AFRIpads in Uganda
Sophia and Paul Grinvalds created AFRIpads in Uganda while they were living in a remote village there in 2010 and saw the lack of accessible menstrual products firsthand. To combat the scarcity of menstrual products and the stigma periods carried in the country, the Grinvalds invented an affordable and reusable menstrual pad. AFRIpads in Uganda promote hygienic and accessible menstrual health in order to educate and empower young girls in the nation and across the world to feel comfortable and safe during their periods.

AFRIpads in Uganda

Today, AFRIpads employs over 200 Ugandans in the country’s full-time, formal employment sector. In addition, it has impacted millions of girls all over the world with its sustainable and affordable products. The company has helped the environment by eliminating the use of approximately 190 million disposable pads, as women can use each AFRIpad for up to a year.

In addition to helping the environment and giving back to the country’s economy, AFRIpads is helping empower the women of Uganda by focusing on educating schoolgirls about healthy and natural period habits. Menstrual health education is a taboo topic in Ugandan culture, and schools have never formally taught it. However, AFRIpads is helping to turn this around by providing use and care guides, as well as an educational comic in all of the brand’s menstrual kits. The company also offers online training for adults to learn how to teach young girls about the menstrual cycle.

Co-founder Sophia Grinvalds told the Irish Times that “There’s misconceptions about losing your fertility if you do certain things when you have your period…In one part of the country there’s a belief that if a girl on her period, or a woman on her period, walks through your garden when you’re growing vegetables, that everything in your garden will die.”

Employment

Grinvalds and her team decided to base AFRIpads in the Ugandan village Kitengeesa in order to deliberately boost the rural economy. Women make up 90% of the company’s employees, giving these women an opportunity for greater independence with their own incomes. “They have bank accounts at Barclay’s, have savings accounts, are saving for the government pension plan, [and are paying taxes],” Grinvalds told NPR in an interview.

The Kitengeesa manufacturing base for AFRIpads in Uganda provides a sense of community for the workers who feel proud to involve themselves in the organization’s impactful mission. In addition, it empowers women by allowing them to economically support their goals. A testimony by AFRIpads’ production supervisor Judith Nassaka stated that “The best thing about AFRIpads is that there is strong teamwork among the employers and employees…They also pay me the best salary. My future plan is to buy a plot of land and build my own home.”

Future Plans for Outreach

AFRIpads also collaborates with several other international nonprofit organizations such as Girls Not Brides, an organization that advocates to end child marriages and seeks to empower young girls. Through partnerships like these, women are able to access educational resources, affordable products and advocate for themselves.

AFRIpads stated on its website that it has reached more than 3.5 million girls and women across the globe with reusable and affordable products. AFRIpads continues to educate girls and women about the menstrual cycle and safe hygiene practices, in addition to providing employment in developing areas of Uganda. This, in turn, can help combat environmental waste across the world.

– Myranda Campanella
Photo: Flickr

Uganda has been noted as an African country that is on the rise out of poverty. This is partly due to foreign assistance coming from countries like the United States. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has carried out work in Uganda excelling improvements in economy, health care, education, and the state of democracy.

Economic Growth

USAID has been engaged in Uganda’s efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. Among many other goals, Uganda and USAID are working with public and private sectors to promote investment, agriculture production, food security and efficient energy usage. US based programs like Development Credit Authority, Feed the Future Youth Leadership for Agriculture and Global Development Alliances, have assisted in Uganda’s success of lowering the poverty rate. By connecting Ugandans with businesses to market their products, USAID is helping to improve household incomes as well as stabilize the country’s gross domestic product. Investments in the future are also being made by training youths for the job market and connecting farmers, refugees, and workers with agricultural resources and trade opportunities.

State of Democracy

USAID works with the Ugandan government to bring up issues regarding transparency, human rights, and justice for citizens. USAID’s democracy program in Uganda particularly focuses on women and youths as a voice to be heard. The USAID’s overall objective of promoting civil society encompasses the opportunity for citizens to part-take in the governing process while leaders are working for the people. Improving the democracy of Uganda will help build a strong and independent country, which in turn will partake in flourishing the entire region.

Education and Training

With a high number of vulnerable children, USAID is working with the Ugandan government to implement plans providing education for young children, while focusing on teaching languages and educating on health, HIV/AIDS and violence. USAID is also striving to develop the future workforce with the Better Outcomes for Children and Youth activities, which helps youths cultivate the skills needed for success, both in work and in life. There is also new training available for teachers, with improved computer technology.

