Food Across Borders: Improving Food Security through Improved Agricultural Value Chains in East Africa

I spent the last two months traversing East Africa documenting a USAID farmer project called “CNFA Farmer to Farmer.”

Farmer to Farmer works to generate rapid sustained economic growth in the agricultural sector through short-term technical assistance provided by US volunteers. USAID-001

The program provides farmers’ associations, cooperatives and agribusinesses with the opportunity to benefit from free US consulting to improve performance, providing hosts with a professional approach to technical and financial issues.

My responsibility throughout Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania was to document the successes of the program through a multimedia project, through the use of photography, captions and testimonials.

Herein are samples of what the farmers thought.

USAID-002

Name: Ms. Biira Ritah Kapuru

Enterprise: Community Agriculture Teacher- Uganda Institute of Organic Farming

District: Kasese

Country: Uganda

“The farmers were ignorant at first about irrigation but with our trainings we acquired from CNFA, most of them now know the basics of how to irrigate their plants.”

USAID-003

Name:                  Omben Abraham

Enterprise:          KIBIU Vegetable Growers Group (Secretary)

District:                 Arusha

Country:              Tanzania

Testimony:

“Prior to the CNFA training, I used to get 30kgs per acre on my tomatoes but today, I harvest about 55kg because of one additive; efficient production.”

“I’ve managed to cajole close to 75% of other farmers in my group to keep financial records so as to know whether they are making profits or losses to aide proper planning.”

“Record keeping training has encouraged transparency among group members as accountability through financial records are clear and is accessible to any member of the group. Thanks to CNFA’s training on financial management.”

USAID-004

Enterprise:          Mwea Rice Growers Cooperative Society

Town:                   Thika

Testimony:

“More farmers now have confidence in our cooperative due to the professionally manner it’s handled. As a result we attracted 441 more farmers who supplied us with over 1 million kilograms of rice to add onto the 2.4 million we normally receive.”USAID-005

Name: Mrs. Katusabe Janet

Age: 39

Enterprise: Kitchen Garden

District: Masindi

Country: Uganda

“Kitchen Gardening has been a life saver for me and my two daughters, Kawa Sarah and Nyakato Janet who are HIV/AIDS positive. The Kitchen garden knowledge I got as a result of a training conducted by someone from CNFA has enabled me to grow all the nutritional crops that have provide immunity from other diseases that always had them bed ridden. “USAID-006

Name:                  Paschali Axweso Amnaay (Chairman)

Age:                       33

Enterprise:          Mahande Rice Irrigation Scheme (Umoja Wa Kulima)

District:                 MTO-WA-MBU

Country:              Tanzania

Testimony:

“As a farmer, CNFA trainings has enabled me to educate my young brother, education my children and bought myself other farms after shifting to modern ways of cultivating rice.”

“I have trained many farmers who were not fortunate to attend the CNFA training and many have come back testifying to me how successful they have become. For me, that’s a bumper harvest.”USAID-007

Enterprise:          Mwea Rice Growers Cooperative Society

Town:                   Thika

Country:              Kenya

Testimony:

“More farmers now have confidence in our cooperative due to the professionally manner it’s handled. As a result we attracted 441 more farmers who supplied us with over 1 million kilograms of rice to add onto the 2.4 million we normally receive.”USAID-008

Name:                  Musangi Kilonzi

Age:                       62

Enterprise:          Mango

County:                Kitui

Country:              Kenya

Testimony:

“Since I was born, I did not ever think mangoes could help me generate income, going to the extent of giving them out to brokers from Nairobi for free. It all changed when CNFA came around.”

“Today, I am more inquisitive about fruits in general. CNFA has helped me be more aware of some of the treasures that lie around idle when I could make money out of them.”

“I’m more interested in mangoes because at my age, I would have to grow them every season. Besides, I can just harvest them from the vicinity of my compound.”USAID-009

Name: Rev. Jackson Madoba

Age: 50

Enterprise: Cassava

District: Busia

Country: Uganda

“I have started practicing agriculture as a business after benefiting from CNFA training. Before the training, I was not generating much income from my harvests, being mainly for home consumption.”

“My family diet has also improved because now I can grow a variety of crops and also buy those foods that I don’t have from the market after selling my Cassava. Without money, my diet would have been limited.”

“I need a better understanding on how to grow crops all season long, even during the dry season. Irrigation training by CNFA in the future would thus help me achieve this dream.”USAID-010

Name:                  Lota Charles

Age:                       53

Enterprise:          Midawe Vegetable Group

District:                 Bangata

Country:               Tanzania

Testimony:

“Irrigation training enabled me to diversify crops from local crops to high value crops like peas, fresh beans among others. This increased my output, resulting into increased profits that helped me build a home for my family and buy an exotic cow.”USAID-011

Enterprise:          Dryland Seed Limited (Managing Director).

