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Renewable Energy in Africa: UgandaRenewable energy in Africa has made great strides in recent years—but, as the poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself.” Building the infrastructure for green energy is an international project, generally reliant on international conglomerates with wide-ranging, specific technical knowledge and the funds to move large projects forward.

According to the International Energy Agency, Chinese firms were responsible for 30 percent of the utility power-generation capacity built in sub-Saharan Africa between 2010 and 2015, and 56 percent of the capacity they have built (or will build) this decade comes from renewable sources, including wind and hydroelectric power.

Still, Africa’s utility-scale energy infrastructure is notoriously underdeveloped, which means localities and individual consumers often opt for smaller, more independent means of generating energy and their associated programs.

GET FiT Uganda is one such program. Its goal is to increase the country’s energy production by 20 percent by stimulating private investment in smaller green energy projects. The program draws funding from the Norwegian, German, and United Kingdom governments as well as the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund. It culminated in late 2016 with the unveiling of the 10-megawatt solar power plant in Soroti, capable of powering 40,000 homes, businesses and schools in the town and surrounding district.

The plant’s operations manager, Phillip Karumuna, has said of the plant, “The abundance of the solar resource in Eastern Uganda makes it perfect for solar power generation. The sun shines throughout most of the day, there isn’t too much rain here, and this means the plant will produce lots of power for years to come.”

The new plant means the district will enjoy access to computers and the Internet, and activities like cooking will no longer be relegated to the dim light of lanterns. Achom Naomi, director of a local nursery and primary school, says that once the schools gain access to power, more students will enroll and school standards will improve—a result of access to light for reading and homework at night.

The Soroti solar plant—the largest of its kind in East Africa—follows the launch of a power plant in Kakira in 2015, and a third plant will be coming to Tororo. All three plants were funded through GET FiT.

The situation in Uganda is a snapshot of what renewable energy in Africa is achieving—and can achieve—on the continent itself and across the developing world. And the United States should not be content to let China and Europe dominate the investment sphere. By ramping up spending on renewable energy in Africa and other developing nations, America stands to build instrumental alliances and partnerships in trade and for national and global security.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Uganda's Som Chess Academy
With a single chess board and a heart for change, Robert Katende launched Uganda’s Som Chess Academy in the Katwe slums of Kampala in 2004. Thirteen years later, the program boasts 13 different centers in varying parts of Uganda (one which focuses on children with disabilities), an impending expansion into neighboring Kenya, an estimated participant count of 1,400 and a world-class chess player in Phiona Mutesi.

The most attention has been gifted to the incredible story of Ms. Mutesi, whose rise from the slums of Katwe to the international chess arena has been featured in ESPN Magazine and Disney’s Queen of Katwe film. And understandably so—Phiona has been honored in various capacities, most notably as one of three “Women of Impact” at the 2013 Women of the World Summit. Her story is especially significant considering the relatively limited role of women in Ugandan society. Such a role ensures that the literacy rate for girls 15 years of age and older is cemented at 65 percent—a rate which is a full 18 percent lower than that of their male peers. Consequentially, Phiona’s success has paved the way for other women to also strive for their goals and meet their potential in spite of traditional gender barriers like minimized education.

However, the everyday successes of Uganda’s Som Chess Academy demand recognition as well. The program is completely free for its participants and provides tangible perks, such as meals, but it also provides something arguably more important: intangible perks, such as personal empowerment, something that is so incredibly significant for children who have very few opportunities to know their strength.

The program operates under the guidance of about 40 peer coaches who aim to not only teach chess but to teach it well—in 2015, Som Academy placed seventh in the national chess league—but to also teach life skills that focus on character development, goal-creation and leadership skills, too. Chess is only a vessel with which to facilitate these understandings; the strategy, mental discipline and adaptation required to play the game is translated into real-life usage as well.

Furthermore, the program actually enrolls participants in school and supports them throughout their academic endeavors, with several of the program’s graduates going on to higher education levels that would have otherwise been inaccessible to children entrapped in the cycle of slum poverty. In an environment where 31 percent of urban children aged 13 to 18 are not attending secondary school, a free program that empowers and ultimately pushes such children into the educational system is truly an incredible gift to a deserving community.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Poverty in UgandaInnovative technological developments are supporting communities and changing lives in Uganda, a country home to one of the youngest and most quickly growing populations in the world. One such advancement is the Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) app – created by the Grameen Foundation – designed to combat agricultural poverty in Uganda.

