Uganda Project Newsletter, Vol.1, No.7

Uganda Project Newsletter, Vol.1, No.7


         U G A N D A   P R O J E C T   N E W S L E T T E R

         Vol. 1, Issue 7                        Fall, 1994


 The Uganda Project: a non-profit organization working in
                     partnership to end hunger in Uganda by
                     the year 2000

 For further information, contact:

                     Larry Levenson
                     4093 Halite Lane
                     St. Paul, MN  55122


President Museveni's Visit  To Minneapolis
On a recent visit to Minnesota, President Museveni of Uganda, gave a two hour talk at the Marquette Hotel in Downtown Minneapolis. About 250 Ugandans reside in Minnesota and over half were present. The talk was a special invitation for Minnesota Ugandans to meet with President Museveni and ask questions.

Speaking plainly using local phrases and humor, President Museveni talked about how he struggled and triumphed to rid Uganda of the thugs who had control of Uganda for twenty years. He understood the reasons for so many people leaving Uganda and extended an invitation for all Ugandans to return home again. He said he appreciated the ex-patriot Ugandans because of their support and the money they transfer into Uganda every year. He said, "Last year approximately $3 million was sent into the country by ex-patriots such as you rich, successful Ugandans in Minnesota."

The President mentioned many changes taking place in Uganda- the recent election of representatives and senators to the newly formed congress. Some of the senators had come on this visit to Minnesota. They stood and were introduced by their region in Uganda. He talked about Uganda's policy of kicking out multi-nationals during the Idi Amin period. His purpose in coming to Minnesota was to meet with Land-O-Lakes and other companies to invite them to develop and do business in Uganda. He told the Ugandans "we need foreign investment in Uganda and to do that we first had to give back what we had stolen. My hardest fight was to get the congress to leave the building we were meeting in and give it back to the Indians who owned it. We can't be asking people to send us money and develop business and then keep it. We can't tell the Americans to come to Uganda, we will be nice to you and at the same time be keeping Indian businesses and not be nice to them. It is a bad image for Uganda. So it was passed by congress that all the land and property goes back. This is very difficult but necessary."

He gave a brief history about Uganda during the British "occupation". Uganda is a poor country with 95% peasants but very good land and very good water, and opportunities better than in South Africa. He said Ugandan farmers need to learn how to get more out of their land, to stop growing local grain and getting $50 per acre but rather to grow silk or flowers for $125,000 per acre. He said "we have spent a lot of money on the roads and the roads to [this and that part of Uganda] are good. Yet ignorant people still walk alongside a good road." His goal is to stop spending on the boarding schools, a British idea, and get children local schools so more can go to school, the elementary level first. He talked about getting the capitol city, Kampala, strong with good reliable electricity, water, transportation, buildings, etc.- to get businesses to come there first. He wasn't personally benefitting his tribe because he's not from Kampala. It makes sense to "feed the mouth first not rub food all over the body."

In a very down to earth manner, taking questions formally and answering in depth, all the while blowing his nose, President Museveni talked broadly about his policies and his priorities. He said AIDS was a very big issue in the country and the government has been getting out the message and getting out the condoms. He briefly mentioned morality as an issue and that although he is fighting corruption there is a long way to go. Negative comments came from people who didn't like the formal way in which the Ugandans addressed President Museveni instead of saying the American way of "Mr. President" Ugandans were addressing him as "Your Excellency".

First Lady hears of $1M Grant and LeadershipTraining Program While President Museveni's party was in Minneapolis, Board members Shelly Franz and Larry Levenson met with Mrs. Janet Museveni to update her on the Uganda Project. This was the Project's third meeting with the Ugandan First Lady.

Shelly, who had met with Mrs. Museveni in Uganda two years ago, shared photos of that meeting and of her trip to Uganda. Mrs. Museveni remembered meeting with her and Tom, and recalled their commitment to working with women's groups. Shelly recounted the rapid growth of the village banking program among women, and told Mrs. Museveni that the Uganda Project had just received a $1 million grant for expansion of the village banking program throughout Uganda. Mrs. Museveni was moved to tears, and shared her vision of the work she and her husband do to create a better Uganda "for the children."

Larry briefed Mrs. Museveni on the Forum that will be held January 13 and January 20, 1995 in Kampala. "The Forum is a leadership training program that provides access to untapped leadership resources and effective communication for leadership," he said. The Forum is one of the programs of Landmark Education, an international training and consulting organization. Over 2 million people worldwide have participated in Landmark's programs. The efforts to bring the Forum to Uganda are being spearheaded by The Honorable Christopher Iga, Mayor of Kampala. Mr. Iga participated in the Forum in Minneapolis in April or 1994, and immediately went to work to provide this technology for all government officials in his city. Mrs. Museveni was thrilled that such a program was available, and promised to be in contact with the Mayor.