County:                Machakos

Testimony:

“We have benefited from as many as five consultants from CNFA ranging from production, software usage, writing business plans and seed processing as well as, technical assistance training on operations management.”USAID-012

Name:                  Susan Chesambu

Age:                       75 Years

Host:                     Kapchorwa Commercial Farmers Association (KACOFA)

Enterprise:          Farmer (Coffee)

District:                 Kapchorwa

Country:              Uganda

“The CNFA extended to me modern ways of growing coffee. They taught me how to choose coffee seeds, how to space, harvest and handle post harvest coffee seeds. This has resulted into clean coffee with improved quality.”

“I attribute the completion of my house as a direct beneficiary from the CNFA trainings which tremendously increased by coffee sales as a result of practicing modern coffee growing.”USAID-013

Name: Mwine Fred

Enterprise:                Cattle Rearing

District:                      Mbarara

Country:                    Uganda

Testimonial:

“I have since stopped depending on natural grass in grazing my cattle after the CNFA training. Today, despite the weather challenges, I grow hey for my cattle.”

“The expertise training on how to prevent tick and the technicalities  of extra feeding of cattle with proper feeds which has eventually increased my total milk production from about 10litres to over 100 litres per day.”USAID-014

Country:                       Kenya

Enterprise:                    Molo Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC)

Molo Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC)  benefited from CNFA volunteer trainings on improvement of seed potato production at the lab.

The CNFA volunteer assistance helped ADC increase her green house capacity and yields, improved water quality in the green house, less contamination rates observed in the ADC Molo lab, better knowledge on visual virus symptoms from yields and improved involved by ADC staff in roqueing, that is removing diseased plants on a regular basis among others.USAID-015

Name:                  Ernest Lota Megeli (Chairman)

Age:                       53

Enterprise:          Midawe Vegetable Group

District:                 Bangata

Testimony:

“CNFA’s training on leadership made me realize a leader is supposed to guide those under his or her stewardship, encourage positivity, unify divisions and be tolerant.”

“And contrary to our strict traditional values, leadership is not supposed to discriminate according to gender or age.”

“During my leadership, I have managed to raise food production from 20 tons in 2009 per harvest to 113 tons in 2012/2013.”

“CNFA has been a life changer to people in Bangata. We realize, an investment in education is permanent and we thank CNFA for enlightening us and changing our lives for the better.”USAID-016

Meru Central Multipuporse Co-op Society Ltd

Country:                 Kenya

USAID-017

Name:                  Abdalah Sumaye (Finance Secretary)

Age:                       45

Enterprise:          GENDI Rural Cooperative Society

District:                 Babati, Manyara Region

Country:               Tanzania

Testimony:

“I wasn’t informed on how to keep records in an organization, however, after the CNFA training on financial management; I started keep neat financial records in files for the cooperative.”

“Keeping records has helped Gendi Cooperative Society analyze her performance from time to time on whether they are making profits or losses and also helped in creating tangible budgets for the running of the cooperative.”

“We have been able to easily access loans from financial institution to help our farmers because of our good financial management.” USAID-018

Name:                  Farmers

Enterprise:          Usomama Saccos Ltd

District:                 Masakta, Manyara Region

Testimony:

“Farmers belonging to Usomama Sacco bring their products by cow wagon for storage at Usomama Warehouses in Masakata town which can store 6000tons of farmers produce.”USAID-019

Name:                  Angelinia Michael Shirima

Age:                       42

Enterprise:          Mahande Rice Irrigation Scheme (Umoja Wa Kulima)

District:                 MTO-WA-MBU

Country:              Tanzania

Testimony:

“Before CNFA, I was not practicing line transplantation of rice choosing to randomly plant the rice. Today, I use the correct lining when transplanting rice from the nursery, measure the seed weight per unit area which has increase my production from 18 to 40 bags.”

“I now have the technical knowledge on when and how to apply fertilizers to my rice plantation. Before CNFA, I was applying fertilizers when the rice stalks had stared becoming yellow, today; I apply after a recommended standard of 30 days.”

“Rice growing has been my life. It has enabled me build for my family a new family home, pay school fees for my children and bought a bicycle to ease my movements while looking for market.”USAID-020

Name:                  Jessica Jairas (Vice Chairperson)

Age:                       54

Enterprise:          Usomama Saccos Ltd

District:                 Masakta, Manyara Region

Country:              Tanzania

Testimony:

“From the CNFA trainings, I have managed to reduce crop losses by having proper crop protection, proper post production handling and doing market research to sell to the best buyer.”

“CNFA motivated me to try the gray areas initially dominated by men and that was primarily through raising my self esteem.”

“Education has no limit. It’s a continuous process and if CNFA can come with more trainings, I would be utterly delighted not just for myself but my neighbors’, my community, and Sacco as a whole.”

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Imagine losing your life time investment in a flash!!

Last week was one of the darkest in my life. And this is how an eventful and bright day suddenly went dark.