About 86 percent of Ugandans are farmers of minuscule plots of land and most work by hand, with access to only the most preliminary tools. Poor access to information on rainfall – combined with viruses and parasites that can devastate crop production – has left the country’s dominant agricultural community vulnerable to poverty and famine. Approximately 33 percent of Ugandan children, including those in the lush hills where much of the cultivation takes place, are starving.

Bolstered by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CKW has been developed in response to the endemic problems in Uganda’s agricultural sector. It works in two ways: by building ties with communities through a physical presence (40 “knowledge workers” have been hired during the trial run) and through an app, which provides community leaders with the information needed for a successful harvest.

Results so far have been excellent. Mary, one of the community leaders who uses the app, now has access to weather reports, data on the best market price for her produce as well as “Almanac,” a farmer’s encyclopaedia. Her banana patch, formerly rife with worms, has been turned around. She can then subsequently use the CKW app to work out the best location, time and price in order to sell her produce.

CKW’s success can be attributed to its recognition of how to most simply solve the problem of agricultural poverty in Uganda. Women are the heaviest users of the service, giving them an invaluable lifeline as they struggle to balance child rearing with farming.

The widespread use of cell phones is also a demonstration of how readily accessible this kind of technology can be even in the most remote places; shockingly, more people have access to cell phones than toilets in Africa.

The Grameen foundation has treated this dispersal of the project in Uganda as a trial run. Plans to expand in the future have the potential to alleviate poverty for farmers across the continent and beyond.

Jonathan Riddick

Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in UgandaUganda is an African country that has made huge strides in recent years in terms of vaccination and immunization coverage. Vaccines in Uganda have become more available to children in the last two decades and new vaccines have been developed and implemented into the country’s routine programs. Despite this, coverage for certain diseases still lags behind other African countries. Here are eight facts about vaccines in Uganda:

  1. In 2012, Uganda launched a nationwide HPV vaccine to help fight the country’s most common form of cancer. Cervical cancer is three times more common in Uganda than the global average. Uganda’s Ministry of Health helped roll out the new vaccine program, launching in several different school districts to raise awareness about the disease.
  2. Uganda achieved 90 percent child immunization coverage for certain diseases in 2014, and since then, coverage has risen to as high as 98 percent.
  3. The last polio case was seen in Uganda in 2010. Uganda plans to fully eradicate the disease by 2018, and will replace the oral polio vaccine with a more effective injectable one using a $1.5 million grant from the Ministry of Health.
  4. Uganda experienced a Yellow Fever outbreak in April of 2016, with 30 confirmed cases and seven deaths. The country’s rapid response team collected samples, confirmed cases and collected and referred samples to the Uganda Virus Research Institute to help quell the spread of the disease. Uganda is located on the “Yellow Fever belt” of Africa and is a high-risk country for transmission of the Yellow Fever virus.
  5. In 2014, Uganda introduced a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine to stave off pneumonia in both childhood and adulthood. Despite increased introduction of vaccines in Uganda, diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis remain a threat due to under-immunization.
  6. DTP3 coverage in Uganda has increased by 14 percent in the last 11 years, from 64 percent to 78 percent. Uganda aims to achieve 80 percent DTP3 coverage, though they have struggled to increase coverage in recent years and lag behind other African countries such as Kenya.
  7. Over 90 percent of Uganda’s immunization programs are funded by donors and nonprofit organizations. One of the organizations with the strongest impact has been the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). They have contributed more than $300 million since 2000.
  8. Thanks to a new rotavirus vaccine, Uganda estimates 70,000 lives will be saved and over 300,000 hospital admissions may be avoided between 2016 and 2035.

