So after a couple of days in Uganda I know a couple of things to be true:
1. It is hot here and I hear we are just coming off of the winter season.
2. There are a lot of people here, albeit, friendly, warm people (35 million-ish, comparable to the population in all of Canada in the space of about 1/2 the province of Saskatchewan).
3.On a journey to discover how highly functional co-operatives can be in a country such as this I have I already learned that even the Ugandan birds co-operate.
Yes, I have found a way to sneak the birds into my Uganda stories. But there is a point, I promise.
Enter in two Marabou Stork mommies in a tree, with two nests and multiple babies each. These massive birds, who are noted as having the largest wing spread among any living bird, are literally everywhere (see pics at the bottom of this post).
On the street in front our hotel, there must be at least at least 8 adults living in large nests and they are not alone, there are also multiple babies in these giant nests! For a twitchy birder like myself I cannot help but stare in awe at these feathered wonders. The neat thing? They seem to share their space with ease.
Immediately the birder in me thought how could these giant storks have babies and nests in the same tree, so closely? Then I realized it – they had established co-operative housing.
This early morning lesson in bird co-operation was followed up by our first briefing from the Ugandan Co-operative Alliance (UCA), which allowed the eight communicators on this journey to understand the current (and past) reality of the role and significance co-operatives play in Uganda.
The specific project that we are here for and focused on is the IFAPI – an agricultural and finance project where the goal is to contribute to improved livelihoods of small holder farmers in Uganda.
IFAPI provides services that help improve people’s lives. Specifically the project enables and promotes: capacity building; increased production and productivity; and the ability to provide access to financial services for those who need it.
For the resident farmers of Uganda who are co-operative members, IFAPI makes their lives easier, for it allows for them to come together to gain strength and access to the financial services and markets that they need and desire.
The point of our journey as communicators while in Uganda is to: bear witness to how the co-operative model for IFAPI works; understand what this means to the people involved in a diverse array of agricultural co-operatives; and then share those stories.
After reviewing and discussing the detailed itinerary for our journey, I suspect that the birding co-op is merely the first of many stories and that soon I will discover many other well functioning co-operatives that exist here.
In my coming posts I am excited to share with you how the IFAPI project has been able to make such a large difference specifically to the lives of Ugandan women.
I cannot express how grateful I feel to be part of this journey. Knowing just how significant this project is, is truly one thing. But, the ability to see how this co-operative model and project in particular has positively affected many rural communities and agricultural producers is another. I am vibrating with excitement for the coming days.
In the mean time, it is comforting for me to know that wherever I travel the birds are there for me. Among the many other pictures I will take and stories I take they will remain as a nice focal point, distraction or reference that makes me feel at home. Plus, I am in Africa! Can you say birder’s paradise? Um, yeah.