I was meant to travel to Gulu town, located about 400km north of Kampala, Uganda’s capital on Thursday morning to volunteer for a robotic training organized by my friends Solomon King and Sandra Washburn.P01

That morning, Taxi operators went on strike, protesting the increased operation fees. Transport in Kampala City was a mess. The over 5 million inhabitants of this city who primarily use public transport were held hostage. I was part of the statistic that day.P02

Sporadic riots were happening all over down town Kampala. Teargas was being fired from one side of town, bullets went off in the other. I was caught in between. For that reason, I didn’t travel. No one did.

I decided to take advantage of the situation and photographed a few exchanges between the protestors and the Uganda Police. It wasn’t for long. Because of the heavy luggage I had, I decided to jump on a motorbike, commonly known as Boda Boda and headed back home.P03

Later in the evening, I was back with my backpacks at Kisenyi Bus Terminal hoping to catch the second last bus to Gulu which departs at 7pm daily.

After being booked in a Homeland Bus seat 58, I squeezed myself into the back of the bus in preparation for my 6 hour night travel. Since a large number of people had not travelled whole day, the bus’ isle was chaotic with passengers, hawkers, touts, bus managers and ‘thieves’.P04

I was carrying three backpacks with a heavy tripod. The bags were as close to my heart as my life. There was some kind of mini stampede in the bus. My feet, was stamped on, my shoulders were knocked from one side to the other, but my camera bag was safe. At least for that while.P06

58 was an isle seat. My two backpacks were on my lap while the other was beside me. To allow the other two travelling passengers take their seats, I temporarily put my backpacks in the overhead baggage space.

In less than 10 seconds, before I could get back to my seat, I realize something was missing in the overhead luggage space. The most important backpack together with one other backpack was missing! Looking down the isle, my tripod too went missing. I climbed on bodies in a rush to check outside the bus, but it was too late. My life’s savings were all gone.P09

Distraught and confused, I disembarked the bus, sat on the dusty floor thinking about nothing in particular. Sorry was what the bus owners could offer. On the other hand close to Ushs. 40 million (USD 18.000) was stolen. And all they could say was sorry?P07

Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 16-35mm f2.8, Canon 24-70mm f2.8, Canon 70-200mm f2.8, MacBook Pro 15 Inch were among the causalities.

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My livelihood and profession is dependent on taking pictures. It’s my hobby, my passion, my bread, my hope for today and tomorrow. Waking up the next day knowing I didn’t have what defined who I am, who I have become was a hard feeling to hide.P08When

Getting these cameras to Africa is a hustle. Affording them is even much more than a hustle. I saved every last penny over the past four years to invest in what I heartfully believe in. And for all this effort to be crushed in under a minute is mean. Out rightly unfair.P011

Thanks to friends who have encouraged me to move on. Friends who have constantly reminded me that my most important tool is safe in my eyes. They have gone on to create an account on Indiegogo Online Fundraising Platform “African Stories through Photography to source some funds to help me top up on my next gear. In Uganda, another set of friends have created a facebook page “Echwalu Photography Fundraisers” to source for more funds locally. The response from both has been amazingly high. Thank you.

For now, I remain unemployed.

State Of the Nation Picture Review

President Yoweri Museveni gives hundreds of speeches every year. The State Of the Nation Speech however stands out to be the most keenly watched.

Why? The president through that speech goes on and on and on about the achievements of his government over the past year, the challenges, areas to address, etcetera, etcetera.

It’s also a harvest time for media to independently review the president’s performance over the past year. From the economy, to the health sector, education, security, among others.

Yesterday, the President was at the same platform again talking about the year before and the year ahead.

“Of course not all the things I talked about last year have been fulfilled because many of them take time, and in any case, the resource are limited,” President Museveni, said yesterday during his speech.

Let me not dwell much on the speech and more on my area of specialization-Photojournalism.

I am more interested on how the different media houses in Uganda reflected the president’s speech through their most important image of the day-The front page picture.

The Daily Monitor

The papers headline is “Museveni Lists 10 barriers to economic growth”

Picture Choice:

The Daily Monitor

In any picture, the President was always going to be the central subject. Daily Monitor chose to use a picture of President Museveni inspecting the guard of honour.

The composition was fairly good. The perspective was a bit good especially with policemen lined up on either side of the picture boundaries. The president’s face was gloomy, to some extent, a good reflection of the headline.

However;

How many times have you seen the president inspecting a guard of honour? Like seriously, how many times? And how many more times. And look, the president was walking on one leg. The other for some reason was cut.

Unless it’s an absolutely unique moment, an ordinary picture of the president inspecting a guard of honour should never find its way to the front page.

The New Vision,

Headline:

“Museveni Reports on 2012 Achievements”

Picture Choice:

The New Vision

A smiley president on the podium giving the actual speech. Perfect choice of picture. An achievement is a reflection of joy, laughter’s and enjoyment. The ambience is always calm and welcoming. This picture has it.

The New Vision In my opinion got just the right picture to go with the headline. It’s a positive headline, blended with a positively well-exposed looking president.

However;

When you take away the headline, its just another boring smiley picture of the president. The composition is boring- positioning the president right in the middle of the frame. We’ve seen hundreds of this kind and this particular one does not stand out an inch different from the rest. In Photography, The rule of thirds is one of the most useful composition techniques. Used here, the picture would have looked somewhat fresh and different.