After revamping its vaccination program in the early 2000s, Uganda has made significant progress in curbing the spread of disease. While there are still areas to be improved, vaccines in Uganda have saved thousands of lives thus far and have improved the health of the country.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in UgandaDeforestation is the second highest cause of carbon emissions from human activity next to burning fossil fuels. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, on average between “46 and 58 thousand square miles of forest are lost each year—equivalent to 48 football fields every minute.” When trees are cut down, the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed from the atmosphere decreases drastically. Efforts to curb deforestation practices in developing countries through stipends to farmers has proven to be both a cost-effective way to address climate change and provide people in rural areas an additional form of income.

From 2010 to 2013, the Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA) conducted a study surrounding deforestation in Uganda, a country with extremely high rates of such, to test the usefulness of paying farmers annually for their active conservation of forested land. According to the IPA, from 2000 to 2010 Uganda lost forest at a rate of 2.6 percent annually, the third highest rate in the world. This not only contributes to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere but endangers animals such as chimpanzees and reduces protection from rain-forest flooding.

Taking place in areas of western Uganda, a predominantly rural zone, the IPA program targeted land owners of forested areas who decide whether or not to cut down trees to plant crops. The program entitled payments for ecosystem services (PES) “offered owners of forested land a contract under which they could receive annual payments of 70,000 Ugandan shillings (equivalent to $28) per hectare for conserving forested land,” according to the report. Owners could also receive additional payment for planting new trees on already deforested areas.

Despite the low number of landowners who agreed to the contract–only 32 percent–they earned on average an additional $113 for avoiding deforestation and planting new seeds. The program’s results found owners more actively engaged in patrolling their land as well as had a significant decrease in deforestation in Uganda. Compared to an average loss of 9.1 percent of forests in villages where the program was not enacted, villages that participated in the program lost on average 4.2 percent of their forest, a significant decrease.

The findings of the study equated to “delaying 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per village from being released into the atmosphere” through curbing deforestation in Uganda. The PES program proved successful and cost-effective, having both a positive impact on reduced carbon emissions and land-owning households.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, “1.6 billion people rely on benefits forests offer, including food, fresh water, clothing, traditional medicine and shelter.” Efforts to curb deforestation in countries like Uganda are vital for the survival of the world’s forests.

Riley Bunch

Photo: Google

Poverty in Uganda
Although Uganda is a Sub-Saharan African country with one of the highest rates of poverty reduction, the country remains among the poorest in the world. According to a 2016 poverty assessment, poverty in Uganda reduced significantly between 2006 and 2013. The number of Ugandans living below the poverty line declined from 31.1 percent in 2006 to 19.7 percent in 2013.

The issue now is the sustainability of this poverty reduction, as Uganda is lacking important non-monetary resources. These include sufficient sanitation, access to electricity, health and well-being, education and nutrition. Discussed below are the causes of poverty in Uganda and their implications.

 

4 Leading Causes of Poverty in Uganda

 

  1. Safety net programs are of limited availability in Uganda, which increases the vulnerability of households to fall back into poverty. In 2013, it was reported that only one percent of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was spent on social security. This percentage is much lower than the 2.8 percent average for Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to this lack of social security, 35 percent of Ugandans rely on their life savings and 25 percent rely on their family. This makes falling back into poverty highly likely for a majority of people.
  2. Diseases are another cause of poverty in Uganda. Infant and child mortality rates remain high, with 131 deaths per 1,000 births. Families in Uganda are often large. With the lack of finances and resources, larger families are highly likely to fall below the poverty line. Poor health also reduces a family’s work productivity, causing poverty to be passed down through generations.
  3. Agriculture contributed to 79 percent of poverty reduction in Uganda between 2006 and 2013, but there is still much room for improvement. Though a large portion of the population earns its livelihood through agriculture, there is still an excess in labor opportunities. Further improvement in productivity of agriculture is necessary to provide more work and bring people out of poverty.
  4. Due to a high dependency on work in agriculture and the informal sector, there is a lack of skilled labor among Ugandans. Without skilled labor, it is challenging for Uganda to obtain important non-monetary resources and narrows subsistence options. This also causes a deficiency in forward mobility, which preserves poverty.

The persistence of poverty in Uganda, despite significant poverty reduction, conveys the need for further governmental assistance and global contribution. To sustain poverty reduction for developing nations, more attention to foreign aid policy is needed.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Helping People in UgandaWanting to help the world is noble, but it is a daunting task when so many countries and people are in need. However, choosing where to contribute can help you focus on improving individual’s lives instead of feeling overwhelmed. Helping people in Uganda, for example, feels like a much more achievable goal.

