What We Do at the Northern Uganda Development Foundation
We first meet and talk to village and ask them what they need. Most often this is a well. We then plan the digging of the well together with the villagers, from site selection to installation and management of the well. The important point is to let the villagers know that the well is theirs and they have been involved throughout the planning, implementation, and management stages of the well installation. Once the installation of well is completed, we hand it over to the villagers who take its ownership and management; and we become advisors.
The villagers appoint the chairman, secretary, and treasurer to manage the well. They collect a small fee (from those who can afford to do so; and those who cannot afford, can provide in-kind help such as keeping well site clean) and put the money in the local Bank for future maintenance of the well. Regular meetings are held as a forum for open communications and accountability for the operation of the well.
Mainly we build wells from the generous donations of many people. The greatest need for all people is clean and safe water. Ironically Uganda has a lot of water but very little clean and safe water. Because of the lack of infrastructure and sanitation the available water is contaminated and unsafe to drink. It is full of bacteria and parasites. The resources are even lacking to boil the contaminated water. The lack of electricity and the scarcity of wood leave no heat source to boil the water. Previous use of wood for this purpose has led to severe deforestation in Uganda and has started to change the local climate.
All the well parts are obtained locally in Uganda and the village has access to trained personnel to fix the wells when needed.
We have currently built 83 wells and repaired 3 in northern Uganda. By the village accounts they serve, even if poorly, almost 100,000 people. Many more are needed. By the villagers accounts the wells we have built reduce water born illnesses by 85%! This allows children to go to school, villagers to work and improves the general health and productivity of all using the clean and safe water.
The sad fact is that 50% of the wells built in Africa fail after two years. This is due to a lack of involvement and ownership of these wells. This is not acceptable to NUDF and we make sure that all our wells will function indefinitely. We involve the villagers from the start and we ensure that a committee is in place to look after each well. This committee is responsible to collect what money they can from the people using the well for future repairs. We make sure the people understand that this is their well and they are responsible for the maintenance of it. We regularly inspect the wells and talk to the committees to make sure they are well maintained.
Health and Nutrition
Most of the people from Northern Uganda have spent 22 years in Internally Displaced Peoples Camps because of the war with the LRA. Because of the nature of such camps a whole generation has grown without proper education concerning farming and nutrition. We work hard to educate what people we can. With out Demonstration Farm and our Community Centre we hope to educate villagers about growing nutritional foods that also will become a money generation endeavour. This will help greatly to allow the villagers to become self sufficient and healthier.
After consulting many villages a popular option is for goat rearing. We often supply as little as 5 goats to get a village started. Because we give these goats to organized village groups the government will assist with a monetary contribution to buy 40 -60 additional goats. This allows an initial investment of 5 goats to grow to 45- 65 goats. The villagers can often double this number in a year. The villagers can then sell goats for an income. This assists the whole village to obtain what they need.
Oxen and Ploughs
Uganda has very good soil and sufficient rain for two full growing seasons. Farming is a good way for villagers to feed themselves and to get out of poverty. The biggest problem is that this requires hard manual labour. At the break of dawn men and women will go to the fields and spend all day preparing the fields. This work is done but the hard labour limits the size of the field and the crop.
We keep the oxen and ploughs at our base in Kamdini. They can be rented out by farmers and villages for a small fee to help the village plough its fields faster. We decided to keep the oxen for a few reasons. We could affect a greater number of villages; and the villagers have to take some responsibility for their progress by paying the small fee. Using the oxen is much easier on the villagers and will allow them to farm larger plots of land and increase their food production.
This activity ties in nicely to our demonstration farm. We hope to use our demonstration farm to educate farmers and villages on different types of food these farmers can grow that will be healthier and more profitable.
At this time, NUDF indirectly supports fundamental primary education by supporting the infrastructure. In the past NUDF has constructed a well at Kamdini Primary School to support the 1,700+ students at the school. NUDF acts as a liaison between schools in Canada that might have fund raising programs for schools in Africa. In the past NUDF has supplied solar panels, a computer, and printer for the school. NUDF supplies the school with paper for the computer and medical supplies donated from schools and individuals in Canada and will be supplying another solar panel soon.
