Within Uganda, in a town called Kampala, there is a slum by the name of Kisenyi. There are many languages spoken in this region, and it is a rough place to live. There is poverty abound, and hunger in many of the people. There are piles of garbage and sewage flowing around the houses. The houses are small, wooden shacks that are inhabited by the families of Kisenyi. If a foreigner visited Kisenyi, they would be begged by the children to give them money in order to get sugarcane so they can have lunch. There are many businesses, but the businesses are hard to keep going. The children do whatever drugs they can get their hands on. Despite this, some of the children have large dreams. Indeed, there is a lot of hope in the slums, and Ugandan teen, named Eunice Namugerwa, has provided the inhabitants with even more hope. Poverty may be a thing of the past in Kisenyi in some years, due to people like Eunice.

Eunice decided to start a chicken farm in Kisenyi, out of necessity, and this led to her speaking at TEDx Kampala, which is part of the larger TED Talks. TED has the mission, “ideas worth spreading.” Many experts, or even inspiring people, are invited to talk at TED in order to have a large audience for their brilliant stories or ideas. The idea of TED is to create a dialogue among movers and shakers of the world, to fight issues like poverty, disease, and hunger. This can lead to change on a local level, through those who experience the TED talks. TEDx Kampala was an independently organized TED event, but it was a high honor for Eunice to be invited to tell her story. It occurred on March 10th, 2012. It followed TED’s idea of “Technology, Entertainment, Design,” but focused primarily, of course, on social issues.

In August 2012, Eunice started her chicken farm in the Kisenyi slum in order to support her family and raise some income. The other options she considered were a fashion boutique and a “piggery.” Although she was only 18, little did she know she would soon inspire others and spread her idea into the future. In 2004, her father died of HIV, and in 2012, her mother was suffering too much to work, so Eunice was forced to try to make income for her family. Eunice commented on the issues in Kisenyi, which includes disease, the environment, and child abuse. She did not want to have to beg for money, so she turned to the idea of a chicken farm.

A primary school teacher named Tiarna Elmer donated about $576 so Eunice could start her farm. Eunice started the farm and began selling the eggs. The business grew quickly, and today, Eunice has 200 chickens on her farm. In addition to the farm, they have also started a DVD shop. Soon, Eunice will be earning about $385 a month or more, which is an incredible amount in the Kisenyi slums. Although it seemed like a far-fetched idea at first, with a little starter capital, Eunice now has a budding business and can inspire others with her entrepreneurial spirit. She gives hope to others stuck in poverty to start their own businesses, and hopefully, she also inspires nonprofit charities to donate money for start-up businesses, because they will help lift those in the slums out of poverty.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: IPS News, All Africa, TED
Photo: RNW

living goods 2_opt
For most Americans, there are few things in life more irritating than a door-to-door salesperson. They bypass the bubble we’ve created around ourselves using newfangled technologies like caller ID and appear unannounced at the door with the intent to sell you a vacuum cleaner. In 21st century America, we prefer to buy and we hate to be sold.

For people living in Uganda however, a stranger at your door could save your life.

Living Goods is a social business based in San Francisco that seeks to create a sustainable delivery system of products and services essential for health and well being in the developing world. These products, which include anti-malaria medications, clean burning cook stoves, solar lamps and fortified foods, undoubtedly improve and sometimes save the lives of those living in poverty. But all too often there is no infrastructure in place to ensure those who need these goods have access to them.

Enter the Living Goods Community Health Promoter. CHP’s are the delivery system for Living Goods, going door-to-door in their communities delivering over 70 different products to customers at 20-40% below market prices. A CHP, usually a woman but the program has recently expanded to include a few men, gets his or her start by purchasing a “business in a bag”, a branded duffel bag from Living Goods containing everything they need to start a franchise. They then receive two weeks of intensive training, learning how to diagnose common illnesses like malaria and when to refer a customer to a clinic. Ongoing mentorship and marketing support are also provided. Eve Alituvera, a Community Healthy Promoter in Uganda said of her impact on the community “I offer them good health plus commodities – that’s the business”.

Malaria is a disease that’s particularly problematic in Uganda. It is estimated that Uganda has the highest rate of infection in the world, nearly 478 cases per 1,000 people per year. While this is a highly treatable infection and drugs are free at public hospitals, they are often out of stock or too far from those who need them. What’s worse, nearly 30% of anti-malaria drugs sold at pharmacies are counterfeit. Fortunately, the presence of Living Goods CHP’s has succeeded in reducing the effects of malaria on locals. A 2012 report by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government found that the presence of a Living Goods CHP increased the use of anti-malarial drugs by children believed to be infected with the disease by 40%.

