services. Starting July 2021, all Ugandans are charged a levy to access the internet. The government claims it uses this levy to raise revenue for inclusive growth, development and industrialization. Before this new economic restriction, one had to pay a social media tax to use platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook.

Despite these economic obstacles, Frauen Initiative Uganda finds ways to maintain its operations. All members of the organization contribute a little over $1 monthly. “Our team members are usually generous enough to donate more than their allocated amount,” Safina Virani said.

Using Online Platforms to Achieve Success

Despite the digital divide between men and women in Uganda, fighting gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic can be successful. The digital gender gap in Uganda is around 43% with women having less access to internet services mostly due to economic reasons. However, Frauen Initiative Uganda has been able to achieve a few successes.

In a moving story, Frauen Initiative Uganda was able to apply pressure on online platforms controlled by the government. The organization did this to find a young teenage girl who was raped by a soldier, then subsequently kidnapped to force her to have an abortion. An active Twitter hashtag campaign was launched by members of the initiative. “Even though the soldier was never convicted, Frauen Initiative Uganda sees this as a life saved thanks to our actions,” Safina Virani added, explaining that the girl may have never been returned.

In response to fighting gender-based violence, it is important to recognize the role of NGOs such as Frauen Initiative Uganda.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

Education Field in UgandaBirungi Nabasanira lives in Kasasa, Uganda, a community becoming the site of the Tat Sat Community Academy. This will include a secondary school, savings and credit cooperative and performing arts facilities. All facilities will reach completion in 2021 as the TaSCA project aims to even the education field in Uganda. Also known simply as TaSCA, the project is part of the InteRoots Initiative. The InteRoots Initiative is a Denver, Colorado-based nonprofit that works on local, national and international projects. The communities where investment occurs have a prominent voice in InteRoots, making sure that community members direct project priorities, methodologies and timelines.

The Importance of Education

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Kasasa community member Nabasanira said that education is important to move ahead in life today. She believes TaSCA will help progress the education field in Uganda. Nabasanira said the question that many have proposed has always been how to best afford education. She also mentioned that TaSCA and InteRoots are implementing working relationships with community members.

Including the insights of local community members in the school curriculum through the Institute of Indigenous Cultures and Performing Arts (ICPA) aids the efforts of TaSCA and InteRoots greatly. The ICPA will engage the larger community in the cultivation and preservation of common heritage. Community members also receive support with access to micro-lending through the Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO), which will provide community financing, student/family financial support and economic education.

Putting Skills into Practice

Scott Frank, executive director and co-founder of the InteRoots Initiative, told The Borgen Project that one of the innovative programs of the TaSCA project is the Graduate Enterprise Fund. “A brilliant part of what the community has envisioned is that a majority of student tuition, which really is affordable, goes toward an account set up for each student at the credit union. Once they graduate, they are able to use the money that was put aside to continue studies, start a business or pursue other ventures.”

He says students will be able to use the skills they learned in school, which goes far beyond a traditional curriculum through the incorporation of skill-based training and financial literacy training. Additionally, students will have the resources necessary to apply these skills and follow their dreams after graduation.

The Return of Indigenous Traditions

Ronald Kibirige, the co-founder of the InteRoots Initiative and board chair, noted that Uganda has lost many indigenous traditions due to Western-style schooling. As such, TaSCA aims to incorporate local culture into secondary education. Furthermore, according to UNICEF, just one in four children in the country attend secondary school.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Kibirige said that most secondary schools in Uganda are private and they cost too much money to attend, making them off-limits for many families who lack the financial security for such endeavors. TaSCA aims to even the education field in Uganda by creating a model that not only supports students but also creates a net positive for the community’s investment.