The Red Pepper:

Headline:

“M7 Gives The Most Important Speech Of The Year Before His Ministers But; THEY SLEPT AGAIN”

Picture Choice:

Red Pepper

One of the biggest stories over the last 10 years in Uganda was by Red Pepper in 2009.

John Batanudde, Red Peppers’ photojournalist of the day shot close-ups of the Ministers sleeping as the president delivered what is regarded as one of the most important speeches of the year. The headline I remember read; “State Of the Nation” accompanied by a full page of mugshots of sleeping ministers.

It was fresh. It was shocking. It was unique. It was everything, a newspaper wished to have had on their front pages.

It caused a lot of uproar. There was even suggestion by Members of Parliament that media be booted out of the plenary section of parliament after Red Peppers’ colorful front page.

Fast-forward, 2013, the Paper attempted to bring back memories of that day in today’s copy. Big disappointment. It does not come close to even a quarter of the original idea.

No wonder “THEY SLEPT AGAIN” was way much bigger than the three pictures used combined.

The Observer

Insert Headline:

“Museveni: Student Loans Coming”

Picture Choice:

The Observer

The Papers choice was a picture of the president inspecting a guard of honour. The picture is not in anyway a reflection of promise.

Cutting some bit of the Presidents hut further killed the image. Unless it’s a close up shot, it’s never a good practice to slice off people’s bodies, especially the edges.

My verdict; One of those pictures you would run alongside a pictorial in the inside pages. It’s not a picture worth a front page and certainly not a picture that would sell copies.

On to 2014, these same pictures will find their way back to our front pages. Maybe the coming 12 months should help photo editors plan in advance what pictures exactly would genuinely reflect the state of the nation.

The president does not reflect the station of the nation. If he does, then not certainly at The Serena Hotel.

The condition of traders, health workers, farmers, drivers, midwives, in my opinion, paints a better picture when talking about  the state of the nation. Food for Thought maybe.

Challenges to Press Freedom in Uganda

Harriet Anena, a deputy Chief sub-editor at The Daily Monitor was in her own world of pressure from the looming masters exams when the news came through.

“Baibs….the Demons, they haunt, this time hard!!” a workmate wrote on her wall Facebook wall.1

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: A lone female journalist with The Independent Magazine -Uganda defiantly stands right in-front of a sea of Policemen, demanding The Daily Monitor, Kfm, Dember fm and Red Pepper to be opened. The publications were closed for running a letter that was written to the Director of Internal Security Organization (ISO), asking for an inquiry into alleged assassination plot of those opposed to a purported “Muhoozi Project”. Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba is the son to President Yoweri Museveni. It’s been rumored that Museveni, who has been president of Uganda for the last 27 years is grooming Muhoozi to take over from him, thus, the “Muhoozi Project”-

Anena, realized instantly that something had gone wrong. Really wrong. After making a call or two, she confirmed beyond doubt that security operatives had besieged her work place.

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-A police officer guards the entrance to The Daily Monitor newspaper that was declared a crime scene. while searching for a letter purportedly written by Gen. David Sejusa, published by the newspaper.The letter was written to the Director of Internal Security Organization, asking for an inquiry into alleged assassination plot of those opposed to a purported “Muhoozi Project”-

Calm, shy, astute, hardworking with an inseparable love for writing is what best describes Anena.

Replying to her friend on reading the message, she simply wrote; “ Oh mehn, we’ll b gd, keep strong…”

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-Police officers are seen enjoying the balcony of The Daily Monitor premises in Namuwongo that was stormed and closed off as a crime scene while searching for a letter purportedly written by Gen. David Sejusa, published by the newspaper.The letter was written to the Director of Internal Security Organization, asking for an inquiry into alleged assassination plot of those opposed to a purported “Muhoozi Project”-

The Police had stormed The Daily Monitor premises to search for a letter purportedly written by Gen. David Sejusa that was published in the paper.

The letter was written to the Director of Internal Security Organization, asking for an inquiry into alleged assassination plot of those opposed to a purported “Muhoozi Project”.

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-Human Rights bodies joined the fight for freedom of expression by carrying a “dead pen” in a “coffin”. In their message, they called on government to spare the whistle blower and instead deal with the “real criminals”.Eventually, Police broke their protest and arrested about five of them-

 

Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba is the son to President Yoweri Museveni. Its been rumored that President Museveni who has been president of Uganda for the last 27 years is grooming Muhoozi to take over from him, thus, the “Muhoozi Project”.

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-Kampala Metropolitan Police commander, Andrew Felix Kaweesi addresses journalists who were protesting the continued occupancy of The Daily Monitor and Red Pepper-

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….And when diplomacy failed, the journalists were sprayed with teargas, followed by some brutal arrests !-

Gen. Sejusa has since failed to return to Uganda fearing for his life and has reportedly been asking the British Government for protection while in the UK where he had gone to when the letter was published.

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-Ronald Muhinda, a journalist with Uganda’s Radio One fm is forcefully thrown out of the cordoned area during the “Occupy The Daily Monitor and Red Pepper” protest. He lost his belt in the scuffle, registering minor injuries along the way-

The news hit Anena unexpectedly hard, like hundreds other journalists and staff at The Daily Monitor. Confounded with exams to write, she passed close to the premises that very evening of May 20 on her way to university to confirm what was already an operation gone deep.

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-A defiant journalist with The Independent Magazine takes a picture of a police who was ordering her to vacate the area. The two Policemen standing behind her eventually managed to rough her off the cordoned area-

After sitting her exams, her last word for the day when The Daily Monitor was closed before calling it a day was one of irritation, but with a mixture of hope too.

“We shall keep watching until the dog chokes on its puke. #WatchDog,” she said.

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-A week after The Daily Monitor, The Red Pepper, Kfm and Dembe fm remained, journalists took to the streets to demand that the media houses be re-opened. Their peaceful protests were met with full force of the Uganda Police. Here, journalists wash their faces after Police fired teargas was fired at them in one of the protests they called “Occupy The Daily Monitor and Red Pepper”-

The following days were going full of confusion and uncertainty as to when the government would finish their search and leave the premises.

While ongoing negotiations between government and the proprietors of Nation Media Group (NMG) where Daily Monitor is a subsidiary went behind the walls, journalists organized daily protests outside the Monitor premises to protest the continued occupancy of the Daily Monitor and Red Pepper.

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……..And the cheers became louder and louder as reporters returned to their working station-

Many of them were teargased and beaten for peacefully protesting, others, were brutality arrested and detained for prolonged hours before let free after recording statements.

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-Documents are seen scattered on the floor of The Daily Monitor’s newsroom. The chairs too were thrown in all directions as the search for the letter Gen. David Sejusa purportedly wrote and was subsequently published by Daily Monitor ended-

Amidst these all these challenges, The Daily Monitor had (has) to contend with an ongoing case where the newspaper took the matter to the Civil Division of the High Court to hear an appeal to have a lower court decision that The Daily Monitor hand over documents in the Gen. David Sejusa story to police reversed.

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-Rachel Mabala, a photojournalist shares a light moment with a colleague while filing pictures for the newspaper’s re-opening, 12 days after it was stormed and closed by government-

Anena meanwhile finished her exams in the mix of things and is more than excited when the minister of internal affairs, Hilary Onek announced;

“The police have called off the cordon of the Monitor premises so that they can resume their normal business as police continue with the search,”

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-The Daily Monitor staff is seen gathered in silence while watching news on NTV Uganda about the publications re-opening at their offices in Namuwongo, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda’s capital-

After close to two weeks, Anena had this to say on her Facebook wall;

“Back to office n it’s all smiles, hugs n laughter. Even the brutal police commander is shaking my hands today…”13

-The Daily Monitor wasn’t the only casualty when Security Operatives stormed and cordoned off the premises as a crime area, 93.3 Kfm, a subsidiary of Nation Media Group was also closed. Staff of Kfm back in studio for the first time in 11 days begin preparations to resume normal programing-

14-The Daily Monitor wasn’t the only casualty when Security Operatives stormed and cordoned off the premises as a crime area, 93.3 Kfm, a subsidiary of Nation Media Group was also closed.Above is Sean Oseku, producer of one of Uganda’s most listened to political radio talk-shows; “The Hot Seat”. He was back in the studio for first time since the station was switched off air on May 20-

15-Photojournalist, Isaac Kasamani too the time to relax to the fullest as he often did even before the The Daily Monitor Publication was closed. Here, he was going through the re-opening images at the newsroom-

16-Even after The Daily Monitor was opened, the Managing Editor, Don Wanyama was often seen isolated making calls, texting and organizing his team of reporters to ensure the newspaper gets back to the streets 12 days after it was closed-

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-This is what was left of the News Editor-Weekends’ desk!-

Sustainable Agroforestry in Uganda and Tanzania

I spent a great deal of time in rural Tanzania and Uganda last month (April), documenting the works of We Effect, a Swedish NGO that seeks to empower the average rural farmer.06

Formerly known as Swedish Cooperation Centre, We Effect has been promoting rural development focusing on sustainable agriculture, food security and local business development since 1958.

And by setting up micro companies, We Effect believes farmers can invest in their own farming operations.

07Crucial in the organisation’s focus areas is the effect of Climate change, which is already too visible in Eastern Africa. A case in point is Somalia that has been baring the brunt of drought and famine, which has killed just under 300.000 people.

In Uganda and Tanzania, We Effect has set up farmer programs that aim at contributing towards an environmentally sustainable development as well as to decreased vulnerability to climate change.01

My role was to document the challenges and success stories of some of these farmers. These images will take you through Musoma, Rorya (Tanzania) to Mubende and Mityana in Uganda.08

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COPYRIGHT of all the images used in this blog post belongs to- We Effect.