Today, there are over 1000 Community Health Promoters active in Uganda and Living Goods is planning to implement the model in Kenya beginning mid 2013.

– Erin Ponsonby 

Source: Living Goods, The Guardian
Photo: Time Magazine

The Cost of Hunger in Uganda
A recently released study has found that undernutrition in Uganda costs the country a staggering 5.6% of its GDP. This is the first in a series of Cost of Hunger in Africa studies, which will study Egypt, Ethiopia, and Swaziland next. The series is modeled after similar studies conducted in Latin America in recent years and aims to reveal the economic disadvantages of undernutrition, as well as the health detriments.

This study, sponsored by the government of Uganda and the African Union Commission, used data from 2009 to estimate economic losses attributed to youth undernutrition. The effects of undernutrition are far-reaching, especially in the case of children. Stunting and chronic malnutrition resulting from undernutrition can negatively affect a child’s long-term health, mental capacity, occupational skills, and lifespan.

It has been estimated that 3.8% of Uganda’s potential workforce dies due to undernutrition, representing 943 million hours of work lost costing the country over US$300 million. While the economic losses are troubling, these figures reveal a much more horrifying truth about the long-term consequences of undernutrition. This percentage represents more than just potential workers, but real people who lost out on the chance to be parents and grandparents, spouses and friends, not just workers. However, the value of this study is that it gives us concrete, number-based reasons to take the fight against undernutrition seriously. People in power know that they can’t help every person in need, and this study shows that adequate nutrition for all benefits society as a whole.

The Prime Minister of Uganda, Amama Mbabazi, is taking notice of these findings, classifying them as “extremely worrying” and pledging to work against “unnecessary losses of human and economic potential.”  Mbabazi also stressed the importance of nutrition-focused efforts, in addition to measures aimed at economic growth.

Figures such as this are troubling, but they are also empowering. Undernutrition is clearly a monumental problem that must be solved. It has far-reaching, long-term consequences that impact individuals and communities in severely negative ways. However, with Uganda’s poverty rates steadily decreasing, there is hope on the horizon. Undernutrition and the problems associated with it could be a thing of the past for Uganda and its people. This would entail vastly improved living conditions, as well as a significant economic boost.

– Katie Fullerton
Source: World Food Programme Uganda, World Food Programme
Photo: WGLO

Can Cell Phones Save the World?

It can send texts and it can make calls, but can it save the world?

It might seem far stretched, but considering that poverty is often instigated by isolation and the accompanying lack of access to markets, emergency health services, education and governmental representation, it makes sense that economists are starting to pinpoint cell phones as a potential “weapon against global poverty.”

Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs claims that “the cell phone is the single most transformative technology for development,” positing that providing developing countries with cell phones and widespread mobile network coverage can be instrumental in lifting regions out of poverty.

In the last 8 years, the United Nations Millenium Villages Project has aimed to improve 14 rural villages across 10 African countries by providing the framework for mobile connections. They have found that countries’ GDPs increased in a way that mirrors the nearly 400% increase in cell phone use in Africa over the last 5 years.

Kenya may be the poster child for the mobile movement with its tremendous GDP growth and innovative M-Pesa or “mobile-money” concept that has the country on an economic upswing. Researchers found that “70” was the magic number: 70% of the Kenyan population owned a cell phone while 70% of the population also reported no access to a bank. Hence, the concept of mobile-money was born.

Beginning in 2007 as a way to send people microloans, M-Pesa’s mobile-money became the main way to send money instantly from urban to rural areas. Mobile-money allows people to digitally transfer cash and utilize other banking services via mobile phones, thus facilitating trade and boosting business in a way that is vital for the country to thrive.

This mobile-money concept is great for Kenya’s large informal economy sector by releasing the flow of money that is often stagnant in developing countries with unstable infrastructures.

What’s more, cell phones are now the least expensive they have ever been, thanks to Safaricom, a Kenyan telecom provider that set up business models for selling services to the poor and thus made cell phone use more affordable. Thanks to the low cost of setting up mobile towers and the decreasing cost of cell phones, Kenya now may have more widespread cell phone coverage than many regions of Europe.

Some may argue that the best part about the cell phone solution is that businesses, rather than the government, drive the movement’s momentum. Having businesses like Safaricom at the center of the progress curbs the chance of corruption and unequal access that usually accompanies governmental initiatives, particularly in developing countries.

Other countries around the world are starting to take interest in the transformative power of the cell phone. From its success in Kenya, Safaricom is now bringing its mobile banking model to areas like Bangladesh, Uganda, and Gambia with the hope of expanding more in the future.

