News from Bwindi: September – October 2017

Progress and momentum continue to pick up speed and deepen impact – making an economic difference to those living around areas of tourist activity and bringing new optimism to those who have, ‘til now, not had any real attention to action any identified opportunity.

The lady weavers

Both Evelyn, at Ride-4-a-Woman and Tina, at Change-a-life-Bwindi, have been excited by some ‘out-of-the-blue’ sales that would not have happened, they say, with the ‘old’ baskets.

Tina has been making sure that the new Rusharara baskets are highly visible, not only in her shop & coffee bar/restaurant but also in a prominent place in a nearby lodge. In September she was approached by an investor, from Kampala, who had seen the baskets and is building a new lodge in Ruhija, Agandi Uganda Lodge, to place an order. Fifty was the order – 25 waste paper baskets and 25 laundry baskets. Too big an order for her ladies to handle – so a sub-contract was in order. The leader of the Rushaga south side ladies group, Karadonia Kayalisiima, the same one whose quality control photo is in the August update, was asked to pick up the contract. Very happy ladies.

Evelyn has been on the ‘war path’ for quality control. Ladies who follow the training and come with ‘perfect’ baskets are rewarded with additional ‘free’ grass and other materials and those who choose colours not in the approved range – are rejected.

Now that the ladies have up-skilled dramatically and found new enthusiasm for their craft, both are experimenting with harnessing the new design and quality skills to create new product – both in tableware; Tina with shallow oval bread baskets and Evelyn and her Manager, Angela, with rectangular table mats and square coasters. Anything not round is extremely difficult – so the challenge is on. A number of lodges have said they would seriously consider buying from any of the three ladies when their renew cycle comes around.

Lodges and buying local

At both south side lodges and Buhoma lodges small cadres of managers; three on the south side of the forest at Rushaga and Rubuguri and four from Buhoma, have recommitted to buying more local; woven products, display shelving, fresh produce.

Fresh produce is a work in progress as it relies on the producers not only gaining technical agronomy & horticultural skills but also market access education and linking to the lodge buyers. The Buhoma Community Development Association Chairman, Richard Ngabirano, has committed to helping with the latter.

Mobilising the Agronomist – Growing the right produce better and delivering quality and quantity – consistently

The newly contracted agronomist, Honest Tumuheirwe, has made her first scoping visit to the five focal points of our support: the Rubugiri ex-poachers; the Mutwa lady and her fellow Batwa in Rushaga; a group of women whom have been given 6ha of land by the river at Buhoma; the fish, mushroom and vegetable grower in Buhoma and, in Ruhija, assessment of the potential to grow a cash crop – potentially passionfruit that is in exceptional demand for fresh morning juice – all over Uganda.

Lodge managers who have formed their cadres have begun working very closely with Honest to evolve their preferred list and will continue to do so as the coming months flow.

Honest is not only a farmer in her own right but also the District Agricultural Officer – with 20 years experience. This expert link is a very positive move as it links directly to local authority and their remit and underpins both ongoing support; seeds for example, and sustainability.

The honey story gains momentum

Two very positive events mark progress in this integrally important component of the livelihood change process.

Honey shop – Brian Mugisha, of Golden Bees, has become so excited by the prospects for developing higher volumes of high quality, forest, honey that he has invested in the village of Rubuguri and opened the Honey Shop and Craft Corner, for a south side outlet. All 40 or so households are informal ‘shareholders’ in the business in that they not only are paid higher for the raw product but also are given ongoing skills training as a ‘free’ service from Golden Bees.

 

 

As a result of this increase in activity, attention to it has been drawn by the Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) – an autonomous unit of United Nations. This attention took a major move forward in Kampala in the last week of October when the RTP Associate and Brian Mugisha were called in to FAO and asked how they may support. Plans are underway for FAO & Golden Bees to work with the Ministry of Agriculture and develop a concept note looking for funding through the FAO discretionary funding streams. The plan is to obtain funding to bring value-add, and additional up-skilling training, to the honey collection centre, at Rubuguri, whereby processing, bottling, labelling, packaging and distribution can happen locally. Impact on SME development, job creation and extended household income can be very large.

Advanced Site Guide and Bird Guide Training

Plans are advanced to ensure that the three trails, outlined in the August update, have newly skilled and advanced guiding – to deliver the quality experience that is, by common consent among UWA Tourism Wardens, lodge managers and tour operators, sadly lacking.

A 6 day, intensive, advanced skills programme has evolved in collaboration with two of the country’s top trainers and USAGA officials. This programme will be offered to the top six guides who have exhibited proactive commitment and enthusiasm to better themselves and their small business and should be completed by the end of 2017 – ready to be programmed for 2018 season.

 

Peter Nizette