Kristi Eaton
Photo: Flickr

Afro Fem CodersAs a recent Mastercard Foundation Scholar and computer science master’s graduate at UC Berkley, Gloria Tumushabe is acutely aware of the inequality between men and women in computer programming, especially in her home country of Uganda. Women continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields, specifically in computer programming where “less than 5% of programmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women.” To address the impacts of the pandemic on girls’ education in Uganda, Tumushabe launched Afro Fem Coders: a remote program teaching young Ugandan women how to code.

COVID-19 and Heightened Gender Inequality

The COVID-19 pandemic arguably heightened education inequality for Ugandan girls. Once the pandemic hit, many students had to take a step back in their education due to school closures, economic hardships and health issues. The negative repercussions of COVID-19 disproportionately impact girls and women. The Malala Fund found that “marginalized girls are more at risk than boys of dropping out of school altogether following school closures and that women and girls are more vulnerable to the worst effects of the current pandemic.”

Afro Fem Coders

Afro Fem Coders began with Tumushabe spreading the word that she would teach Ugandan girls how to code. Once girls started expressing interest in the program, Tumushabe used part of her scholarship stipend to fund the girls’ access to laptops and the internet. Afro Fem Coders gained support through a GoFundMe and now includes a mentorship program with leaders from Silicon Valley.

The program aims to “create a space that gives women a chance to learn programming in an environment that makes them feel safe, empowered and inspired.” UNICEF asserts that a feeling of safety and empowerment is important for girls to develop digital skills, especially in spaces where gender norms undermine girls’ aspirations to pursue STEM careers.

Eight girls are currently enrolled in the program, with many of them aspiring to be engineers. Student Martha Toni Atwiine endeavors “to build technology for differently-abled people and create more inclusive technology.” Margaret Tendo hopes to “use her computer science knowledge to create applications that create safe travel options for women around the country.”

Revitalizing the Economy Through Women in STEM

Not only do programs like Afro Fem Coders dismantle gendered barriers to opportunity and education but they also tap into major growth opportunities. If empowered young women enter STEM fields in Uganda, they have the chance to transform their nation into a space of growth and opportunity, harnessing the power of technology within the economic sphere.

Coupled with economic empowerment, technological advancement provides new opportunities for careers and breakthroughs that can reduce poverty in a country. UNICEF’s report on girls’ STEM education expresses that “STEM education also has the potential to contribute to personal empowerment, transformation of communities and nations and building economies for the future.”

“The more of us women in this space, the better,” Tumushabe told Berkeley. Overall, the representation of young women in fields such as computer programming actively benefits the economy and combats global poverty.

– Alysha Mohamed
Photo: Unsplash

Child Mortality in UgandaFatal diseases are taking the lives of children in Uganda, claiming the futures of the young generation. Approximately 8.2 million children younger than 5 die annually due to various illnesses and complications during childbirth. Roughly 40% of these deaths occur within the first 30 days of life, falling into the category of neonatal deaths. Rates of child mortality in Uganda have been on a decline since 1970 when there were 191 infant deaths among 1,000 births. Today, there are 45.8 deaths in 1,000 births. Although there is a marked decrease in numbers, under-five deaths still pose a problem for Uganda. Fortunately, many organizations recognize the issue and are implementing programs to effectively combat it.

Causes of Child Mortality in Uganda

Roughly 16% of child mortality cases in Uganda are caused by pneumonia. Symptoms of the illness include chest pain, persistent coughing, fever and low body temperature. About 99% of pneumonia cases occur in less-developed countries such as Uganda, making clear the correlation between poverty and pneumonia. In poverty-stricken areas, malnutrition, poor air quality and limited access to healthcare cause the development and dispersion of pneumonia among a population. Children in Uganda are vulnerable and quickly become victims of the illness.

Malaria also leads to child mortality in Uganda. Malaria is a fatal disease caused by parasites that spread from person to person. Symptoms include fever, headache and chills. Young children are especially susceptible to the disease, and in 2019, 67% of malaria cases affected children younger than 5. The illness can kill children within 30 seconds. Malaria is most common in Africa and costs the continent $12 billion each year. Access to treatment is difficult to obtain in the poverty-stricken areas of Uganda where malaria dissipates. The most impoverished areas of Africa are the ones most affected by malaria, with children younger than 5 at most risk.

