So I finished the last update like this:
I will tell you about my trips out to the communities and how the organisation I work with is helping people to help themselves and about the lecture I gave at LivingStone University about Public Relations. Just re-reading this again, you will probably ask, but what has she been doing? I will get into that…
Here we go…I am currently listening to Blur, some kind of greatest hits album, ‘love in the 90s, its paradise, on sunny beaches…take your chan-ces…’ Once again, it’s a choice between the borrowed CD radio-cassette player (or depressing BBC World Service on the radio – quite frankly, it’s not part of my Saturday night choice) and the fan. It’s evening, so music won via the CD player. 🙂
Birthday pizza fun
Today, I helped celebrate the kids’ birthdays on the compound here, I think I made about eight pizzas altogether. I have the only oven on-site and it has one oven shelf. I think I started to cook them at about 12.30pm and finished cooking at around 4pm. One of them is 18 tomorrow…and she got a good soaking, the Ugandan tradition on your birthday!:-_
I went out to visit some of the communities that BRDC serves towards the end of January. I went with Jonathan, the tree nursery specialist here. We went to two villages:
- Bumalema (a lowland area, visited on 22 January)
- Naekibolo (towards the mountains, visited on 24 January. This area is wetter and more fertile than the lowlands. They have a longer growing season and cooler climate. I saw vegetable crops growing like sweet potatoes and tomatoes, as well as some more traditional crops).
We visited these two communities as now is the period to prepare seed beds before the rains approach in March.
We arrived at Bumalema on the motorbike and the Self-help women’s group were waiting for us. They were happy to see us and the kids were up close and taking a good look at me.
The women at Bumalema
The women were having their regular meeting. A register was taken and each business contributed some cash towards a savings pool that serves as a kind of credit union. They do this to put money aside if they wish to re-invest in their business, or for children’s school fees or anything else they may need in the future. The cash is handled by the treasurer, they keep minutes of the meeting as a record and all business accounts are available to see.
Jonathan translated a little for me and I introduced myself and talked a little about my background (including my farming grand-parents and what they farmed) and skills. I told them that I am very pleased to visit them and thanked them for their welcome. They asked about the type of crops grown in the UK, I talked mainly of cereals, rape-seed oil together with vegetables. I don’t know why I didn’t mention potatoes, given my background…but whenever I do talk about the ‘Irish’ (potatoes, as they are called here) people seem surprised that the UK grows so many.
I also explained that I have been working on the BRDC website and that I would like to take their pictures, if they would allow me.
As usual here, they didn’t mind and were only too happy to be photographed. The women continued with their meeting with Jonathan contributing about the tree nursery. They agreed to go back to the tree nursery after other business had been discussed first.
A point came up about the village well. Everyone had noticed that the water was drying up on a more regular basis. This was a cause for concern and would also affect the tree saplings, if there was no nearby water supply to water the new crop of trees.
These women had developed the tree nursery under the leadership of Jonathan and they were passionate about keeping it going. The trees grown on the nursery were planted around the village and surrounding areas.
Using mulch around the young trees to conserve water in the soil
They used seeds provided by BRDC, but, in time, when the trees mature, the villagers will be able to harvest their own seeds from the trees.
As I may have mentioned before, deforestation continues to be a major issue in Uganda and BRDC have just committed to a new target, to plant 10 million trees, with other partners in five years. Most of the problems of deforestation could be solved if people replaced what they cut down. This is simple to say, but do westerners do this? I think not…
It is exactly the same principles, except westerners have more sophisticated forms of carbon, as we process it or extract it e.g. paper, oil, petrol, diesel, plastics…the list goes on and at a gigantic, ravenous rate. Can you imagine Britons planting trees on the side of the A3? You’d probably be arrested for causing a public disturbance! 😉
However, messages are getting through to the people in villages in Uganda and they can plant trees wherever they like (mainly on their own land) to replace what they have used. This is hope. People are responding. And when people see the good results of their labours, they are encouraged. The elders of the villages usually have stories of how they remember their local areas and it usually resembles a story of many more trees. These are a little sad but, it’s a great story to tell the youth and a warning strike for the future generations. The volunteer nursery beds in the communities are tended by old and young together, working side by side on nurturing trees into existence, by God’s gift of creation.