Rock Climbing Challenge

I spent my weekend in a village in Buyende district, located east of Kampala, Uganda’s capital.

I was on assignment to shoot the launch of Kagulu Hill tourism site. Basically, it’s a village full of rocks. Rocks where traditional healers get their powers to perform healing rituals to their clients.

According to Busoga Expo, Kagulu Hill is a mystical wonder, which marks the first settlement area for Basoga of Bunyoro origin led by Prince Mukama. Although the cultural value of Kagulu extends to cover a wide area, the remaining and visible landmark is the Kagulu hill. The hill sits in between two roads that divide at the foothill to lead to Gwaya and Iyingo.

It is also among a handful of hills in Uganda that have been adapted for tourist climbing, with constructed steps all the way to the top. At the top is a spectacular 360 view with an expanse of green vegetation and Lake Kyoga.

I made it to the top in record time for any photographer. Take note. I made countless long stops to catch a breath and shoot those ascending and descending the hill.

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Local climbers take the final walk to the summit. The hard part, which is steep and slippery, has been overcome.

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Local climbers take the final walk to the summit. The hard part, which is steep and slippery, has been overcome.

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A friend who had climbed the hill before gave me this message before I started the climb. “Until I see a picture of you at the very top, next to the little building, I will conclude it as mission unaccomplished.” Well, I’ve nothing more to say.

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There are those who could not let the sweat to the summit roll down for free as they resorted to using chalk and stones to put remembrance notes

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A view from the top of Kigulu hill of people heading back to their homesteads. Beyond the hill, which I assume many of them have gotten enough of, President Yoweri Museveni who was the chief guest must have been the reason for these numbers. It takes a lifetime for some of these villagers to lay their eyes on the country’s number one citizen.

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Descending the Kagulu Hill and appreciating the effort put in thus far. A local stares back at the hill top on his way down

 

And after safely reaching the foot of the Kagulu Hill, it was my turn to look back at the hill with one last departing shot. A lot of calories burnt but it was worth the adventure.

If the world thinks being kind is crazy, then Africa is the craziest continent

By now, some of you might have come across the video already or watched it in the comfort of your living room.

Last week, Coca Cola launched her first advertisement of 2013 for Africa, a Pan African campaign dubbed “Africa, Let’s Go Crazy”  1

The advertisement gears towards inspiring and celebrating individuals who spread happiness on the continent by performing random acts of kindness in the daily lives of people.

“The idea of being kind and that kindness giving you happiness is something that transcends the boarders; so here in Africa because we believe that we are innately kind we are saying through this campaign that if the world thinks being kind is crazy, then Africa is the craziest continent,” said Rosalind Gichuru, The Coca-Cola Central East and West Africa Strategic Manager during the launch.

The campaign was derived from research done by BMC Innovation Company that revealed that, making other people happy is the key to own happiness and for the world to be a happier place, people need to be kinder.

My involvement comes from a blog post I did; Extreme Poverty but Irreplaceable Smile. With a group of friends, we set out for Kisenyi Slum in the capital, Kampala to take, print and return photos for free. It’s a practice I had always done sub-consciously.3

I offer this service selectively though. I do this for people who can barely afford a meal. For people who have never owned a picture in their lives and for people who are extremely poor, yet so happy and they don’t even know.

As Edward, I am incapable of feeding hundreds and thousands of Africa’s poor.

No, I am unable to.

But if I believe I can reach out to hundreds and thousands of these poor through my photographs and make a difference in their lives.AF3E8094

Through my photographs, am always looking towards encouraging them, spreading positive energy around them and encouraging them to discover and appreciate who they really are in those photos.

The Coca-Cola TV commercial also features Douglas Rori from Kenya, Corporal Sebul Audu from Nigeria, Edward Echwalu from Uganda and Belachew Birma (World Laughter Champion) from Ethiopia.

 

ALL IMAGES USED HERE ARE FULL COPYRIGHT OF COCA COLA INC. YOU MAY NOT USE THEM WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM COCA COLA

50 Tips for African Photographers

The expectations you carry as a professional photographer are immense.

On top of delivering on your personal projects, assignments and commissions, a string of colleagues, budding photographers are looking up to you for inspiration.

tips4Over the past couple of years, I have responded to hundreds of Facebook , Twitter, sms, email messages with requests ranging from ;

“how do I become a photographer; teach me how to take nice photos; which camera do you recommend I buy to take better photos etc…etc “

I’ve physically met many. Some really genuine ones and others who honestly don’t know what they want to do in life. However it’s important to give everybody a chance to be heard.