– Alexandra Bruschi
Source: CNN, Quartz
Photo: CNN

How Will Uganda’s Gold Rush Affect Its Poorest Region?
The foothills of the Moroto Mountains in northeastern Uganda are marked by hundreds of holes dug by eager villagers in search of gold. Close by, mining machinery installed by the private mining company, Jan Mangle Company Ltd., crank noisily in search of the same.

The relatively recent discovery of gold in the Karamoja region holds the potential to change the fate of the region’s pastoral communities. But whether this change will be negative or positive remains to be seen. The poorest region of Uganda, Karamoja, has been damaged by decades of violent conflict, and many in the region feel they have been neglected by the central government.

In 1980, a fifth of the Karamojong population, including 60% of infants, perished in a widespread famine that resulted in the fall of dictator Idi Amin. Conflict ensued once Karamoja’s clans looted the Moroto armory and used the weapons to ransack cattle from villages in neighboring Kenya and what is now South Sudan.

Cattle are considered among most Karamojong people to be a person’s main representation of wealth. For this reason, many of those unfortunate enough to have their cattle stolen from them during the years of conflict were prompted to begin digging and panning for gold.

Today, the region is relatively free from conflict and has returned to a state of peace and security. This is mostly due to the controversial government disarmament programs in which villages were surrounded and searched for hidden weapons by troops in the Ugandan People’s Defense Force.

The return to security has opened the door for many corporations to poke their noses into Uganda’s mineral-rich lands. In Karamoja, the foreign presence of Jan Mangle Limited has prompted mistrust among locals. It is popularly assumed that the benefits will flow toward the wealthy, leaving the poor even poorer.

“We don’t know where the gold is going to,” said one young villager. “We hear the land is sold to investors and we are afraid we will not see any benefits from the gold. They have not told us anything.”

The government of Uganda has a strong history of forcibly displacing indigenous people in order to buy up land to sell to corporations. An example is the eviction of 392 families to make way for a German coffee company in 2001 or the nearly 20,000 people evicted in 2012 to clear land for a British forestry company. In various regions of northern and central Ugandan, hundreds of families are being paid peanuts for their land that is then sold to corporations such as the AUC Mining Company and Jan Mangle Company Ltd.

Years of manipulation and neglect from the central government have lead Karamojong residents to believe the worst, and it is nearly impossible to get information on government contracts from private corporations.

But government officials such as Moroto District Commissioner Nahaman Ojwe insist that the indigenous of Karamaja will actually see two benefits from the mineral extraction. First, current landowners will receive royalties from the mining companies. Second, the wealth collected from the gold by the central government could be redistributed to the indigenous of the region.

Whether these benefits will actually be felt by the people of Karamoja will be revealed in the coming years. But for now, the villagers keep digging while the machines keep drilling in Uganda’s poorest region.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: The GuardianThe Daily MonitorThe Observer
Photo: Foundation of Life

Eco-art, also known as contemporary environmental art, is art that is concerned with local and global environmental situations. It strives to strengthen human relationships with the natural world by expressing the development of new, creative ways for humans to co-exist with nature.

In the context of Ugandan artist Ruganzu Bruno’s newly-constructed amusement park, eco-art takes on two purposes. The 30-year-old artist and community organizer found a way to handle Kampala’s Kireka neighborhood’s acute waste management problem while engaging and empowering children through the act of play. Using a variety of recycled materials collected by the community, Bruno and his team constructed this amusement park for the children living in Kampala’s congested slums. Completed last September, the eco-park contains a myriad of exciting structures that include recycled swings and life-size board games made from plastic bottles.

However, according to Bruno, the value in the amusement park comes not only from the park itself but also from the lessons it will continue to teach the people of Kireka for generations to come. In what Bruno hopes to be an important step toward sustainability, the children and parents were taught how to make repairs to the park during its construction. Bruno, who was orphaned as a child, places particular importance upon the positive impact on children’s education that the new project promises to keep bringing.

“The attention of children in class is improved; the number of children who are dropping out [is falling] because now they have something to keep them busy there,” Bruno says, adding that the project is helping students to express themselves.

Four years ago, when Bruno was still a student at the Kyambogo University Fine Arts School, the personal goals for his work evolved from mere self-expression to wanting to make a positive impact on his community. He teamed up with a few of his fellow eco-artists to create “The Hand That Speaks,” a gigantic structure made of recycled materials in the shape of a hand. This was the first of its kind in Kampala. It was intended to serve as a reminder of how human hands can impact the environment in negative and positive ways; the same hand that throws garbage on the ground can also collect it.