There are dozens of nonprofits dedicated to helping people in Uganda. In fact, many organizations have people whose job it is to help people decide how they are best able to aid someone half a world away.

If you’re wondering how to help people in Uganda, here are some tips:

  1. Begin by educating yourself about Uganda. What is the current state of the economy, government, major needs, etc?
  2. Research organizations already doing aid work in the country. Find out what these groups are doing and how they are doing it. There are websites and articles with lists of nonprofits in Uganda like GlobalGiving, this article from The Washington Post and the Uganda National NGO Directory.
  3. Decide what issue needs the most attention or what you are most passionate about. For example, maybe there are fewer organizations fulfilling a certain need. Perhaps you majored in nutrition and think nutritious meals should be a larger focus.
  4. Contact someone at an organization with questions on what it does and how to help.
  5. Advocate for the cause. If done correctly, others will likely be motivated to join you.

Another way you can help the people in Uganda is by contacting congressmen and encouraging protection of the International Affairs Budget31. President Trump’s administration has proposed a 31 percent cut to the State Department and USAID, both of which support development and diplomacy around the world and creates jobs in America.

You can also contact your representatives about the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act, the READ Act, Economic Growth and Development Act and many more. The Borgen Project website has information about these pieces of legislation, as well as many more.

You can stop wondering how to help people in Uganda and put this knowledge into action. Stay educated, become passionate and decide that helping people is an important step for you to take.

Emily Arnold

Flickr


Poverty reduction efforts depend on data. To improve lives in Uganda, it is important to know the facts and figures in Uganda that affect the population every day.

Commonly referred to as “the Pearl of Africa,” Uganda has a population of approximately 39 million people and borders Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. The following are important facts and figures in Uganda:

  1. The average fertility rate is 5.8 children per woman and results from a lack of sex education, family planning services and contraception use as well as the cultural support for large families.
  2. There is a high maternal mortality rate of 343 deaths per 1,000 live births due to a high number of births per woman, short birth intervals and early pregnancy Uganda’s infant mortality rate ranks twenty-first in the world at 57.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  3. Uganda has a high population of children. Newborns to those aged 14 make up almost half of the country. About 14.1% of children under five years old are underweight.
  4. The primary education gross enrollment rate is 101.1% but, during secondary school, significantly drops to 26%.
  5. About 7.1% of the adult population (ages 15 to 49) have HIV. Uganda ranks tenth in the world for the highest prevalence rate, seventh for most people living with HIV/AIDS, and tenth for most HIV/AIDS-related deaths.
  6. About 52% of Ugandans have mobile phone subscriptions, and 19.2% have internet access.
  7. In the labor force, 71.9% participate in agriculture, 4.4% in industry and 23.7% in services. However, agriculture accounts for 24.5% of the GDP, industry accounts for 21%, and services account for 54.4%.
  8. The Lord’s Resistance Army, active since 1987, continues to terrorize the country and hold children captive as child soldiers.
  9. About 19.1% of the population lives with improved sanitation facilities, and 79% has access to improved water sources. The rates are typically better in urban settings as oppose to rural areas.
  10. The life expectancy at birth is 59 years of age.

Many of these facts and figures in Uganda have improved over the years as Uganda has worked to meet Millennium Development Goals. For example, the United Nations reported that the percent of the rural population with access to improved drinking water increased from 52 percent in 2001/02 to 72 percent in 2012/13 and most recently to 79 percent. In addition, the country has reduced income poverty by two-thirds, an accomplishment that was five years ahead of schedule. But, Uganda is not stopping there; the country still has the opportunity and plans to make many more strides to aid poverty-reduction efforts.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Flickr


In Uganda, an East African country known for a stunning array of mountains and waterfalls, education is considered a right. Though citizens recognize the importance of school, the education system struggles with management inconsistencies and low secondary school enrollment. Further issues have arisen from an influx of refugees entering the country via a generous refugee policy. Below are 10 facts about education in Uganda and how the system is evolving in the context of the refugee crisis.