Finally, diarrhea causes 10% of infant deaths in Uganda. Symptoms of the infection include cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. Studies have shown that in Pajule Subcounty and other rural areas of Uganda, the rates of diarrhea are higher. A lack of clean water and inadequate health education contribute to these health consequences.

Working Toward a Solution

Recognizing the issues that surround child mortality in Uganda, many organizations have taken the initiative to reduce the severity of the situation. One such organization is the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is dedicated to the well-being and longevity of children worldwide. Among its many programs to address under-five deaths in Uganda, UNICEF has established a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program seeking to increase access to clean drinking water and teach healthy sanitation habits. Only 8% of mothers with children younger than 5 have access to soap and resources necessary for handwashing. Such habits lead to illnesses such as diarrhea. In tandem with the Government of Uganda, UNICEF is working to provide sanitation resources and increase awareness of healthy habits.

With similar intentions and efforts, Living Goods is a nonprofit organization collaborating with Bangladesh-based BRAC to help rural Ugandan mothers prevent infant mortality. Through its Community Health Promoters (CHP) program, the organization implements grassroots efforts to improve community health. CHPs are workers who go door-to-door to communicate healthy practices, relay important information, diagnose child illnesses and provide care to mothers and their newborns. This work has led to a 27% decrease in under-five child mortality in targeted regions. Ugandan villagers now take more precautions in order to maintain their own health and that of their young children.

Looking Ahead

Child mortality in Uganda is a problem that has not yet been eliminated. Many Ugandan families face unhealthy living conditions that are unfavorable to a child’s health. However, organizations such as UNICEF, Living Goods and BRAC are working to educate rural villages on the importance of sanitation and are giving families the resources to establish healthier lifestyles. Thanks to such efforts, under-five death rates are declining. If the work of these organizations continues, in the near future, more positive progress lies ahead.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash

Uganda’s Economic Recovery
Uganda, like many other global nations, is battling the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic reversed a decade of economic progress for the country. On June 28, 2021, the executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a $1 billion Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for Uganda’s economic recovery in a critical time of need.

COVID-19’s Impact on Uganda’s Economy

According to the World Bank, Uganda’s real GDP grew less than half as much in 2020 than in the year before. A four-month nationwide lockdown deterred the economic activity of the industrial and service sectors. The country’s COVID-19 lockdown forced company closures and permanent layoffs, especially in the industry and services sectors. Many informal jobs were impacted, leading to a reliance on farming for income creation and food security.

A Rise in Child Labor

A 69-page report by the Human Rights Watch and the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights explains that many families’ household incomes dropped due to the pandemic’s effects. Furthermore, with schools shut down, the burden of decreased income fell on many children. Child labor surged as many children as young as 8 years old had to work in hazardous conditions in order to provide for their families.

Nearly half of the Ugandan children interviewed in the report worked at least 10 hours a day, sometimes every day of the week. Some children even reported working as much as 16 hours a day. Most of the children only earned a meager $2 a day while subject to dangerous work conditions. Children in agriculture were injured by sharp tools used in fieldwork and “the sharp edges of sugarcane stalks.”

Other children working in quarries “suffered injuries from flying stones.” Many children also reported violence, harassment and pay theft during their employment. Many employers try to exploit child labor and maximize production. Due to these circumstances, Human Rights Watch asserts that part of Uganda’s economic recovery must include targeted assistance to households with children.

Funding From the IMF

The three-year loan approved by the board under the ECF includes the immediate disbursement of $258 million for much-needed budget support. The disbursement follows the $491.5 million release of emergency funds in May 2020 to support the post-pandemic recovery of Uganda. In an effort to strengthen Uganda’s economic recovery, authorities seek to increase household income throughout the country. Authorities are encouraging inclusive growth by investing in the development of the private sector and enacting reforms in the public sector.