I have thus come up with 50 tips for both professional, near professional and budding photographers, sourced from my personal experience over the years;

 

  1. Dress appropriately, depending on which assignment you are covering
  2. Always smile at the people you are photographing. It strikes a connection and at the same time relaxing them.
  3. Compliment their smiles, the colours of their cloths, how photogenic they are. Many people will tell you they are not photogenic even if they are.
  4. Know your camera. Read, understand and put into practice the different functions of your camera.
  5. Copy compositions you think cut it for you but don’t stop there, Perfect them
  6. A picture is as good as the story behind it.
  7. Sometimes, overly exposed shots are creatively beautiful
  8. Learn to genuinely criticize your work
  9. Never stop reading and learning new tricks. In this digital era, photography is evolving every day.
  10. “Edward, you ain’t as good as they claim. Focus!” is how I react to compliments/ praises from people about my work. Don’t get carried away.3
  11. Even professional photographers have bad bad bad pictures. They choose only good ones for you to see. Don’t get discouraged.
  12. Always do backups. Budding photographers have this casual way of treating their pictures. For some reason they always think they are bad pictures. You need to have a record of how you started and maybe then you will appreciate how far you have grown.
  13. Never stop comparing your work with the best in the business, especially those who inspire you
  14. If you cant get your pants dirty, then you should try being a doctor, not a photographer.
  15. It’s safer to underexpose. But I would encourage you to find that perfect exposure.
  16. Never stop having a curious mind
  17. Develop your niche and perfect it. Others choose to specialize in war photography, wedding photography, wild life photography, Flowers, Stones..
  18. Once in a while, photograph for free. Its good to give back.
  19. Photography and alcohol don’t quite match
  20. Mistakes are twofold. At times, you get great shots my mistake and other times, a mistake can cost you a great shot.
  21. Move on from a bad day in the office. It should only make you a better photographer.
  22. The best camera is the world is your eye. Try outcompeting it.
  23. Learn to compose a perfect first shot. It sets your mindset towards the rest of the shoot.
  24. Many have said it before me. Allow me repeat it too. No picture is worth your life. If it is dangerous, move away immediately.
  25. LIGHT should be your best friend
  26. Try to be calm
  27. Share your work (Website, blogs, flikr, Google +, Pinterest etc). You never know who your next idol will be.
  28. Pray before any assignmenttips3
  29. Share your gear (Cameras) with people you ABSOLUTELY trust.
  30. Keep Time.
  31. If you haven’t got a good sunset shot before in your life, then you haven’t started photography yet.
  32. No condition is bad for photography. Its how you use that condition to your advantage that matters.
  33. Eat. Eat. Eat. It’s never a good idea to shoot on an empty stomach.
  34. Share your work with someone more experienced. They will point out your weakness and strength. It’s healthy for you.
  35. Your buddies should be the last to critique your work. They will always tell you how your pictures are amazing. And you cannot blame them. They are just being good friends. Friends support each other.
  36. Mobile Phone cameras have become the most widely circulated cameras in the world. Use them everyday.
  37. Take short breaks once in a while to refresh your mind and ideas.
  38. Don’t tweet and Facebook while photographing. That’s too much distraction. Trust me, you will miss a great shot while trying to maximize those 140 characters (twitter).
  39. Walk regularly. It’s unlikely that you will get great shots inside that Range Rover of yours.
  40. Take sometime to gym or do exercises. Stiffness limits your flexibility.
  41. Avoid dressing in bright colours. You are always trying to be invisible as a photographer in order to capture scenes in the most natural of ways. Bright Colours will be surrendering you every time.
  42. Trust your guts
  43. Never lack time to listen to and inspire budding photographers. Create the time. You were once as bad, if not worse.
  44. Never be afraid to charge what you think is worth your price. As long as you can deliver of course.
  45. Be ethical. Respect your profession and the people you photograph.Tips2
  46. Every camera, including you phone can take award-winning photos. The key is to first photography before you complain about how your camera sucks.
  47. Avoid repetition of shots. In other words, avoid being predictable in your composition.
  48. Allow criticism too. Sometimes your work really sucks and you’ve got to know it however much it hurts. It should catalyze you to shoot better images the next time.
  49. Photoshoping is no sign of weakness as a photographer. Hundreds have racked millions out of photoshoping. If people indeed disapproved of their work, they wouldn’t have earned even a penny.
  50. Have as much fan as possibly you can. Photography is beyond just a hobby; it should be a life style. Enjoy it.

Share your experiences in the comments section please.

Big Dreams for Ugandan Female Slum-based Boxers

The once bleak careers of four budding female boxers has got a surprise lift now that good Samaritans have offered to fulfill their dreams.

Katanga Female Boxer-2

“Morine Nakilyowa (23), is a mother of four and has won two of her five fights.”

– – –

Morine Nakilyowa (23), Lydia Nantale (17), Hellen Baleke (24) and Diana Tulyanabo (20) live an impoverished lifestyle in the Kampala slum of Katanga. Without permanent shelter or jobs, Tulyanabo is pursuing her education as a nursing student but the rest are school dropouts.

