Monday, November 30, 2015

Going Places

Going Places

It was a shock, my first visit for 4 years. Traveling to and from  Kampala from Ndejje in 2014 was a nightmare.  it was December and I had already been warned regarding the christmas rush. But the sheer volume of traffic and people were overwhelming.

First you had to fight your way to the bus stop at the taxi park. Passing all the sellers of chinese clothes and plastic toys, thousands of individuals are on the move.  To keep focus, and to stay calm was a real test. Once you found the stop, you were faced with up to 50 others waiting for the same bus that fits 14. There is no queing, its a physical and emotional battle . If you are lucky to get on the bus, a four mile traffic jam awaited you. You arrived home knackered. 

In my last blog I talked about water and electricity in Uganda, this one is about roads and the countries infrastructure. 
Uganda is no different to other third world countries that are facing an increasing migration from rural to urban settings.  With no jobs or space,  the young especially,  are forced into overcrowding dangerous living conditions.  If they are lucky to get work,  its for peanuts.

The roads had not changed, neither a growing network or the quality of the roads. Entering Ndejje was still a bumpy ride as the buses navigated the pot holes, the flooded areas and other obstacles. There is an ever increasing pressure on the  infrastructure, and it came to a head in 2011. 

The walk to work protests in 2011 happened not because of opportunistic groups that wanted to take advantage of the Arab Spring. It was not led by civil society.  It was ordinary Ugandans, with no health or employment rights, coming out on the street, protesting their own living conditions. Due to the rising costs and the difficulties of getting about, the mood and energy of the people created the atmosphere.  

Museveni and his government knew there was a real threat from below. With civil society ( NGO'S, labour groups etc) Museveni would be able to passify, but with the ordinary citizens with nothing to lose, the threat was real. 

The government shot, fired tear gas, attacked and brutally cracked down on the thousands and thousands of protesters.  Thousands were arrested, TV stations were shut down.  The people faced a brick wall, if they continued,  they would be starved or killed. Slowly, people went back to their daily grind. 

To operate a small business. To face the nightmares of getting about, the increasing food and water prices. Its a daily struggle. Mzuribeads are in solidarity with the struggle, giving a voice to the artisans that make beads to send their children off to school and to buy the next meal.

Mzuribeads, beads, Africa, Uganda, Walk to work protests , 2011 protest, rising fuel costs, Food increases, Ugandan roads, artisans, fair trade, overcrowding, Police violence, Schools, education, Ugandan transport , Matatoo, Ndejje 

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Matatu for Dummies (part 2)

Helloo!! This is me again Eleni at Mzuribeads, coming back with my next four and last lessons I learned in last year's December during my trip to Uganda in Entebbe. If you haven't read the first three or want to enjoy reading it altogether, do scroll down and visit my previous post in September the 10th.


Lesson no 4
The Tetris effect. Matatu is not just a money value local transportation. It's also fun! If your seated in one of the front or middle seating, at any point the person(s) behind you or next to you will want to get out. So, you and anyone else who block their exit will have to get out at the next stop, let them out and get back in. Now! You need to quickly develop your strategy! There are only few seats situated in the 3 corners of the vehicle and by the window on the driver's side that don't block anyone's seat! Are you fast enough to get one of those for the rest of your trip? Are you bold enough to challenge your luck?

Lesson no 5
Information processing. For the matatu experience, information processing is very important! Who do I pay the fare to? Oh! He must be the conductor! I'll give it to him. (I gave him a big note and I'm getting my change at the end of my ride, after everyone else got theirs. Anxiety over). Where am I? Where am I going? How do I tell that's my stop? No idea! Thank luck, Angus knows. No, no, no I'm not ready for my first trip on the matatu by myself..Oh my gosh!! Are these storks?! Babies must weigh way too much here! Hmm...I kinda like these clothes boutiques along the side of the road. If my clothes weren't merging in with my skin from the sweat, I might have tried something on sometime. Traffic...okay, that's the same everywhere. Let's moan. What!? Am I getting off here? Like now? Oh okay okay, thanks!

Lesson no 6
Reunite with your body's moving parts. When you get out of the matatu is not just the relief that you reached the right destination. It's not just the first deep yoga breath that you take in. It's not just stretching your legs and arms in a sun salutation. It's an experience to not brush off quickly but take a short moment to cherish and appreciate in every bit of your bodily and mind experiencing. 

Lesson no 7 and last
A scope for return. If you're contemplating re-attempting taking the matatu, do it! Yes, it will

challenge your senses, your personal space availability, your stereotypes and your culture conditioned attitudes. But! It will be fun and it can inspire you to blog! And like many other things can master it!

I hope you you enjoyed reading and learning Ugandan every day life basics with me and you got your curiosity awaken! 

As very wisely put by the ancient philosopher, I learn as I age! 

Until the next blog,


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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Community changes

Community changes 

I have been visiting Ndejje  and the Mzuri artisans in Uganda for 11 years and its very interesting to see what community services have changed and other aspects that have stayed the same. There is the electricity supply, the water and waste disposal services, the access through roads and paths. And also the health clinics and schools. 

Ndejje is an urban village, 8 km away from the capital city of Kampala. In the last few years, I have seen it grow and expand in all directions. Areas that were just fields and bushes are now populated with houses and families. The demand for water has rapidly increased and also the factor of good sanitation has put a pressure on government services. The Ugandan government since 1998 has been put under pressure to hand over its responsibility to supply safe water to communities to the private sector. Edith, the manager of Mzuribeads Uganda, in the last few years has managed to buy land and build a house for her family. She had to pay a substantial fee to get a tap built within her compound. The tap has a meter and she is responsible for paying the water charges. She also charges the neighbours if they use her water. 

In Ndejje, there is still no waste or bin services, as rubbish is either, recycled, burned or composted. What has changed drastically is the electricity supply. Back in 2004, it was a daily assurance that power went off for at least two hours a day. Now, in the 2015, power failures are a rarity. In 2012, the Bujagali hydropower dam was commissioned, it cost nearly $900 million. On the positive side, it has led to many more families having power, on the other side, the cost of power for consumers has rapidly increased. The Government paid 10.1 U.S. cents per kilowatt hour, financed by the World Bank, and several European development finance agencies. 

The big question is, with all the privatisation, the olive branch offered for increase in water supply and electricity, is it worth the huge  debt  and increasing costs the country face for many years ahead?

What is the right path to develop? To enable  access to safe water and electricity but still giving people a hold on their own land and resources. 

I will talk later about road and other developments, effecting millions of people in cities and rural areas. 

Uganda, development, beads, Ugandan beads, World bank, debt, electricity, Water, third world, Ugandan dams, Africa, environment, power prices, Ugandan government, Mzuribeads

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