Uganda’s Economic Outlook

Uganda seeks to combat its financing issues as it goes forward. Hopefully, the crucial aid from the IMF will help create jobs by investing back into the industrial and service sectors. Also, the financing aid may help children return to school as parents find new work. Economic growth in 2021 and 2022 is estimated to climb to 4.3% before reaching pre-pandemic levels of growth. While some industries such as tourism may remain subdued for a while, other sectors such as “manufacturing, construction and retail and wholesale trade” expect to rebound in 2021. However, Uganda’s economic recovery is currently still tenuous. The government will need to tread carefully as the economy remains vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.

– Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Uganda
The landlocked country of Uganda is located in East Africa. Poised to be a significant oil-producing country, Uganda has an estimated 6.5 billion barrels worth of oil reserves in its territory. Nevertheless, Uganda remains a lower-income country. The people of the country have struggled to combat hunger in Uganda even though poverty decreased from 56% in 1993 to 21.4% in 2016. Because of poverty, Uganda faces widespread malnutrition, which has led to more than 110,000 deaths of children between 2004 and 2009. Organizations have committed efforts to address the issue of hunger in Uganda.

4 Key Facts About Hunger in Uganda

  1. Uganda has a fast-growing population due to refugee intake. The refugee population in Uganda has increased from 200,000 in 2012 to more than 1.2 million. As a whole, these refugees are coming from Uganda’s neighbors, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is partly because of Uganda’s willingness to accept and aid refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has praised the country’s refugee policies. Rather than placing refugees in designated camps, Uganda gives refugees a plot of land and access to services such as healthcare and education. As benevolent as these policies are, the rise in Uganda’s refugee population strains already limited resources and funds.
  2. Dependence on agriculture increases hunger in Uganda. In order to reduce malnutrition, there has been a focus on increased agricultural output globally. The rate of global agricultural production has increased, but the level of undernourishment in developing countries remains at 13.5%. In Uganda, for example, agriculture makes up 25% of the GDP and it provides the main source of income for all rural households. But, despite this agricultural output, Uganda still suffers from a 30% malnutrition rate. A study conducted in Eastern Uganda finds that some rice cultivators starve as they sell all the food. While the effects vary, agricultural reliance in Uganda has increased supply, but access to food has not necessarily increased. This leads to high levels of food insecurity.
  3. Hunger in Uganda has significant economic impacts. The effects of malnutrition extend far past the immediate deaths it causes, having substantial and negative consequences for the economy at large. Specifically, malnutrition negatively impacts “human capital, economic productivity and national development.” High rates of malnutrition require healthcare intervention, which puts strain on the healthcare sector and economy. Moreover, malnutrition makes individuals more prone to diseases, incurring costs to families and the health system. Undernourished children are more susceptible to diseases like malaria and anemia, which can burden the country with a cost of $254 million annually. Overall, the national income is reduced by 5.6% as a result of the undernourishment of young children stemming from hunger in Uganda.
  4. International aid organizations address hunger in Uganda. Aid organizations are committing to creating significant progress in the fight against hunger in Uganda. The World Food Programme (WFP) has dedicated efforts to prevent and treat malnutrition in Uganda. Among other activities, the WFP initiatives provide nutrition-sensitive money transfer as well as nutrition counseling in the areas of Uganda most affected by malnutrition. Action Against Hunger provides nutritious food vouchers to refugees and implements digital, data-driven technology to optimize agricultural production. To date, Action Against Hunger’s nutrition and health programs have reached more than 110,000 people. Moreover, the government has joined multiple international commitments to reduce hunger in Uganda. As a signatory of the Malabo Declaration, by 2035, Uganda seeks to reduce the impacts of childhood malnutrition to 10% for stunting in children younger than 5 and 5% for wasting.