The next year, in 2010, Bruno founded Eco Art Uganda, a collective of artists dedicated to the promotion of environmental awareness within their communities. They focus on transforming any waste they find – from broken electronics to scrap metal – into functional art that inspires changes in attitudes toward the environment. In April of last year, Bruno was awarded the world’s first City 2.0 Award at the TEDx summit in Doha, Qatar for the eco-park project. Currently, he is using the $10,000 prize money to fund a loan program designed to help local eco-artists in Kireka. In a continuing effort to serve his community’s needs, the young artist’s goal is to recreate “as many as 100” new eco-parks in Uganda.

Bruno’s community work is just one example of how eco-art is helping to engage communities all over the world while also keeping them clean and litter-free. The functional form of art is a promising step toward alleviating two of the world’s biggest problems; the disenchantment of the developing world’s youth and the litter that surrounds them.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Source: CNN
Photo: Ruganzu Bruno

Satellite Imagery Tracks Kony's Movements
If your name is Joseph Kony, the next time you go outside you might try waving at the sky. Someone might be looking at you via satellite imagery.

Resolve — an advocacy initiative to draw attention to the Lord’s Resistance Army’s (LRA) violence — has recently used satellite imagery to identify probable locations of LRA camps and its leader Joseph Kony. Using UN reports, LRA defector testimonies, and imagery analysis, The Resolve published an extensive report titled “Hidden in Plain Sight: Sudan’s Harboring of the LRA in the Kafia Kingi Enclave, 2009-2013.”

The LRA first emerged in the late 1980s under the leadership of Joseph Kony. Its use of guerrilla tactics has terrorized people in northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. The country of Sudan has supported the LRA in the past, though this support officially ended in 2005.

The report was commissioned by Amnesty International USA and co-produced by the Enough Project and Invisible Children. The report carries a number of implications for both foreign policy and the use of remote sensing to further humanitarian goals.

Primarily, Kony’s presence in Sudan implies continued Sudanese governmental support for the LRA. “We will be turning our attention toward galvanizing international action to ensure Sudan’s support to the LRA is now definitively ended,” Michael Poffenberger of The Resolve writes. What of finding Joseph Kony? Amnesty International’s Christoph Koettl urges US citizens to contact President Obama in support of reaffirming the US signature to the International Criminal Court: “It is crucial the US reaffirms its commitment to the rule of law and a strong global system for accountability.”

Furthermore, as remote sensing technology advances by leaps and bounds, so does the opportunity to use these technologies in non-traditional ways. Progress has been made even in the years since Francesco Pisano wrote on using satellite imagery for disaster relief in 2005 for the Humanitarian Exchange Magazine: “We should not underestimate the value of geographic information systems and satellite imagery in helping to fill the gap between relief and development…. These efforts need support from across the humanitarian community.”

The support is widely increasing. The Satellite Sentinel Project is one such initiative, a nonprofit that reports on the conflict in Sudan and South Sudan by tracking satellite imagery. While some criticism exists against the use of satellite technology to track atrocities, the increasing amount of information about regions in crisis can only improve awareness and advocacy. For those still affected by the violence of the LRA, Resolve is committed to tracking down Joseph Kony and contributing to the restoration of peace to these wartorn regions.

Naomi Doraisamy

Sources: Al Jazeera, Amnesty International, Humanitarian Practice Network, The Resolve
Photo: Time

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim have concluded a historic 3-day trip to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. While there, the leaders promoted peace, security and economic development in the countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda. These leaders pledged that their organizations would help and encourage these countries to achieve stability and economic development. These talks came after a historic agreement was reached in the DRC that ended the conflict in the region that had been going on for decades.

President Kim praised the three countries on their leadership emphasizing the opportunity for the leaders of the Great Lakes region to utilize the UN’s and World Bank’s commitment to ending poverty and building prosperity. President Kim further showed the World Bank Group’s commitment on their first stop in DRC pledging $1 billion to further improve health, education, nutrition, job training and other essential services in the DRC and Great Lakes region.

In Rwanda, the leaders visited the memorial of the 800,000 killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. While in Rwanda, they also laid the foundation stone for a new center to help women and girls victimized by violence. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni welcomed and thanked the leaders for their help in securing peace in Uganda. In the past 5 years, Uganda has seen immense growth and a 14% drop in the poverty rate.

This visit shows a new cooperation between the UN and the World Bank Group as well as a new support for African leaders from the international community. President Kim and Secretary-General Ban are hopeful for the future of this region.

President Kim summed up their hopes saying, “We hope that Africa’s Great Lakes become a global symbol for what is possible when countries work together to lift themselves out of conflict and succeed in boosting economic growth and shared prosperity.”

– Catherine Ulrich
Source: World Bank
Photo: Australian Climate Madness

Soma Water for You, Soma Water for Them
By now, the one-for-one models used by companies has become a common method to successfully sell products, raise awareness of global issues, and actually improve human lives. A major element for companies using this model such as TOMS and Warby Parker is emphasizing the storytelling aspect. This means connecting customers to the individuals and communities that benefit on the other end from the purchase of the product. Mike Del Ponte, CEO and founder of Soma water filters is adapting storytelling to the next level with the official launch of his product by activating all senses through video production and live events.

Soma water filters are simply designed for the modern lifestyle and home. It has only 2 components: a glass carafe (think Erlenmeyer flask) with a cone-shaped compostable water filter. Once you buy your first filter, Soma will automatically send a new one every 2 months as part of the subscription plan. However, the importance of Soma isn’t just its evolutionary design but its mission to eliminate water-vector diseases and provide clean water to over 800 million people around the world.

Through a partnership with charity:water, Soma will donate money to help fund water projects in countries such as Uganda, Ehtiopia, India, Honduras, and many others. However, to better tell the story of their partnership, founder Mike Del Pointe along with a team of 4 others, including The Glitch Mob producer Justin Boreta, are traveling to Ethiopia to check out the areas where their work will be effecting. The entire trip will be captured on many different levels: visually with a videographer, audiologically with recorded sounds that will be produced into a song, interactively with live feeds through social media sites, and most importantly, through food.

The culmination of the trip to Ethiopia will be a series of 10 dinner events that Soma will co-host with the magazine Dwell. These dinners will allow attendees to not only experience Ethiopian cuisine but to have a chance to see the work and stories from the trip as put together in multiple presentations and visualizations.

Soma was able to sell about 2,300 filters in its first round of preorders thanks to the $147,444 it raised with Kickstarter. Sales are expected to start again in August so be sure to keep an eye out to finally replace those bulky Brita filters.

It seems that these sorts of ventures should be the go-to business plan for product and service companies. For many in the humanitarian world, while paying a bit more for your basic product, knowing that its purchase directly benefits and changes the lives of others who are less fortunate makes opening up our wallets easier. For the people at charity:water, Dwell, and Soma, transparency with their work is extremely important. Their websites provide detailed information and illustrations on their finished and ongoing projects. Going back to Bill Gates’ word of advice in his 2013 letter, being upfront and proving your successes and even failures are going to propel charities to exceed their goals and give donors the comfort and reassurance they deserve.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.EXIST

Imagine living in a slum. There is little food to split between you and your family and you are a minority in your age group because you have regularly attended school before. This was exactly the situation that teenager Phiona Mutesi found herself in when she started learning chess.

The slum where Phiona lives is called Katwe, and it is located right in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, where veteran and refugee Robert Katende began a chess program for children, giving them food in return for completing a lesson. Of his program, Katende has said that he had started it hoping to teach analytic and problem-solving skills that the children could apply to succeed in their own lives.

This was the program that would come to change Phiona’s life and turn her into “The Queen of Katwe”.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat in the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge,” Mutesi told CNN.

Although she was unfamiliar with the game, as is most of Uganda, Phiona worked hard, practicing every day for a year. Eventually, she began to win against older children and compete for titles. Since those early days, Phiona has represented her country in several international chess competitions in countries such as Sudan, Siberia, and Istanbul.

Although life for her is still hard – she still lives in the Katwe slum with her family – winning competitions and working hard to one day become a Grandmaster keeps her hopeful. A grant that she has received through her competing has even allowed her to go back to school and develop her reading and writing skills.

While Phiona’s story of success has yet to win her the chess title of Grandmaster, she has gained another, unofficial reputation as the ultimate underdog. She is an underdog on the global chess stage both because she comes from Africa, a continent where chess is culturally absent in most countries, and because she is from Uganda specifically, a nation that is one of the poorest on the continent. The fact that she is from Katwe, a slum, is a strike against her even to other Ugandans. However, despite these odds, she has achieved enormous success given her circumstances.

Phiona Mutesi’s inspiring story was written into a book called “The Queen of Katwe,” by Tim Crothers, and was published in October of 2012. Since then, Disney has bought the rights to the story and has started making a movie to chronicle Phiona’s journey to the international chess stage. The Queen of Katwe remains steadfast in attaining her dream of becoming a Grandmaster and is an inspiration to us all.

– Nina Narang

Source: CNN