10 Facts About Education in Uganda

  1. In 2011, Uganda joined the Global Partnership for Education, an organization that creates access to education in developing countries. Since then, the nation has launched initiatives on everything from helping girls stay in school while menstruating to guaranteeing education for refugees.
  2. Indeed, education is a key element in eliminating poverty in Uganda. It’s no wonder that the national adult literacy rate rose from 68.1 percent in 2002 to 73.8 percent in 2015—and the literacy rate among youth soars at 87 percent.
  3. Though 90 percent of children attend primary school, that drops below 25 percent in secondary school due to facility shortages. This disparity contributes to continued poverty, as those without a secondary education have lower chances of pursuing careers.
  4. Space is a major factor in the future of education in Uganda, especially in the face of conflict in Sudan. Uganda accommodates more than one million refugees, more than half of whom are children.
  5. Last year, Bidi Bidi became the world’s largest refugee settlement, with around 270,000 occupants. The people of Uganda are as passionate about keeping others safe as they are about educating them—but to excel at both, the nation must implement plans to find a balance between the two.
  6. Though Uganda highly values education, some internal issues have stunted its growth. Funding is a key issue. Uganda relies largely on international aid when it comes to supporting refugees’ basic needs—but, so far, the U.N. has obtained just 14 percent of the $781 million it requested to funnel into resources for Sudanese refugees, including education.
  7. Teacher absenteeism is another barrier to education growth in burgeoning Uganda. Due to low and delayed pay, many teachers are forced to take on additional jobs, and classrooms are often left without distinct leaders—which isn’t surprising, given that the nation’s youth outnumber its adults.
  8. The Ugandan government and Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) are working to dismantle these inefficiencies in the education system. The groups have launched an initiative to assess and correct the quality of education and school management in 21 schools.
  9. The initiative plans to refine curriculum and teaching standards but first requires some basic resources—including a reliable source of electricity.
  10. While the steps necessary to improve education in Uganda may seem staggering, the cause looks brighter every day. Last month, a refugee solidarity summit held in Kampala garnered $358.2 million in pledges, which will provide resources for education.

Though the cracks are beginning to show in the school system, passionate citizens and government officials refuse to let it crumble. With concerted efforts, education in Uganda can continue growing in size, scope and merit.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr

Education in Uganda
For the last 15 years, the Educate! program has been turning education in Uganda on its head, teaching practical and entrepreneurial skills to break the cycle of poverty and youth unemployment. Currently partnered with more than 350 secondary schools in Uganda and 520 total schools across Africa, Educate! delivers experience-based education to help develop the next generation of community leaders and innovators.

With a growing population, 70 percent of which is young people under the age of 30, Uganda is in need of education reform. Although Uganda introduced free universal secondary schooling in 2011, the youth unemployment rate remains around 66 percent, and factors like attendance and education quality still raise questions. The Educate! program seeks to combat these problems by breaking students into smaller groups taught by mentors in the program, working together to build practical skills such as public speaking, personal savings and social responsibility.

Educate! was first founded in 2002 when U.S. students visited Uganda and were shocked by the number of children struggling to stay in school due to school fees and living and traveling conditions. Educate!’s founders saw the opportunity to turn classrooms into training grounds for students to learn to help themselves, and the organization has been growing and bringing in new teachers ever since.

Outside of the classroom, Educate! is innovating education in Uganda by encouraging interaction between schools with groups such as student business clubs. In these clubs, students utilize skills learned in the classrooms, forming enterprises to compete in the annual National Student Business Competition.

In the last decade, Educate!’s impact in Uganda has increased significantly. Since launching its first education programs in 2009 with seven mentors, Educate! has grown to 200 mentors impacting more than 14,000 students and expanding into other African countries such as Rwanda. By 2024, Educate! aims to reach a million students in Uganda and expand to reach millions more across Africa. Today, the organization reports a 105 percent increase in income among Educate! scholars after graduating high school and a 120 percent increase among female scholars.

The organization is also working with the Ugandan government to spread its mission beyond the scope of just mentors. By building curriculums together with the government and bringing its skills-based model to other schools, Educate! acts as a driving force giving education in Uganda a practical focus. Thanks to its work with the Ugandan government, 45 percent of Ugandan schools now have active student business clubs.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr