Holistically challenged

Thursday 3rd September

We left the delightful Mbale Resort Hotel after breakfast and travelled back to Kampala, just in time for rush hour. I have a lot of time to think on these journeys and one thought came to mind as we crawled around outer Kampala where many NGOs are based:

They are all here! Water Aid, MSF, Save the Children, UNICEF, World Vision, UN, etc. and numerous other charities helping children but, I wonder, do they work together or in competition? I am sure that some joint working would reduce costs and distribute work more evenly across the country. Many large NGOs have fancy Japanese 4×4 pickups running around with their name on the side. Perhaps some transport costs could be shared and fewer vehicles bought. Also substituting a pick up for a 4×4 minibus (like ours) will increase the passenger carrying potential from one to seven.

However, there is a problem in working together. Ugandans are not good at strategic planning. They are very friendly and talkative and have learned the right talk but often without a definite outcome. I have seen this in action and have asked myself “where is the meat in this sandwich?” For example here is a statement published in a newspaper:

“xxxx said women’s groups engaged in small scale productivity and those in vulnerable and poor homesteads will be empowered which will enable them to build resilience and capacity to engage in sustainable income-generating activities”

This category of people (i.e. women’ groups in small scale activity, the vulnerable and poor) applies to about 95 per cent of the population of Uganda (about 30 million people). I cannot see how they will be “empowered” without massive continuing education on everything from business practices to crop rotation. This is completely unaffordable by the government of an impoverished country. And yet because someone has made this statement about empowerment, people think it will just happen, without a thought to the details.

I fear this would happen with any attempted cooperation between NGOs. We would have grand sounding mission statements and at some point, after much research, numerous conferences, focus groups, feedback sessions and position statements there would be a joint communique along the lines of:

“The members of the partnership of NGOs concerned, having appraised themselves of all available options, are pleased to announce the joint formation of an all-purpose, holistic and sustainable plan to ensure the continuing co-operation of the partners in all matters pertaining to the matters in hand in order to improve the lives of all parties who stand to benefit from the partnership”

(In other words, they have set the date of the next meeting)

So perhaps it is best that NGOs continue to work in their defined fields without lots of meetings with other groups. They may overlap at times, and leave gaps in provision, but at least they will be working to do the job, rather than holding endless meetings (which Ugandans always enjoy, they are so chatty!)

On to lighter things: Today’s winner in the funny shop names competition is: “Press the button and get a favour restaurant.” The best  philosophical message on the back of a lorry is “follow the instruction to complete the transaction” and the prize for the most appropriate slogan on the back of a bus goes to “better late than never”

On the mixed business advertisements I am not too happy about “Public toilets and drinks available” but the prize for the clearest advertised product goes to “Die for ever insecticide”

And as I am now back at Banana Village, Entebbe, I thought I would show a picture of my next door neighbour:IMGP4747

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