Mbale Village (not town)

Mukono… A nice city outside of Kampala with rolling hills and the best roasted goat street meat to date. I was there for an event with Feed the Future at the Colline Hotel, a fancy shin-dig. The youth targeted farmer conference (Exploiting Opportunities – Go for the Gold) was encouraging for the future of Uganda’s young people. Although I have to mention that Uganda defines anyone under 35 years as a “youth”…. I’ll be forever young in Uganda 🙂

The even was a combination of seminars, break-out sessions and field trips to different Agricultural sites.

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NaCRRI researcher showing youths rice at the greenhouse in Namulonge.

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Youth learning about different Maize varieties from NaCRRI.

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Tour of coffee seedling project at Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd.

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Learning about the “mother garden” at Kyagalanyi Coffee Ltd.

The attendees were creative but most importantly they were passionate about starting different businesses in the agriculture industry. Everything from growing coffee seedlings to a developed Android App on how to manage your chicken farm (Luunda Lite). Jessica Wadja even stopped by the hotel in time for the demo on making “paw paw jam”.

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But the diplomatic figures and well-paid executives who attended the event make me wonder if they truly understand their impacts. Or if they truly understand what it is that the common people need. The US Ambassador gave an encouraging speech to the Ugandan “youths” about the opportunities for entrepreneurship, but, there was something missing… a connection was lacking. He spoke with his heavy draw at a race speed that was impossible for some to understand. I overheard two hotel staff behind me ask, “is he from America?” All the Ambassador needed was a little bit of Uganglish (Uganda’s special touch on English).

Luckily they followed up with the language understood by most, money. A few checks were handed-out to the farmers who had the three best ideas on “how to make the agribusiness industry cool”. The grand prize winner’s idea was to build youth farming resource centers; an idea worth half-million Ugandan shillings from USAID.

Overall the event was a success but with two weeks in the field, I was REALLY ready to get back to Mbale.

My night couldn’t have ended in a better way. I found my neighbor’s house-girl/maid sitting on the stoop with a blue plastic cup of beans and rice. As usual, she welcomes me back and invites me to join her. We sat and talked about her plans to visit her baby girl next month (back in her home village outside Bududah). The 4yr old neighbor boy joined us on the stoop to share a story; he told us how he drove his father’s car to Kampala from Mbale Village and got into some Kung-fu style battle with a punching balloon. We laughed when he insisted that Mbale is a village, not a town, and laughed even more as he demonstrated the epic punching ballon story.

The orange sky slowly darkened to an luminescent royal blue as we ate our matooke rice and beans on the cool concrete steps. Just as the shadow of Wanale Mountain began to sink into the dark sky, the little boy announced it was time for his bath.

The house-girl laughed when I thanked her for the meal in Lugisu and took the neighbor boy home. A peaceful ending after a tiresome two weeks.

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