Overall, the efforts of organizations and the commitment of the Ugandan Government show a strong dedication to combating hunger in Uganda and improve the lives of people in the country.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Okere CityThe city of Okere Mom-Kok began as a project created to rebuild more rural communities destroyed in the wake of the Ugandan Bush War in the 80s. With the death of roughly 100,000 to 500,000 people, this war plagued the Northwestern region of Uganda the most. This project is already spreading throughout the country and reaching global headlines because of the progressive, sustainable methodologies offering accessible living alternatives.

The Ugandan Bush War

From 1980 to 1986, the Ugandan Bush War (also known as the Luwero War) ravaged several Ugandan villages. The conflict began with former General Idi Amin’s rise to power. Early in his presidency, Idi Amin established a military dictatorship. The Uganda National Liberation Front soon overthrew him. Originally implemented by Tanzania to replace Idi Amin, the UNLF’s regime lasted from early 1979 until it was eventually dismantled due to the attacks of Amin loyalists in 1980.

Detached groups of Amin loyalists massacred most of the Ugandan National Liberation Army. With the attacks on the previous Ugandan prime minister, Apollo Milton Obote, and the capturing of most villages along the West Nile, the Uganda Army wreaked havoc in Northwestern Uganda until internal conflict resulted in the separation of the insurgent group. This division generated a new, opposing group known as Uganda National Rescue Front.

Not long after, Obote regained office in 1981 and inspired the emergence of even more rebel armies. In 1982, however, the National Resistance Army, Uganda Freedom Movement, Uganda National Rescue Front and the Nile Regiment came together to create the Uganda Popular Front.

The conflict did not stop there, as the ex-soldiers continued to rebel against the new government well into 1994. Following Idi Amin’s presidency, President Yoweri Museveni took office in 1986 after allying with the rebellions that toppled the reign of his predecessors. President Museveni is currently in the sixth term of his presidency and suppressed the continuous attacks.

The Situation Today

An estimated 1 million Ugandan’s lost their lives throughout the 80s and early 90s. The end of the Ugandan Bush War left the remaining villages uprooted and their residents devastated. President Yoweri Museveni is still working to rebuild the toppled infrastructures of these villages and the Ugandan economy as a whole. The increasingly innovative solutions invented in Okere Mom-Kok are one prime example of the efforts.

The City of Okere

The city of Okere is located in the Otuke District, Uganda and consists of 14 villages, each with about 200 people. Made famous for its shea trees, Okere City is the inspiration for Marvel’s “Black Panther.” The shea tree is currently in high demand due to its scarcity after the war. Furthermore, their energy-efficient components make them very coveted.

This area was hit the hardest and is still recovering, thus the pioneering of greener and more sustainable living technologies. From the use of shea butter as a charcoal substitute to solar energy being accessible to the entire network of villages, the city of Okere continues to thrive and evolve. The main village currently consists of a church, markets, schools, clinics and several other crucial establishments.

Okere City is one of the many villages left destroyed by the Ugandan War and is still building towns essentially from the ground up. But this development created greener, more accessible technologies and spread throughout the country. The future for Okere City is bright and illuminates a beacon of hope for the livelihoods lost throughout the travesty that was the Ugandan Bush War.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Pedals for Progress
The organization Pedals for Progress (P4P) has an intriguing origin story. In a small town in 1970s Ecuador, a poverty-stricken carpenter dragged 40 pounds of steel hand tools down a dirt road. Each step felt heavier than the last. Moreover, this was the trip back home after hours of work nailing boards together and fastening tables. This man had to carry his tools with him at all times; after all, it was his livelihood. It was too risky to leave them in a workshop. Despite his talent and passion, the man was broke and persistently, unbelievably tired. Without a way out of this painful trek, he felt his body would surely give out before he could retire.

The carpenter knew of a much wealthier man, Cesar Pena. A landlord and fellow carpenter, Cesar owned several strips of land in the jungle along with several farm animals. Missing an eye and multiple fingers, his situation was much worse than the poor man who lived in the same town. Yet others regarded Cesar as an incredibly productive worker despite doing his job just five days a week.

