Second Year Report: March 2018

Following the Darwin Initiative and IIED financial year – the second year of activity has drawn to a close with some very high impact results, new products, more people getting involved, renewed enthusiasm for making livelihood changes and learning how resilience and persistence can make a significant difference to daily lives.

It’s been a very productive and intense second year building on skills and products that were identified, in year one, as having good demand potential with some spectacular and rewarding progress and results, as has been reported on in previous blogs.

For the final blog, to wrap up the financial year there are, still, some wonderful and meaningful success stories to tell.

Golden Bees – golden Bwindi honey in glass!!

Brian Mugisha has, since opening the Rubuguri Honey Shop, been hard at work over at Mpungu working with Tina, of Change-a-life-Bwindi, and approximately 30 ex-poachers – now avid apiarists. He has passed on skills in design, hive health and maintenance, bee husbandry and so on – to equip the men with skills more appropriate to commercial production, as opposed to subsistence production.

He has promised, along with Tina, to buy 100% of production available outside of household needs. To increase the quantity, as well as quality, he has calculated that each beekeeper needs to build two hives a week – to increase the hive stock from 20, as of end February 2018, to 200 by end of the year. The hive stock is at 50 to date located on the edge of the forest, where the bees forage for pollen, in a tea plantation, so that the baboons do not rob the hives!

photo: Brian with his bottle

And the BIG news – is that Golden Bees has, as a result of working with the project and making the commitment to the people and their future, created and launched Bwindi Honey – in glass bottles – a first for Uganda.

 

The lady weavers – creating new products to complete the range

We reported last time that the ladies were moving rapidly on not only ‘upskilling’ but also honing their new found skills to create new products for the household range.

The intention, from the beginning; in January 2017, was to create a high quality but small range of baskets and tableware woven products. ‘Things’ that would be easily transportable, look great in a home and be useful.

We reported, in our January 2018 blog piece, that Angela and her ladies were going to experiment with rectangular tablemats. ‘Rectangular’ is really very complex to weave but the ladies have been successful and Sanaa has taken the raw experiment and used his skills to take the design method to new levels.

During the middle of February, the last of the five one week residential training weeks was conducted in Kampala at Sanaa’s Lebowa compound. For many of the ladies, this was the first time they had; been outside Buhoma, been on a bus, seen a large town, seen a huge city (Kampala), seen a traffic jam, seen traffic cop, been to an hotel (to see a gift shop) – an so on…a real adventure for them and, no doubt, the beginning of family stories and legends.

They worked extremely hard on honing skills and, importantly, learning new ones to take back ‘home’ to teach others.

The photos show the complete range, now as well as carved gourds and the first experiments of the placemats and coasters.

 

Weaving for a positive daily lifestyle change

In the January blog, we reported that there had been a major order secured for baskets for a new lodge. We have since had reported that six of the ladies refused to be paid – with money. They asked Tina to please use the money they would have earned to buy solar panels! Superb lifestyle change for them as connection to the grid, for most of the villages around Bwindi is non-existent. Now – they will have light; to weave at home after dark or when it is dark and raining, for the kids to study, read and do their homework and, generally, illuminate an otherwise ‘black’ space.

photo: choose… solar 1, solar 2 or solar video

 Fresh vegies for the lodges – new food for the ladies!

The continuing push to get the lodges to buy more locally by helping market gardeners to grow not just better quality and quantity but also new types of vegetables is showing excellent sustainable results – and a ‘hoped for’ nutritional benefit for the growers.

The lodges have, as they had promised, continued to support and buy from the market gardeners in both the south side and Buhoma.

Honest, the agronomist from Kabale we engaged to help, has done an incredible job teaching, among other things; ‘proper’ mulching, composting, designing and building propagation beds, raised beds and crop rotation – for optimum supply of seasonal requirements.

The ex-poachers on the south side and the women and men over at Buhoma are really selling a lot more, now that more lodge managers have seen Honest at work and interacted with her when she has attended the partners’ meetings.

At Buhoma – six types of vegetables are new to the range grown previously and four were totally unknown to the ladies of the Bwindi Community Nutrition Project, where Honest has been working; cauliflower, celery, beetroot and parsley. The ladies have now tried these – love them and have now added them to their diet! Wonderful outcome.

photo: cauliflower and capsicum in raised beds

Refining new exploration trails

We reported earlier that there was a need, among tour operators, to have interesting, good quality nature and culture walks. This is now complete, a full newly designed curriculum for advanced guiding has been designed and delivered (to 7 qualifying guides) and the trails tested for authenticity as well as for the new guiding skills of the guys and girls.

The Kampala tour operator partners and local Bwindi lodge managers will have these online and as leaflets, in the immediate future once IIED has completed the final ‘tweaks’ and edits.

Evaluating the progress and process

The final ‘event’ of the second year was the presence of two independent evaluators, contracted by the Darwin Initiative, at Bwindi and at the last partners meeting in Kampala, in March.

An enthusiastic and thumbs up outcome and a clean bill of health.