Health and HIV

USAID’s effort in addressing health care issues in Uganda includes eliminating HIV/AIDS through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), reducing tuberculosis infection rates, and eradicating malaria under the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Other health care programs include child and maternal health, family health, and disease prevention, as well as educating young women on sexual violence and HIV/AID protection. Since many diseases are spread through poor sanitation, USAID’s work in Uganda also focuses on improving water sanitation and hygiene practices.

Humanitarian Transitions

Through USAID, the U.S. is helping Uganda with emergency food supplies, health care assistance, and conflict resolution in democracy to improve the country’s status and enhance people’s quality of life. The continuing basis of humanitarian aid effort has made the U.S. the “largest single honor of humanitarian assistance in Uganda,” according to Anne Ackermann, a photojournalist with USAID.

USAID’s continuing work in Uganda, along with the positive outcomes seen by the country so far, underscores the effectiveness of overseas involvement and the power of foreign aid in general. Foreign aid will always have an important role in country development and growth.

– Hung Le

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Uganda
The Republic of Uganda is in the African continent which constitutes a majority of the poor population in the world. There are 44 million people in Uganda, and 30 percent of Uganda’s population lives on less than $1.90 PPP per day. People speak over 30 different indigenous languages in this land of 240,000 Sq. Km. The population in Uganda is increasing at an alarming rate. In fact, by 2025, Uganda will have a population of 51.9 million. However, it is not increasing in proportion to the employment rate. Here are seven facts about prolonged poverty in Uganda.

7 Facts About Prolonged Poverty in Uganda

  1. Transportation: When most of the world is traveling in cars, people in Uganda transport from one place to the other by bicycles because of poor road conditions. Every 100 road crashes kill approximately 24 people. Accidents cost $1.2 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses annually, which accounts for 5 percent of Uganda’s GDP. The government invested a significant amount in infrastructural development to eradicate this problem.
  2. Health and Health Care: Uganda has a high number of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, respiratory tract infections and diarrheal diseases, which may contribute to the average life expectancy of 59 years. Limited health care is another factor that affects Ugandans’ health. In fact, there are more ministers in Uganda than there are hospital beds. Moreover, only eight physicians are available for every 100,000 people. When COVID-19 entered Uganda, Ugandans did not feel a difference because they were already used to lockdowns and poor health care. Luckily, Uganda has a robust health care development plan for the upcoming decade. In addition, Uganda is improving its tracking system for health supplies in order to provide quality drugs to sick people.
  3. Food Shortage: Pests and droughts have an effect on Uganda’s food security. Around 2 million people in Uganda are desperately hungry, so a pest infestation or drought could cause many deaths. Additionally, Uganda is hosting other nationals or refugees, which is putting further strain on its food system. Farmers in Uganda are starting to use technology to forecast weather in order to generate profitable yields.
  4. Sanitation: Around 87 percent of Uganda’s population does not have access to clean water. As a result, around 4,500 children in Uganda die every year because of diarrheal diseases. Several borehole micro-projects are in progress to provide a clean source of water to Ugandans.
  5. Education: Like any other poor country, Uganda’s economic progress is dependent on education. Both public and private schools in Uganda do not necessarily provide quality education. The primary education completion rate is around 53 percent in Uganda. It is currently increasing at a slow pace. Poor education will lead to high unemployment rates in Uganda. NGOs and CSOs such as SchoolNet Uganda, Uconnect and the Uganda National Teachers Union (UNATU) are working towards improving education access in Uganda. SchoolNet Uganda works to provide technological facilities to several institutions in Uganda.
  6. Inequality: The inequality rate is increasing at an alarming rate in Uganda, which contrasts the high rates of GDP growth. Uganda has started targeting social sectors such as education and health to improve its growth rate. However, this policy has not helped to improve the inequality rate. In fact, all these decisions worsened the inequality rate. Twenty percent of Uganda’s population owns around 50 percent of the total wealth.
  7. Sustainability: Statistically, two out of three people fall back into poverty in Uganda after coming out of it. Social security is the major reason for returning back to poverty. The Ugandan government spends only 1 percent of its GDP on social security. Its green growth development strategy shows a promising vision for 2018-2030.

Uganda’s growth in the last decade was mainly dependant on good fortune. The Ugandan government could solve prolonged poverty in Uganda if it focuses on improving access to electricity, education, child malnutrition, agriculture and employment.