It’s on the backdrop of this upbringing that the quartet resorted to boxing a few years ago as a way of surviving the harsh conditions of crime-ridden Katanga. Over the past two years, they have featured prominently in local tournaments representing Katanga-based Rhino Boxing Club. Still, they are yet to get the deserved recognition like their male counterparts.Katanga Female Boxer-1 lydia

“Lydia Nantale (17) (Right), has won one of her two fights to date. Here, she warms up for her training in Katanga Slum”

– – –

At the 2011 East African championships, Tulyanabo won the welterweight title while Baleke triumphed in the light welterweight division. The closest they came to realising their dream was when they trained so hard for last year’s AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in China only to be let down by government’s lack of funds. It didn’t help matters that local boxing is entangled in administration wrangles and, therefore, couldn’t mobilise support for them.Katanga Female Boxer-3

“The four girls are seen here warming up at the start of an afternoon training session”

– – –

Since then, the fighters have struggled to make an impact due to the absence of a functioning amateur boxing body as well as the limited number of credible opponents. To keep active, they seek opponents from across the border and feature on the undercards of locally-arranged professional fights. In extreme situations, they take on each other at catch-weights.

Despite the setback and dire situation, the foursome still harbours big dreams of representing Uganda at future major international events. Indeed, that could become a reality following the timely intervention of Lori Steinhorst, the president of Classic Women Warriors Boxing (CWWB) and Eddie Montalvo, vice-president CWWB.Katanga Female Boxer-4

Touched by their story, which appeared in the Canadian National Post, Steinhorst and Montalvo have offered to help the female boxers with logistical support and any other form of educational assistance to develop their skills.

The duo say they are just “acting out of the love we have for the sport and all the girls/women who practice it ” are coordinating this effort with the help of The Observer.(Newspaper)Katanga Female Boxer-8

“The four female boxers share two pairs of worn out boxing gloves.”

– – –

Steinhorst says they were not moved because of their gender but by the will and spirit of the young girls: “While this happens in many parts of the world, this has been our first look at how little these women have,” she says. “Yet they continue to make every effort to reach their dream as Olympic hopefuls. This is evidence to us that their poverty is circumstantial, as their spirits are rich and have no boundary.”9-2

Here, Hellen Baleke (24), the most experienced of the lot with 11 wins, four draws and a single loss goes through some boxing sessions with her coach in Katanga slum.”

– – –

To spice up the drive, CWWB product Mary ‘Merciless’ McGee has pledged a portion from her International Boxing Association (IBA) female light welterweight title fight against Holly Holm on May 11, 2013 to the project. “Whatever it takes, we must do something, anything, to help these women,” she says. “They deserve so much more.”

Tulyanabo and company are excited by the news and efforts of Steinhorst and Montlavo and have promised not to disappoint the efforts and sacrifices of the benefactors. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance that we have always longed for,” says  Tulyanabo. “Like all sportsmen, we want to compare ourselves with the best in the world to realise our potential and abilities. We shall do anything within our abilities not to disappoint.”AF3E8466

“An invite for Rhino Boxing Club for a local tournament.”

– – –

CWWB also set up a special project dubbed Women Boxers of Kampala Project (WBKP) to raise funds and awareness of the quartet’s plight.

“We will travel to Kampala in an effort to determine exactly what these athletes need to be successful,” adds Steinhorst. “We will take with us the equipment we know they are lacking. Once we are able to determine from these women what their needs truly are, we will return with the mission to raise additional funding to meet those needs.”5-2

“There are no professional punching bags. They cannot afford to buy one. As a result, the four girls use discarded car tires as replacement. Here, Hellen Baleke (24), the most experienced of the lot with 11 wins, four draws and a single loss punches away.”

– – –

Fast facts

  • Nakilyowa is a mother of four and has won two of her five fights.
  • In six fights, Tulyanabo has one win, a draw and four losses.
  • Nantale has won one of her two fights to date.
  • Baleke is the most experienced of the lot with 11 wins, four draws and a single loss.

Story by Kisakye Frank

Photo Of the Day: DR Congo Refugee

Photo Of the DayA REFUGEE is defined as; “A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”  For this particular picture, it is to escape a war. DR Congo (DRC) is synonymous with war. It is possibly the country with the most internal conflicts in the world.

I took this photo in a transit refugee camp in a border town of Kisoro, some 500km west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. She was one of several thousands of Congolese who were fleeing in Uganda when the ongoing conflict between the M23 rebels and the DR Congo government intensified in the eastern part of the DRC. Over 800,000 have since fled their homes since the rebellion started.

It’s quite a distance between her hometown and Kisoro, as such; I would imagine she would have preferred to carry her entire house with her but one head and two hands could not. I can see with her is money pass hanging around her neck, her baby’s basin and possibly clothes, saucepans and a few other necessities on her head.

She’s faced with two rather “dark” destinations and ordinarily couldn’t pick either if she had a choice. One is the war back at home, which she chose to run away from and then other, Nyakabande Refugee camp, a very crowded camp which The Independent News Magazine (Uganda) right sums; (Nyakabande )

“Plagued with poor sanitation and rampant illness. Malaria is taking its toll, especially on children, and women are forced to give birth without proper aids. The first aid clinic in the camp is constantly without drugs due to the swelling numbers.”

Amidst these challenges, she wears a very strong candid face. One that has accepted the challenging environments she’s surrounded with. An environment of a homeless woman.