Tractor Arrives in Kamonkoli A Massey Ferguson 270 tractor arrived in the village of Kamonkoli recently, amid much excitement and anticipation. Funds for the tractor, which were donated by many of the Uganda Project's partners, have been raised over the past 2 years.

The tractor will be primarily used by KAWA, an area woman's group, for the planting and harvesting of corn, potatoes, cotton, and other staples of the Ugandan people. It will also be loaned to area villages to be used at a small fee which will help pay for fuel and maintenance of the tractor. The tractor can do in a day what it takes human labor two weeks to do. Joyce Kagino, who with her husband Obadiah visited Minnesota two years ago, was thrilled that the tractor had arrived and expressed her thanks to all of the financial contributors in the United States. She said that the tractor creates a huge opportunity for people in the area to grow and harvest enough food to feed their families.

An official dedication of the tractor will be held in the near future. Thanks to all of our Uganda Project partners who made the tractor happen!!

Books for Africa Ships Millionth Book! At the end of 1993, Books for Africa shipped its 1,000,000th book to Africa. From a tiny beginning in 1989, this down-to- earth project has reached 25 million African children and their families. We don't have any idea how tall a stack of a million books would be, but we do know that each book reaches about 25 readers. Many of them have sent marvelous thank you notes over the years {see below}. Congratulations, Books for Africa, for reaching this exciting milestone!

"Until June of last year, I studied in Uganda. My school, like many others schools, had serious problems with books. There were actually no text books for students for most of the school courses. Most teachers had just single copies of books that were required to be used in the school. Many of the copies were old from being used time and time again. Imagine doing reading comprehension from dictation! That we what we did. Imagine a teacher writing a 500-word essay on the blackboard! That is what teachers sometimes did. We did not have a single library book, or any other book that children want to read for fun. Any other book that we read, we borrowed from friends whose parents could afford, or students whose brothers or sisters worked in the city. Books like that were passed between so many people that they were worn out and torn in a short time. Most students I knew loved and wanted to read, but how could they? Most students that I knew loved and wanted to study, but from using what? That was like in my school and that is life in many schools across Uganda and in many other African countries. I am so happy that you are doing something about this serious problem. Thank you again for your time, commitment, energy, materials, and money that you have invested in this good cause. I pray that you keep up that good work.

-- by Pamela Wathum-Ocama, ninth grade student in St. Paul, MN.

Village Banking In 1992 the Uganda Project, in collaboration with FINCA International (Foundation for International Community Assistance) started a village banking program in Uganda. The Uganda Project had determined, after many years of work and experiences, that the banking program would most effectively address major issues faced by Ugandans. The program puts money in the hands of women, who take care of family health and nutrition, children and education.

A village bank is a peer support group of 20-50 low income women. The banking program works with women because they have less access to credit, stronger peer groups and better discipline for repaying money as well as spending it on their families. The group selects its own members, elects a management team, drafts its own bylaws, keeps its own books, handles all cash transactions, makes and supervises loans and in essence operates its own bank, with loan capital from FINCA/Uganda.

The banking program offers three key services: 1) Access to self-employment loans (most poor women have no professional skills and live in rural areas, so they start their own businesses) of $50-$300, with no collateral required and a reasonable rate of interest. 2) A safe and profitable place to accumulate savings, and a plan to create $300 of the own working capital within three years. 3) Group support for personal empowerment, which FINCA defines as the critical shift in attitude from "I can't" to I can".

Most of the participants in the FINCA/Uganda banking program are women who are heads of households without access to credit. According to UNICEF, only one percent of women in Uganda have access to credit, confirming the need for gender-based financial services. The borrowers are involved in varied commercial and agricultural activities such as selling old clothes, charcoal production, brewing beer, food processing, selling medicines, market trading, raising poultry and cattle, and producing honey and silk. Some plan to begin production of solar-dried fruits.

Mrs. Ruth Muyirima, age 30, has been in the banking program for over one year. She has been married for ten years and has three children ages ten and under. She has saved 8,000 Ugandan Shillings since she started her business buying and selling millet. This is approximately US $8.00. She has been able to provide a better diet for her family and has contributed to her children's school fees. In Uganda, there is a fee for all grades of education, which makes it difficult for many families to send their children to school. In addition to sending her children to school, she can afford to send them to the clinic when they get sick. Se says,"We have come together we have good cooperation and I have raised my standard of living through this program. Now my children can at least eat an egg from my profits."

In August 1993, the program had 12 banks serving 315 women in villages in the Jinja area of Uganda. The total loan portfolio was $13,202 with a total of $2,675 saved by the bank members. As of June 1994, the total number of women had increase to 591 in 18 banks. The loan portfolio had increased to $48,000 with $8,680 saved. This is a phenomenal amount of money to people with no access to credit and per capita income of US $219. You, the Uganda Project donors, have made this program possible. Thank you for your commitment to transform Uganda!

A Letter from a Village Banker

 Gema Ku Mwino
 P.O. Bulongo- Jinja.