Narasinga Moorthy
Photo: Flickr

refugee crisis in Uganda
The refugee crisis in Uganda is due to its central location to several countries that have been in civil war in recent years. In fact, some have characterized Uganda as an underground railroad of differing proportions. Uganda has borders with South Sudan, which has been in a civil war since late December 2013, while Rwanda, which experienced one of the worst genocides in history in 1994, is still feeling the ripple effects among certain areas and individuals in the country. Meanwhile, violence has plagued the Democratic Republic of the Congo in certain eastern areas near Uganda’s border. Burundi and Somalia, though not bordering countries, are nearby and both have experienced civil wars and other conflicts in the recent millennium. Here are five facts about the refugee crisis in Uganda.

5 Facts About the Refugee Crisis in Uganda

  1. Uganda has over 1.423 million refugees, with the majority coming from South Sudan through its northern border. However, the refugees also enter through the country’s southern border, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania. The Tanzanian border area, known as Isingro, hosts the Nakivale refugee settlement which was one of the only settlements that did not have South Sudanese or Sudanese refugees. In fact, this settlement mostly consists of Congolese refugees.
  2. The refugees currently in Uganda come from eight prominent countries in Africa including South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia. Each of these countries has experienced a civil war in the past 30 years and most have suffered one in the past two decades. That being said, many of the individuals who experienced those trying times are still alive. When new violence occurs, many decide to leave earlier versus later because they remember the atrocities from just 20 to 30 years prior.
  3. The largest refugee group by origin is from South Sudan, accounting for roughly 62 percent of refugees and over 880,000 individuals in Uganda. South Sudan is the closest country and its most recent civil war halted in 2019.
  4. One of the largest settlements that South Sudanese refugees primarily use is Bidi Bidi in northern Uganda. It is roughly 234 square kilometers and people use the land for both residential and agricultural needs. To put it in context, 234 square kilometers is roughly the size of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
  5. The United Nations Refugee Agency’s 2020 budget for Uganda is $333 million. This is about $50 million lower than its 2019 budget, even though the refugee crisis is once again ramping up after the steep decline in 2018. In fact, the total number of refugees per month has been steadily increasing by about 10,000 to 20,000 since October 2018.

While the influx of refugees to Uganda has been mostly due to conflicts in surrounding countries, it is also because of Ugandan generosity. In fact, the policies Uganda has instituted and the funds it has generated to support refugees indicate that Uganda does not believe they are a problem. Rather, it treats refugees as humans who have a want and need to cultivate, provide for their families and move around freely. Uganda also grants refugees government aid, similar to most of its citizens, through health care and educational opportunities.

While experts expect the refugee crisis in Uganda to continue, funding from The United Nations Refugee Agency as well as Uganda’s generosity should help the refugees substantially. Hopefully, the refugee numbers will start to reduce in the upcoming years.

Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay

Treat Cattle with Diseases
More than 500 million Africans gain money to support their families through the practice of small scale farming. As a result, healthy cattle are crucial because they offer meat, milk and labor. Keeping cattle healthy is critical to farmers who are trying to earn a living. However, many farm animals die every year in Africa from preventable diseases, especially in Ethiopia, which has the largest population of livestock in Africa. VetAfrica, a mobile app that first debuted in 2014, provides tips to farmers on how to diagnose and treat cattle with diseases.

Who Does it Reach?

VetAfrica tackles diseases in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda because more than 80 percent of people in those countries work in farming. Some diseases that the app included are anaplasmosis (a disease that tick bites cause) and fasciolosis (a parasitic worm infection).

How Does it Work?

There are three main parts to the app: VetAfrica Mobile, VetAfrica Hub and VetAfrica Expert. VetAfrica Mobile gives information about disease symptoms to farms in order to educate them about how to identify them in their cattle. It also allows farmers to share data with other farmers to spread awareness and possible paths to treat cattle with diseases. VetAfrica Hub is an online website to sort and evaluate data that farmers upload to the app. Through VetAfrica Hub, farmers and health care specialists can learn about cases of cattle diseases and be aware of possible disease outbreaks. VetAfrica Expert lets medical professionals add information to the app about possible diseases.

Criticisms

One of the main criticisms of VetAfrica is that many Africans cannot use it because they may not have access to a smartphone or WiFi. To address the problem, VetAfrica creators designed the app to work offline. Proponents for VetAfrica also explain that purchasing a smartphone to use will provide various benefits to farmers outside of just saving their cattle, such as educational tools for their children.

