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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable’

Making my 12th trip to WMI loan program hubs in East Africa, I am delighted to report that the impact of the loan program continues to grow.  We first traveled due west 4 hours from Kampala to the Mubende area where we partner with the Buesessa Community Development Association to off loans and training.  The ladies were enthusiastic in their welcome and so happy I had made the trip that they presented me with many lovely locally-made baskets. They readily escorted us to tour businesses that lined the main roadside.  Business owners reported earning $100 – $500/month from hair braiding salons, dress design and tailoring, shops and sales of maize and beans.

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The lovely women of Buseesa greeting me with hugs and gifts

Many women in the area were refugees from the Rwanda genocide.  As children and young adults, they fled violence and chaos.  In western Uganda they found stability and a chance for a new life.  They were not resettled by an international agency; they did not receive government subsidies or support.  They persevered by virtue of their own hard work and determination.  WMI is proud to be able to offer resources that help their businesses expand and thrive.

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Borrower in her domain helping and greeting customers

The welcome at our WMI HQ in Buyobo was overwhelming. Women’s businesses now dominate the main road through town.  Catering, small restaurants and snack stalls have become common – prepared food is big business in Buyobo.  Household improvements are visible everywhere, from brick houses, to satellite dishes to cows grazing in yards. And, women now dress very smartly!

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Robyn, Jackie (Assistant Director in Buyobo) greeting Olive (Director) during our annual celebration

Our annual celebration for the community was the largest ever, drawing more that 700 women and their families, as well as community leaders and guest speakers.  A day of singing, dancing, marching, musical performances, and speeches ended with a feast catered by our own staff.  What a wonderful way to acknowledge the ongoing accomplishments of the women in the loan program in eastern Uganda, which has now spread throughout Sironko and into Bulambuli, Manafwa and Bududa Districts.

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Borrowers are now able to construct permenant homes

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One of our lovely borrowers in Buseesa

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WMI Ladies preparing food for our annual celebration

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Satellite dishes can be spotted all around Buyobo

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The saga of our partnership with USAID continues! We held a training of trainers back in March, where members of the USAID came out for a full day training with 6 senior VHT members to give a comprehensive overview of the information in the materials and how to use these materials when doing community outreach.

Below are some photos from the training. The next and final step will be to get the rest of the VHT staff trained which will happen in the next couple of months. February, March and April are digging, planting and harvesting season for beans and maiz (this actually gets harvested in June/July) so everyone is busy in their gardens and is not able to take a day away from this to come to a training, which we understand 🙂 In order to be successful we have to be respectful (of people, their time, culture and priorities)!

Enjoy the photos and head to our instagram @wmionline to see a video! Stay tuned for our blog on the training of the rest of our VHT members!

 

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VHT Members with the USAID trainers!

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VHT Members, USAID Trainers and our fellow celebrating a successful training 🙂

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Many innovations in clean energy, including biogas, have demonstrated incredible applicability and success within communities here in Eastern Uganda. We have begun exploring the feasibility of bringing home biogas solutions to Buyobo and the surrounding villages for the following reasons!

Challenges surrounding today’s energy sources are increasing:

Homes in remote villages rely primarily on burning firewood to power stoves used for cooking. In some cases, homes have supplemental power from solar panels to fuel small lights. However, the environmental and humanitarian impacts of so many homes and villages using firewood are getting increasingly severe.

The challenges with this significant reliance on firewood include:

  • There is a diminishing supply of trees which can be chopped for wood (especially due to the logging companies)
  • Reduced foliage makes the land more susceptible to landslides (especially during the ~5 month rainy season) which have ruined homes, villages, roads, and bridges across the region as well as killing many people in their path
  • Villagers must travel increasingly farther away from their homes to source firewood, creating sometimes dangerous and lengthy treks through unfamiliar forests

Biogas is a potential solution:

In order to reduce the dependence on firewood, one option is for homes and villages to install biogas solutions in their homes. Biogas is fuel that is produced by fermenting organic matter, such as cow dung and household waste (process diagramed below1). Household systems are typically small outdoor structures with pipes that run underground into the home and rely on cow dung as the organic input.

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In order to see biogas in action we visited Namisindwa a village on the other side of the mountain to see how their home systems were working for them! Below are some photos from our visit:

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homeowners put the cow dung here and it will slowly make its way to down to start its change from dung to gas! Surprisingly it doesn’t smell.

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A gas nozzle

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The gas pressure gauge inside a house

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the stove that is powered by biogas!

 

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A training school has also installed a biogas system to power their kitchen. They use a mix of human and cow waste

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One of two cookstoves in the kitchen of the training school which feeds 300 students everyday

There are several international organizations involved in bringing biogas technology to Uganda. To learn more about these efforts, called the “Uganda Domestic Biogas Programme (UDBP),” please visit www.heifer.org and www.africabiogas.org.

 

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Recently I had the opportunity to sit with 12 of our lead coordinators to talk about budgeting, savings, and personal financial planning. Often, budgeting isn’t the most fun topic (especially when we realize how many different expenses we have!) but the BWA women excitedly and actively participated in the discussion.

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During the session, we reviewed the importance of:

  • Setting short and long-term goals; giving us a framework to envision how the money we make and spend today impacts our future
  • Creating a personal financial picture; equipping the women with the ability to understand the “lay of the land” when it comes to their personal finances
  • Establishing strategies to proactively manage expenses; developing plans to save regularly, including tactics to reduce extraneous spending to achieve goals more quickly

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The value of recording your inflows and outflows of money was one of the biggest takeaways from our discussion. Each woman had multiple sources of income that they received at varying times per year, ranging from their salaries as teachers to their multiple yearly harvests from their garden.

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And naturally, each had multiple different types of expenses occurring throughout the year. The “simple” practice of writing down these various income sources and expenses was eye opening for many of the women – as it is for so many people. By only keeping this crucial personal finance information in our heads we can often misestimate our financial situation and as they say here “eat money without realizing where it is going.”

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After two hours of discussion about goal setting, savings management, and personal financial planning the lead coordinators now have an outline to share and will continue to use this template as a training tool for current and future borrowers. Small steps and encouragement towards active management of their personal budget will help empower each woman to be confident in their financial situation and achieve the goals they set for themselves. It was a pleasure starting this dialogue with the coordinators and demonstrating the power of budgeting!

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