In early 2008, the executive of NUDF decided to take a bold next step: to plan and execute the construction of a centre that could act as a project headquarters, a meeting place for the people to discuss priorities and projects, and a place to stay for visiting medical practitioners supplying fundamental health care to the people. This vision has slowly come to fruition. Built on donated land, the foundation of the centre to be called Canada House was laid in June 2008. The interior was completed by the end of 2012. In addition, three self-contained brick shelters constructed in the local design were constructed and were completed in 2013. Canada house, besides being NUDF headquarters, offers for the first time much needed community education programs.
We uphold our mission
Northern Uganda Development Foundation (NUDF) is a registered charity organization based in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada, with the mission to mitigate poverty and improve the standard of living of the rural people of northern Uganda by promoting sustainable development solutions in the region. We seek to empower the villagers because they are the stakeholders, as well as change agents. Villagers and NUDF jointly and closely follow a “participatory development” process in which they are substantially involved in the selection, design, planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of programs and projects that will affect them.
We build wells and self-esteem
About 90% of your donation for a well goes directly into the digging and construction of the well. The on-site NUDF members in Uganda supervise the construction of the well. The donation money is used to directly pay for local materials, equipment rental, and labour. We pay the local workers and merchants directly to ensure nobody is profiting from charitable donations. We involve the villagers in the entire process of well construction. When a well is complete, the villagers take ownership of the well and appoint a small committee consisting of a chairperson, a secretary, and a treasurer to manage the well. Where possible the committee collects small fees, from those who can afford it, for well use and puts the money in the local bank for future maintenance of the well. Regular meetings are held as a forum for open communications and accountability for the operation of the well.
We enable hope for a better future
One local villager said to an NUDF member “I never thought I’d live to see the day that we had fresh drinking water.” The seeds we help plant are not just the seeds that grow in the ground. Our assistance and actions help plant the seeds of hope in the collective consciousness of the villagers.
Like any place in the world, there are those who would take advantage of the less fortunate. On one of our trips to Uganda (which are self-funded) we discovered a person who was using legal intimidation tactics against less educated villagers in an attempt to appropriate one of the wells. Due to our connections with local government, we met with the President of Uganda and put an immediate stop to this person’s actions. The villagers know they have the NUDF on their side to support them.
A generation of farming knowledge has been lost on those who grew up in government camps to escape the devastation of civil war. We built a small demonstration farm to show the villagers the types of crops that can be grown, and how to grow them.
We get their goat
When we asked what was needed most besides clean drinking water, the answer was “enough money to buy 40 goats.” Instead of providing the money, we had a local Ugandan NUDF representative purchase the goats directly and provide the goats to the village. As the goats multiply, some of them can be sold to provide money for medication for the goats and other purposes. Like the wells, the goat herds become self-sustaining.
We engage and connect people
We have connections to various Ugandan government officials and to other charities. If you are a charity looking to do work in Uganda, we can help connect you to the appropriate people. If you are looking to donate funds to a project that is beyond the scope of the NUDF mission, we can help connect you with a charity that is right for you. And most of all, if you want commit to being a volunteer, we have a place for you within the NUDF.
We buzz with excitement
We are passionate about our work. We love to tell the story of the people of Northern Uganda whenever we get the chance.
We follow up
At least once a year we visit Northern Uganda, at our own personal expense, to follow up on our projects and to investigate new areas to help. We meet with the villagers and local government officials to ensure that we are assisting in the best way possible.
The people of Northern Uganda, some of the most impoverished people in the world, love to sing. While we in the western world have allowed some of the importance of singing to slip away, we at the NUDF sing in a different way. We sing to the media. We tell the story of the people of Northern Uganda to the press in Uganda, the press in North America, to government officials, and to you. We want the people of Northern Uganda to know that the world is watching.
When a new well is built, the villagers come to the well site and dance. As dancing and singing is an important part of their culture, they literally do a dance of joy in celebration of receiving clean drinking water.
Villagers thank us when we visit them. They thank us just for showing up and demonstrating we care about them. That somebody in the world has taken the time to visit them impresses upon them their sense of worthiness.
We believe in people. We believe that the people of Northern Uganda will be successful in building strong thriving communities. We have all needed a little help sometimes and now is the time to provide the people of Northern Uganda with a little help. After all, some of us were the very people we are helping today.