Successes

The VetAfrica app has diagnosed more than 2,000 cases so far and 80 percent of the app’s diagnoses matched those of professional veterinarians. The app also helped farmers find quick diagnoses and treatments for their cattle, improving the quality of life and overall lifespan and productivity of their cattle. Data that uploaded to the VetAfrica database also helped spread the word about possible disease outbreaks to health care officials.

Overall, the implementation of VetAfrica to treat cattle with diseases has drastically changed the lives of East African farmers. The app provides a new perspective to farmers about cattle diseases, allowing them to be more knowledgeable and active in keeping their cattle healthy. VetAfrica, an app that is saving cattle from diseases every day has brought a newfound sense of economic prosperity to East African farmers.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Bicycles and Poverty Alleviation
While the discussion of bicycles may elicit thoughts of expense or leisure, bicycles and poverty alleviation link together. Bicycles first came about in the 19th century as a means of transport in response to the dearth of horses. Transportation has continued to be the vital use of the bike. Additionally, people around the world have begun seeing the additional benefits of cycling, particularly in less wealthy areas.

People bike all over the world. This fact has held true since 1817 when German inventor Karl von Drais crafted what people widely accept as the first bicycle. Some cities and countries boast more bicycles than people. For instance, in the Netherlands, 22.5 million bicycles outnumber the 17 million person population. In less financially stable areas of the world, there might be fewer bicycles. However, the importance of bicycles to the livelihood and health of residents is just as strong.

Food Security

Food security is an area where the connection between bicycles and poverty alleviation is particularly prevalent. In addition, food security refers to a state of living in which nutritious and sufficient food is physically, socially and economically available to a person. When an area struggles with poverty, food security can be a constant source of stress for residents. In developing countries, small-scale rural farmers are often responsible for an area’s main food production. However, these farmers can face difficulty selling their crops when transport options to markets are not available. Additionally, when transport to markets or cities is available, the cost can present another barrier to those living in poverty.

On a small scale, a bicycle can help a farming family gain buyers for their crops. Also, it helps lift the community out of poverty. Moreover, when food is available for purchase, productivity increases and food distribution improves. This benefits the entire community. One nonprofit, Cycling out of Poverty (CooP), has created a program called Bike4Work, which provides farmers access to bicycles and trailers to haul their food. Bike4Work is an innovative contribution to some of the struggles that poverty has created in rural farming areas.

Access to Water

The method of sustainable transport can also help ease the burden of accessing safe and clean water. When water sources are not readily available in a town, residents must expend great physical effort and time in order to access this necessity. In addition, bicycles can help shorten the journey and lessen the amount of energy they need to obtain water.

Additionally, bicycles have cropped up in a more unusual manner in Kenya as a response to increased difficulties of farming and water access due to climate change. In Kenya, seasonal farmers rely on yearly rainy seasons to create a successful harvest. However, changes to the local climate have made water more scarce, creating issues with the irrigation of crops. CooP, the same charity that used bicycles to help ease food scarcity, has implemented an innovative bicycle-powered water pump in Kisumu, Kenya.

Kisumu is the third-largest city in Kenya. Climate change and lack of water for irrigation affected Kisumu. CooP partnered with organizations in Kenya and neighboring cities in Uganda to install this bicycle-powered pump at The Green Hub Shop, a local store in Kisumu. The water pump efficiently and inexpensively sucks water from local streams and rivers to provide irrigation for farmers across Kisumu.

Bicycles and Public Health

Bicycles and poverty alleviation efforts have combined in another seemingly unlikely manner in Kibibi, Uganda. Village health teams have begun using bicycles with adapted trailers as ambulances in emergency situations. This adaptation is crucial for Uganda because 77 of the 121 districts lack an ambulance service.

Bicycle ambulances are just one way that cycling has been improving public health in impoverished areas. Riding a bicycle also has undeniably beneficial health effects, both on the physical body and on the mind. Cycling is a form of exercise that can benefit the heart without having the same strain that activities such as running can bring.

Erik Wright, Program Director for Bike and Build, a U.S. charity that links bicycles and poverty alleviation through affordable housing, argues for the positive effect cycling has on mental health. Wright speaks of the “feeling of freedom” that having a bicycle can elicit, along with a sense of independence owning and riding a bike can bring. Psychiatric studies have proven the benefits that riding a bike has on mental health. In addition, when combined with increased ease of access to food, water and health care, the link between bicycles and poverty alleviation efforts strengthens.