This baffled a young American Peace Corp volunteer staying in the town. The volunteer asked the poor carpenter why he was unable to keep up economically with Cesar Pena. Incredulous, the poor man informed him of Cesar’s bicycle. The bike allowed him to travel several miles on either side of his home.

Pedals for Progress

Decades later, that Peace Corps volunteer, David Schweidenback, is now the founder of Pedals for Progress. Pedals for Progress is one of the largest distributors of used bikes to developing nations. Since 1991, it has operated as a nonprofit organization in New Jersey. It started when Schweidenback noticed that people threw an abundance of bikes into garbage cans in his neighborhood during a bleak financial time while working as a carpenter. Connecting his experience overseas with what U.S. citizens were wasting at home, he chose to make a difference.

As he explained to The Borgen Project, “I decided if I wasn’t doing anything and I’m not making money and I’m just sitting here bored, I’m going to go out and collect a dozen bikes and I’m going to ship them back to Ecuador. Just like a freebie, a one-off freebie, just to help some people out. And that was the beginning of it.” That dozen eventually exceeded over 100,000. Schweidenback’s work has earned him awards from Rolex and Forbes. He even received the title of a 2008 CNN Hero.

How Does Pedals for Progress Work?

P4P operates both internationally and domestically. On the international side, the company teams up with partners based in those countries rather than opening up bike shops around the globe. These international partners provide the shops. In turn, these shops serve to also create jobs in the community whilst selling bicycles at a fraction of the cost they would be in the United States.

Pedals for Progress innovated a new system to keep these shops self-sustaining called a “revolving fund.” First, P4P foots the bill for the first shipment of bicycles. This leads to the domestic side of the operation. Working with organizations like Rotary Club and various churches, it runs collections at a minimum of $10 per bike donation. Other methods to raise money include fundraisers, grants and donations from rich individuals or corporations. With these monetary donations and selling within the impoverished communities at affordable prices, overseas partners can continue to function for years without extra assistance.

Can a Bike Really Make a Difference?

Studies show that the simple introduction of a bicycle can have a lasting impact on the economies and well-being of peoples in developing countries. A 2009 series of studies by three organizations ran quantitative experiments in multiple nations. The purpose was to see if offering bikes to people for transportation as an alternative to walking would financially improve their lives.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy study in Uganda found that all the households that received bicycles improved regarding cultivation and agriculture. Diversity of time increased, showing that the select Ugandans were more able to perform non-agricultural duties. In addition, the study indicated more trips to the markets and medical centers of their respective regions. Overall, bicycles resulted in a 35% increase in income over the course of the experiment. The other two organizations, Tanzania’s International Labor Office and World Bicycle Relief in Sri Lanka, yielded similar results to varying degrees.

What About Sewing Machines?

In 1999, Schweidenback included sewing machines in his list of items to ship. His reasoning: while riding a bicycle can take one to a job, a sewing machine is a job. However, Pedals for Progress was unable to ship more than 200 per year for a long time. It took until 2015 when he adopted a new brand, Sewing Peace, that he was able to ship out more than 500 bikes each year.

Sending out sewing machines as an alternative to bicycles can reap a few benefits that could not come anywhere else. For one, shipping them costs much less and puts less of a burden on overseas partners that cannot handle a full container of 500 bikes.

Early Setback, Lasting Results

Ironically enough, Schweidenback’s first mission to help Ecuador’s bike shortage never came to fruition in the way he hoped. Before Pedals for Progress was what it is today, he held a meeting with the Ecuadorian Consulate to donate bicycles to those who need them.

Speaking with The Borgen Project, Schweidenback relayed his early challenges shipping bikes to Ecuador. However, despite his early setbacks, his passion for giving the less fortunate a leg up drove him to help over 30 countries around the world.

Zachary Sherry
Photo: Flickr