A Short Visit to Uganda

I am way overdue to update this blog and share details on what happened during my trip last fall to Uganda! Since returning to Washington DC, I have been caught up in a whirlwind of end-of-year work activity, which includes some pretty big organizational gender initiatives, followed by some much needed time off to visit family for the holidays. I’m just now catching up on the blog, so I’ll provide a quick overview of the trip for people who want to know how it went.

As you may recall from my previous post, I traveled to Uganda in October to work with the Resiliency through Wealth, Agriculture, and Nutrition (RWANU) project to help develop their final year exit-strategy. The RWANU program is designed to reduce food insecurity among vulnerable people in the Karamoja region of Uganda. The activities are primarily focused on improving access to food for men and women through improved agriculture and livelihoods activities as well as reducing malnutrition in pregnant and lactating women and young children through preventative healthcare and learning. Because the project is entering its final 20 months, we wanted to review project successes, identify areas where we’d like to improve, and develop a strategic plan for the final year. Our main goal for the final year is to ensure that we not only achieve the maximum benefit to our program participants, but also that the benefits of the program last beyond the project’s end!

A team of specialists — which along with me was composed of the Project Manager and  experts in market facilitation, nutrition, labor, and agriculture — traveled from headquarters to Kampala to spend about a week and a half in countryRWANU Presentation working with our project staff. We held a participatory workshop during which we reviewed project data, identified new opportunities, and developed a draft strategy for the final year.

It was a successful visit, but because it was primarily focused on strategic planning with key leadership and staff, the assignment didn’t offer an opportunity for me to get out into the remote areas of Karamoja where the project is being implemented. Whenever possible, I visit regional or district offices in order to meet our field staff and become more familiar with the people in the communities where we are working. I am often tasked with conducting trainings, putting procedures in place, or assessing progress during these visits. This visit was brief, and our team stayed in the capital. However, I am happy that I will have the opportunity to return to Uganda in the spring, when I’ll be conducting trainings and assessments in the capital and in Karamoja.

Because the workshop and planning was so intense, most of our time in Uganda was spent in meetings that took place in the RWANU office or other conference centers. I saw very little of Kampala. However, a couple of staff and I did take one night off to visit the Nderi Center. This is a place where visitors can see traditional Ugandan dance as well as traditional dance from other tribal groups in neighboring countries, including Burundi and Rwanda. The money made from ticket sales goes toward paying for the educations of the young performers who make up the amazing Nderi Dance Troupe. You can find out more at their website here. We had a fantastic time and were impressed by the amazing skill of the performers. The MC was hilarious, and the show lasted for over three hours. I highly recommend that anyone visiting Kampala take the opportunity to go to their performances.

I’ll be posting again soon, as I’m headed off on another field assignment. Hopefully once DC digs out from Snowzilla 2016, I’ll be able to share details about my next adventure. Ciao!