Monday, October 18, 2010

Rubber Necking in SW Uganda

Catching up on the Volunteer Health Team VHT training going on in our rural areas has me travelling to distant places in the districts of the South West of Uganda 4 days a week, each day a different set of trainers and a different community. Most of our original CORPs (Community Owned Resource Persons) have been incorporated into the VHT, and our facilitators have been leading the training in our own area, so it is nice to see how well they are doing. There are the usual issues of the training material has not been translated so manuals and teaching aids are not ready for participants and the record books they are to register people in are not yet available.

The great thing about travelling to the field is the wonderful rubber necking one gets to do as many of the villages where we train are deep in the rural countryside. Intensive tea plantations have been built on the road to Queen Elizabeth National Park. We found large groups of workers picking tea. It was also the first time I have seen them do it with mechanical pickers which sheer off the top of the bushes. Groups of workers collect the tea leaves in large plastic rice bags by the road for transport to the kilns for drying.

Uganda tea, even the cheapest kind available, is lovely. I am not clear about what is needed for great tea, but the cool high, fertile land here in Western Ankole seem to be just the ticket.

Near the forests in the same direction last week there were men sawing huge logs on a platform, one man below and the other on top, to hand cut planks. I had never seen this done by hand before except in historical photos of the early felling of the Pacific Rain Forest.

Towards Lake Victoria, high in the hills we come across a couple of children collecting water from a protected source. The enclosure for the pump is made out of a rapidly growing cactus-like plant which will over time weave together to form a barrier to the cattle. There was a younger child, only four or five years old with the two boys. Even he has a small plastic bottle to fill.

Small children often participate actively in the collection of water. These kids seem to be having a good time of it. The smallest child started to cry when he first saw me, perhaps his first time to see a white person, but the others soon reassured him. But he does not appear very happy in the photo. Life in rural areas tends to require the participation of the whole family including small children. But the good thing is that they have access to clean water.



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