 The Manager,
 Foundation for International Community Association.

 Dear Mr. Rupert Scofield,

On behalf of Gema Ku Mwino Women's Association, I am very happy to express our heartfelt appreciation and great thanks for the loan you gave us. (It is another joy to tell you that we are ready now to pay it back with some profit.) I must tell you that your kind deed served a double purpose. In one way or another every woman is learning to be self-reliant at the same time to work together as a group, more especially when we meet together for discussions and some leisurely activities. One thing to mention among others, we have learnt the ability to save money as well as time. Here again I must not forget to thank the Kigwana's who introduced us to the Uganda Project and vice versa.

With itching hands we await a second visit of Larry Sharpe and Wendy to look at our Sericulture [raising silkworms] and Bee- keeping projects.

Beatrice Ntudhu

"Now I am thinking all the time" FINCA International's Executive Director traveled to Uganda in the Spring of 1993 and filed this report:

When I arrived in the village of Kimanto, about 20 kilometers north of Jinja, I didn't recognize the place as being the same one I had visited just four months ago to disburse the first $2,000 in loans. It wasn't anything about the village - it was the people.

There was excitement, optimism in the air! The village chief offered this explanation: "When you first came to Kimanto and organized the women, we were afraid of what might happen. We thought the women would plot against us, think of ways to divorce us. Then, when we saw the money start to come in and the women didn't need to beg us for money to buy salt and sugar, and in fact, gave extra money to our household, we saw the village bank was a good thing."

The change was not only in the local economy, but in the people as well. As one village banker told me: "This is the first time in my life I have had my own money. The best thing about the project for me is that I have learned to buy, sell, and save. Before, there was no point thinking about anything, because even if I had an idea, I couldn't do anything about it. Now, I am thinking all the time."

Background on the Uganda Project The Uganda Project began at a dinner party in 1986. Idi Amin had just been chased out of the country after 20 years of murder and destruction. Uganda, which used to be called "The Pearl of Africa" was essentially in ruins. Abiathar Kigwana, a village leader from Kimanto, was asked at the party, "What would it take to end hunger in Kimanto?" His answer: "A tractor." The Tractor Project began.

By June 1987 the organization had changed its name to the Uganda Project, become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and raised $25,000 for a Massey-Ferguson tractor. The tractor was driven into the village of Kimanto by Abiathar in January 1988, where a great celebration began and lasted several days. One of the villagers was elected to drive and the tractor. He went from villager to villager, doing their plowing and cultivating in return for a portion of the harvest. That portion is then sold to pay for fuel and maintenance. The village soon had enough money to buy a wagon, so the tractor also became a taxicab and ambulance. It was also rented out to neighboring villages.

The Uganda Project, meanwhile, shipped a container of medical equipment (incubator, hospital beds, and an operating table) to Jinja, 30 km away from Kimanto. Another container of textbooks was sent in conjunction with Books for Africa. Several clean water wells were funded and drilled with the help of the Jinja Rotary Club. A maize mill was established to grind the maize (a grain like corn) into flour. The flour is then sold at a profit, with extra monies being put into a local clinic for medicines. We also started a scholarship fund for elementary school students to continue their education, and a Heifer Program that provides pregnant cows to local villagers.

As our success became established in Kimanto and neighboring villages, we started looking for a really big project that could provide new opportunities nationwide. We found it in village banking. Much like the Grameen bank in India, our village banking program (administered by FINCA) makes micro-entrepreneurial loans (of US $50) to village women. The women constitute them selves as a bank, and support each other in generating their businesses and repaying their loans. They repay principal, interest, and savings on a weekly basis. At the end of the loan (four months) they have repaid it in full, and have established their own savings of approx. $10. Then they can get another loan of $50 plus another $10 against what they have in savings. At the end of four more months, they have repaid again and have $20 in savings. This continues for up to three years, when they have over $300 in savings. The per capita income in Uganda is US $219, so these women are then able to walk into any commercial bank and get a loan. They also provide a mew model for success for their children, and a new image of what it means to be a woman in that culture. The program has been an extraordinary success, with repayment rates in excess of 96%!

In June 1994, FINCA received a $1 million matching grant from US AID (Agency for International Development) for expansion of the village banking throughout Uganda. We plan to meet this financial challenge by summer of 1995.

Additionally, a leadership training program called the Forum will be presented twice in Kampala in January 1995. This program has been done by over two million people worldwide, and produces outstanding results in the areas of leadership, vision, and effective communication. The Mayor of Kampala is hosting both Forums.

The Uganda Project consists of less than 20 people, and have a commitment to ending hunger in Uganda by 2000. There is no staff, and over 99% of all funds raised go to programs in Uganda.


Message-Id: <>
Date:    Sat, 12 Nov 1994 01:00:06 -0500
From: Faraz Fareed Rabbani 
Subject: Uganda Project Newsletter

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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