The tree nurseries that we visited have been going for several years, so this is getting towards true sustainable development. Jonathan visits the communities and takes them through the steps for planting, but the villagers do the work. Many laughs are had along the way.
And, the villagers are really keen to do the work!
When we visited the women’s group in Bumalema, the women got up after their meeting and got straight to preparing the seed beds. There was no hanging around about making tea.
Within about one hour the seed bed was reinforced by bricks on either side and the seed bed was ready to receive the seeds.
Likewise in Naekibolo, the community group is made up of men, women and children. They managed to prepare two seed beds, plant the seeds and cover with shade within the space of an hour. The tree nursery at this site will hope to contribute 50,000 tree saplings to the 10m target. The nursery was situated in an upland area, with some shade of other trees, enclosed by a low tree hedge. It was planted by the villagers and a man called Bob Arnold, a consultant to BRDC and previous Director. He now does project work for BRDC, funded by the country of Wales, which have strong links with Uganda, particularly Mbale.
On leaving Naekibolo we were treated to avocadoes’, mangoes and three bunches of sweet bananas, the villagers didn’t want us leaving empty-handed. There must have been 15-20 kgs of fruits on the back of the motorbike coming back to the centre. The Ugandans are a very generous people and very hospitable.
On the 24 January I also gave a lecture in the morning to LivingStone University students about the origins and my experience of Public Relations. I spoke to a PR colleague in the UK on email about the lecture and she was so happy to help me. I don’t have any PR notes with me from the vocational course I took with the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, so it really was a blessing that she responded. Thanks Heather Yaxley!
…never thought that would happen! 😉
During the lecture, I used the example of Edward Bernay’s ‘torches of freedom’ campaign. This campaign enabled the tobacco industry to open up the market of sales of cigarettes to women, based on women’s desire to win total equality with men (1929). The concept was about selling an idea of freedom, not through the normal ‘marketing’ concepts of creating desire of a product.
I also spoke about the threat of Avian Influenza to the UK in 2005 and showed the progress of the disease (in bird and human forms) from 2004-2006 in a series of maps, which began in the Far East, up to China and Russia, across Europe and into parts of Africa. The maps illustrated the story so well. I referred to a report picked up by a couple of the major newspapers in the UK with the headline, ‘Mutated bird flu could kill 150m people’. This story overtook all the actual factual news about bird flu progressing through Europe, the story became a potential news story, with some alarming statistics.
I used this as example of crisis communications and discussed the messaging used in the response. This was big news at the time and it was interesting to look at that again in hindsight and not being caught up in it. I remember going from newsroom to newsroom across London for a few days during October 2005.
My concluding remarks were that reputation can build and destroy corporates, so PR people need to act and think fast and keep with the pace. And, no matter what field of study you are in, everyone will have to support the work of public relations in their career. I was asked a couple of good questions about working with stakeholders in poverty reduction and in politically-sensitive environments. I was invited back by one of the communications lecturers to support some seminars, which is great and a privilege.
What is she doing?
Mainly, I have been getting images and copy together for the new BRDC website, attending meetings with partners and showing guests around the centre, evaluating events, attending events (e.g. launch of commitment of all partners to planting 10m trees), visiting communities in which BRDC works to, ‘help people help themselves’, finalising reports, producing flyers and other work as directed by Davis, my boss, as Director of BRDC.
What I am doing next
I will be having CMS visitors from Kampala this coming weekend then visiting Mukono then Kampala and seeing a friend from the UK, as well as meeting Bob and Roz Arnold! My boss will meet us all next week to take us back to Mbale. Davis and I then go to Kenya the following week for a CMS conference, I will get to see some of the people I trained with, as well as CMS CEO Philip Mounstephen (my vicar from my old Church in Streatham) and CMS staff and Judith from TNA, who I met in December.
It is all good, thanks be to God. Since I have tried to upload this to the internet, I have been blessed with a gift from the Manana’s (for cooking pizzas) and heard from Bob Arnold asking if I needed any more supplies from the UK. I haven’t met the Arnolds yet, but they have been an enormous blessing to me, before I left the UK and while I have been here. I am SO excited to finally meet them next week.
Gift from the Manana family
Ps Apologies for some formatting errors in this blog. I don’t know why they have occurred. I have been trying to correct them for some time, but thought best to publish even with errors, as I am not a website expert!