Pedaling Onwards

Bicycles are not an all-encompassing solution to poverty by any means. Yet, the benefits that bicycles bring to impoverished areas are undeniable. Bicycles provide increased access to necessities while providing physical and mental health benefits, all at a cheaper cost than most transportation systems. In the fight against all the struggles that poverty brings, the link between bicycles and poverty alleviation proves beneficial on a personal, familial and regional scale.

Elizabeth Baker
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation In Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa has 52 countries, all of which have large swaths of their population’s using toilets that encourage disease, or worse, relying on open defecation as the only way to dispose of waste. With 1.094 billion people on the continent, there is plenty of room for improvement. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Africa.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Africa

  1. Socioeconomic Status: sub-Saharan Africa’s sanitation issues correlate with an individual’s socioeconomic status. Essentially, the poorest individuals are 18 times more likely to practice open defecation, which amounted to over 220 million people in 2015.
  2. Improved Sanitation in Uganda: In Uganda, 45 percent of the rural population and 27 percent of the urban population need to walk over 1 km to access an improved sanitation facility. Improved sanitation facilities include “flush or pour-flush to a piped sewer system, septic tank, pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, pit latrine with slab, [or] composting toilet.”
  3. The Millenium Development Goal (MDG) for Sanitation: Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Central Africa were not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation in 2008. In fact, out of 52 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, only one allocated 0.5 percent of its GDP to sanitation measures. Budgets have 0.5 percent as the minimum for sanitation. Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals was to ensure environmental sustainability, and that included climate change aspects in conjunction with improved drinking water access and improved sanitation access. When looking at the sustainable development goals, out of the 52 counties, the vast majority are reaching stagnation. Reaching goal 6, which is for clean water and sanitation, will require internal mobilization and increased funding from external sources to meet the 2030 deadline.
  4. Return on Sanitation: When governments allocate funding for improved sanitation options, it tends to be lower than necessary because they do not consider it an economic venture that will have a monetary return. This is especially the case for developing countries because they often want as much money as possible for investments to receive large returns and get the most value from their dollars. The World Health Organization estimates that the return on sanitation spending is 550 percent or in other words, $5.50 for every $1 that a government invests in improved sanitation methods in Africa.
  5. The Loowatt Toilet: Loowatt provides a toilet made of horse dung that is perfect for use in developing countries. It is a waterless system, which is fantastic for drought-stricken countries and regions. Additionally, it turns human waste into energy biofuel at a reliable rate if people use it regularly. The best part is that it has a low cost of 12 Euros as a deposit and a 3 Euro monthly service fee. In the country of Madagascar, it went beyond proof of concept, and the company was maintaining over 100 toilets that serviced over 800 people in 2017. Since then, over 100,000 customers in both the U.K. and Madagascar have used Loowatt toilets.
  6. South Africa: South Africa determined that access to water is a right in 2002 and it set the supply to 25 l/c/d or 6 kiloliters per connection a month. However, South Africa has just recently made the transition from supply to sanitation access. For both rural and urban sanitation, over 50 percent of the annual and per capita investment requirements are unavailable due to a lack of ability to provide the full $1.218 billion the country requires.
  7. Ghana and Open Defecation: No district in Ghana has a 0 percent open defecation status, and three out of 10 rural households practiced open defecation. Over 81 percent of the Ghanaian population lack access to improved sanitation. Organizations are trying to bridge the gap between the people who cannot pay upfront to build the improved sanitation facilities by providing WaterCredit. WaterCredit is essentially a way for the poor to get water and sanitation loans. Currently, Water.org has facilitated $2.4 million through its partners in microloans for water and sanitation purposes in Ghana.
  8. Peepoo: With the creation of the Peepoo, those with communicable toilets can access safe sanitation and prevent others from getting the disease they may be infected with. Peepoo is a biodegradable bag that sanitizes human feces and allows it to become fertilizer in about a month. It attacks the problem of sanitization at the source by giving an alternative to open defecation that does not require a sizable investment to build a toilet. Peepoo sales have mainly occurred in Kenya, where the company continues to do research and build the foundation for easier use. A study that Peepoo conducted with a grant examined 37 schools with about 6,500 students to determine the effectiveness of Peepoo sanitation and deworming, both independently and combined. The results in 2016 included improved attendance and overall improved health due to the reduction in diarrheal diseases in the school children.
  9. Open Defecation in Urban Areas: The number of those practicing open defecation is increasing in urban areas due to the rapid size increase of the overall area, without proper permits for building or a focus on providing latrines and washrooms. Additionally, including cost as a factor, urban slums are sometimes cheap and an affordable option for the poorest individuals. In particular, open defecation in the Kampala Slum is at about 28 percent while estimates determine that 1 percent of Uganda’s urban population openly defecates.
  10. The Leave No One Behind Pledge: The Sustainable Development Goals emerged to replace the Millennium Development Goals, and goal 6 of providing clean water and sanitation aims to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” These goals also focus on helping those furthest behind first through the Leave No One Behind pledge. The pledge itself is a way to ensure that those facing the worst of poverty end up at the forefront of progress by confronting the inequalities as a method of reducing the number of individuals living in extreme poverty. This pledge is an overarching goal for all of the sustainable development goals and encompasses the fact that those worst off should be a primary focus in order to achieve the goal at hand. Even with this pledge, it is likely that about 60 percent of the countries will not reach the target of full implementation by 2030. However, Uganda is a leading example of the potential countries that may achieve goal 6, thanks to its national development plan which includes policy in line with the sustainable development goals but with adaptations to reflect cultural and national contexts.

Sanitation in Africa, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, is still vastly below the goals, although the continent is making progress. With the continuing improvements and government’s investments into sanitation, African nations could see increased levels of productivity and return on their investments. Northern Africa had met the Millennium Development Goals and continues to increase its standard of sanitation. As the world progresses towards 2030, it can expect to see dramatic sanitation improvements after the completion of thorough research regarding the investments and implementation of sanitation techniques.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay

Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda
From piles of discarded plastic, solutions arise. Sustainability is the work of the dedicated, passionate leaders of the Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda. In Kamwokya, an area with 10,000 residents in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda develops innovative projects that improve the lives of impoverished residents while solving environmental pollution.

The Borgen Project interviewed CEO and Ghetto Research Lab Founder Patrick Mujuzi, who creates jobs and a better future for ghetto youth in the slums of Kamwokya. His dynamic vision for Ghetto Research Lab entails re-purposing plastic while creating a positive environment. He hopes to unite people worldwide to build an understanding of the need and impact of GRL’s work. He hopes that each person will understand their role in eliminating plastics from the environment.

Ghetto Research Lab undertakes an incredible range of projects, which people can study for replication. The garbage of others becomes its scientific tool. It turns what would otherwise be waste into urban farming opportunities, building materials and a sense of community. As a research lab, it learns by doing and through trial and error, not with the advantage of advanced equipment. Here are some of Uganda’s Ghetto Research Lab’s projects.

Support of Ghetto Youth

Ghetto Research Lab transforms the lives of young adults by nurturing their social development and creating job opportunities. One hundred and seventy youth currently work with GRL. Participants learn to forge a positive path, gain life skills and receive support. The number of participants continues to grow. Mujuzi refers to this work as “positive living and rehabilitation.”

Plastic Management

Ghetto Research Lab creates plastic bricks by stuffing collected plastic bottles with discarded polyethylene bags, referred to as kaveras. These bottle bricks create buildings and serve the dual function of removing this waste from their environment. Local residents make extra income packing the bricks. Many plastic bottles (25,000) make up one building, each stuffed with 200 plastic bags, removing five million plastic bags from the environment.

Anther project includes creating pavers out of the discarded plastic by melting it and adding sand. GRL also develops compostable toilets in plastic bottle brick structures that provide a sustainable sanitation solution.

Urban Farming

Ghetto Research Lab practices several types of sustainable, urban farming including aquaponics which is the combination of conventional aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaponics reduces fishing from polluted waters while providing good nutrition, improving the overall health of residents.

Hailey Bruce, the Aquaponics Administrator, has been with GRL for three years. When The Borgen Project interviewed him, it learned that he raises tilapia, catfish and vegetables, including cabbage and spinach, and that GRL members eat and sell crops. Bruce believes that aquaponics is a sustainable food security solution because it is accessible, affordable and holds the potential to generate income and create jobs without harming the environment.

GRL practices animal and poultry rearing, raising rabbits, goats, sheep and chickens. The sale of meat helps to fund GRL’s endeavors.

GRL grows vegetables such as tomatoes which it grafts and breeds. It plants them using sack gardening which avoids ground pollutants. Additional crops include lettuce, cucumbers, beets and strawberries. It also engages in food value projects, collecting unwanted seeds from fruits such as papaya and avocado from nearby markets. It cleans and dries them in the sun, pounds them into a powder and mixes them into a nutritious drink. Next, it packages the drink and distributes it to people at risk of malnutrition. It also makes organic manure, pesticides and liquid soaps.

Technology, Art and Design

Through its technology department, Ghetto Research Lab works on renewable recyclable energy projects such as harnessing wind turbine electricity and the development of solar heaters. It created a machine that people run on to produce and store energy to be able to use electricity in nighttime hours when it would not otherwise be available.

GRL also engages in art and design projects such as painting and beautifying the buildings that people create from the bottle bricks.

Film, Media and Storytelling

In addition to GRL’s sustainability, technology and food security projects, it engages young people through a storytelling and film production center called the Ghetto Media Lab. The Borgen Project spoke with Media Lab Administrator Edris Adams, who is a Ugandan filmmaker and produces documentary films for the Ghetto Media Lab. These films have the impact of building skills and empowering young people with the ability to create social change in their lives. The collective talent and inspiration produce impactful stories.

Edris Adams would like the world to hear the voices of ghetto youth. He would also like for the ghetto conditions to change for the better. He hopes for an increased understanding of poverty in Uganda. Adams aspires for everyone to engage in the battle against plastic and to encourage the planting of trees for an environmentally sustainable future. Everyone has stories and through sharing and learning, they can work to make not only the slums of Kamwokya a better place but also the world.

Patrick Mujuzi would like to see continued collaboration between Ghetto Research Lab and those interested in learning about it. In addition, he would like for GRL to become more commercial, but its limited space is an obstacle. Mujuzi sees that skill sharing with young people around the world holds potential. Ultimately, he would like to see plastics and polyethylene as things of the past.

With its hands-on success of projects and its willingness to work through trial and error, the Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda can be a model for results. GRL would like to become more established in its endeavors. Hopefully, it will have continued opportunities to educate others on its successes.

– Susan Niz
Photo: Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda

Eight Facts About Education in Uganda

Uganda has seen significant improvements in enrollment of children in primary school over the years. As one of the youngest countries in the world with one of the fastest-growing populations, the country must work even harder to continuously improve education as a means to ensure the productivity of its increasing youth population and help reduce poverty levels. Below are eight facts about education in Uganda that show where the country stands and what more it can do to improve.

8 Facts About Education in Uganda

  1. Uganda’s Education System: The first of the eight facts about education in Uganda is that the country organizes its education into three different school levels, totaling seven years. These include primary school followed by secondary school, which is sectioned into two levels – the first lasting four years, followed by another two years. Finally, people attend post-secondary education, which lasts from three to five years.
  2. Universal Primary Education (UPE): In 1997, the Ugandan government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE). This means that the government pays the tuition fees of all orphans in the country as well as the fees of up to four children per family. After the introduction of UPE, the number of students tripled between 1997 and 2014, from 2.63 million children to more than 7.6 million children. In 2007, the government rolled out a Universal Secondary Education (USE) program to help children continue their education.
  3. Uganda’s Literacy Rate: Estimates determined that the literacy rate in Uganda was 78.4 percent in 2015 with 85.3 percent of males being literate and 71.5 percent of females being literate. One can explain the lower rate of female literacy by the fact that about 52 percent of girls drop out at the primary school level either because of pregnancy or marriage. Local organizations, including GirlUp Initiative Uganda, are playing an important role in ensuring that girls get a chance to receive an education.
  4. School Completion Rates: While the enrollment rates of students shot up after the introduction of UPE, the number of students completing school is not as high. Only one in four students who start primary school make it to secondary school. Some factors that explain these high dropout rates include lack of school fees and money to buy important materials like uniforms, stationery and textbooks, violence in the form of caning and other corporal punishments and sexual abuse, with almost 24 percent of students experiencing sexual abuse in school.
  5. Disabled Children: Children with disabilities often receive neglect when it comes to education in Uganda. According to UNICEF, only 9 percent of children with disabilities enrolled in school from the pre-primary to secondary level. The exclusion of these children from formal schools could be because of the lack of accessible facilities as well as a shortage of special needs teachers. Organizations such as Cheshire Services Uganda are working at bridging the learning gap for students with disabilities.
  6. Teacher Absenteeism: Teacher absenteeism is high. About 60 percent of teachers in nearly half of Uganda’s public schools are not in class when they need to be. This is because of poor, inadequate facilities and overworked and demotivated teachers. Classrooms in Uganda often have up to 100 students.
  7. Uganda’s Education Investments: Education expenditure as a share of the national budget in Uganda is around 10 percent. This is significantly lower than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, which is 16 percent. By increasing its investment in education, the government can improve the productivity of its citizens and help lower the poverty levels in the country.
  8. Improving Ugandan Education: Several organizations are working with the government to improve education in Uganda. Examples include USAID, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Organizations like these are working to enforce gender equity in schools, improve access and completion rates at the various levels of learning, increase literacy and improve early childhood development and adolescent development. The government also builds 15,000 primary school classrooms each year to accommodate any additional students.

These eight facts about education in Uganda highlight the urgent need to ensure that education in Uganda continues to improve in terms of both quality and access. The government’s and other humanitarian organizations’ efforts will help Uganda reduce poverty as well as significantly improve the lives of its citizens.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Empowering Women Through Local Libraries
Digital literacy, career training and access to the internet are all becoming more commonplace throughout the developing world. While the majority of the population reaps the benefits of these programs, however, some certain groups, particularly women, are staggering behind. In order to combat this, various organizations have taken a unique and innovative approach in sharing these essential resources and empowering women through local libraries.

READ Centers in Nepal

In countries like Nepal, the men in women’s lives often control their level of education, knowledge of finance and mobility. These men expect women to ask permission to leave their own homes and women must always have male accompaniment when they do. This lack of personal freedom makes it hard for these women to know how to go about making their own decisions. Luckily, organizations like READ Global aim to circumvent such barriers with innovative programs with the hope of empowering women through local libraries.

READ Global, a nonprofit organization in South Asia, achieves this by creating safe centers for women through local libraries in Nepal. Known as READ Centers, these places not only provide free educational and financial programs, but they also provide a safe, public spot for women to gather and learn.

Livelihood skills training and other offered lessons enable women to pursue careers like beekeeping, sewing and vegetable farming. When women have the opportunity to earn and save for themselves, they become empowered to distribute their money in ways they see fit. A 2010 study indicated that the ability to earn their own income positively affects women’s autonomy and READ Centers programs have supported this finding.

Eighty-six percent of women who participated in the center’s skills-training programs reported that they were able to increase their income after taking the training classes. In the same survey, 73 percent of participants reported being able to buy their own food, 68 percent reported easier access to health care and an amazing 63 percent of all participants could afford to send their children off to school after completing one of the training programs. READ Centers are a striking model of empowering women through local libraries with innovative and affordable programs.

The National Library of Uganda (ICT) Project

A case study indicated that 83 percent of Ugandan women work in the farming and agricultural industry. This means that women alone contribute 70 to 75 percent of farm produce in the country. Since women are responsible for such a large chunk of the farming industry, it is quite alarming that most of these women have extremely limited access to modern farming resources. One library in Uganda saw the need for these resources and made empowering women through local libraries a top priority.

Kyangatto, a rural village in Uganda, serves as a hub for the farming community of the Nakaseke district. In this particular village, women carry the majority of the farming workload and must depend on traditional farming techniques. The women’s reliance on less effective farming methods stems from limited access to information about modern farming, plant and animal disease, and knowledge of market prices.

To combat this deficit in information, The NLU (National Library of Uganda) collaborated with the Nakaseke district’s multi-purpose community telecenter on a project that could provide proper resources and offer solutions for these challenges. In 2012, the partnering organizations launched The Electronic Information Empowering Women Farmers Service (EIFL). Through this service, women could participate in an information and communication course, which included computer/internet researching skills training, and a feature that sends farmers educational messages to mobile devices via SMS in various languages, including Luganda, a native language to a majority of participants.

The partner organizations also benefited greatly from a generous grant of $15,000 from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme. Through the grant, they were able to purchase four new computers and 15 mobile phones for trainees. Among other accomplishments, the program developed the first-ever women’s ICT training course in the Nakaseke district and trained 64 female farmers in digital literacy for the first time. The service has also expanded to Bulkalabi Primary School in Kyangatto, has successfully organized follow-up courses for 60 previous participants and recently registered 15 men in the program due to community demand.

While there is a lot of work necessary to improve life for women in the developing world, local libraries and the innovative programs they are launching have made a huge impact already. In fact, empowering women through local libraries has become a global trend that continues to grow.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr