Uganda Trip

I am very happy to mention that I was in Uganda with Nourish International in conjunction with the Full Belly Project from 23rd May to 31st May 2007.

When I boarded the bus to go to meet fellow Spring ’07 Starting Bloc fellow, Joel T. of Nourish International, the 14 hour ride on a dusty inter-country highway was least on my mind. I was thoroughly excited to be seeing more of Kenya and Uganda, which would let me be a more engaged East African citizen as well as a better representative of territory which i have actually visited.In retrospect, I realize that the uncertainty of public transportation pales in comparison to the learning that being on the road affords you each time you set off. I certainly feel that my time in Kenya and Uganda enriched me thoroughly.

The meeting with Joel arose from a blog conversation we began soon after the Spring 2007 Starting Bloc Conference where we found a shared interest in sustainable development in Africa. I was headed to Kenya to pursue a summer internship with a girls’ rehabilitation centre and he was putting the finishing touches on a Nourish International/ Full Belly Project trip to Iganga in Uganda. From an early meeting on the outskirts of Kampala, the lead co-ordinators of the project sought to teach and share about the technology and the work ahead of them for the summer. I began to appreciate this unique partnership that had brought a non-profit technology firm to work closely with a growing student organization in Uganda.

“The Full Belly Project 501(c)(3) is a non-profit organization that designs and delivers simple agricultural machines to people in developing countries around the world. This project teaches people how to build hand-operated machines with common materials. Our material of choice for sheller parts is concrete because it is inexpensive, widely available, easy to work with and has a very long service life. ” reads a portion of the FBP website.


This organization has come a long way from the basic Universal Nut Sheller of Jock Brandis, and over the last three years, this organization remains committed to the idea that machines for sustainable agricultural development are within reach. I remember hearing of youth projects that potentially worked to solve a farm problem, but the efforts of these people were often curtailed by lack of finances. I am very excited that this group is planning to help increase the productivity of the nut shelling business and transform the communities where peanut shelling takes place.The Universal Nut Sheller is a machine that Jock Brandis invented to remove the husks from nut -based products and is a great contribution to the new wave of open source technology which is the new frontier in fighting global poverty. The universal nut sheller, as the name suggests is a is one machine which the Full Belly Project is developing for post production processing of produce with removable husks at the grassroots level.

The Full Belly Project project on the Full Belly project piqued my curiosity.

  • hand-operated

If you have ever lived in a developing country you know that there is hardly any money to buy a gallon of diesel to run a machine. This bespeaks the fact that most machines I grew up observing had a fuel tank somewhere that never got full, and you got sent on errands every other day that involved going to the petrol station for a jerry-can of diesel. The sheller is hand operated and easy to learn and use.

  • inexpensive

If you do not need to pay for this, it brings in more money. If you need to pay for it, I would love to know how much, relative to the income levels of the people in the village, this device costs, and whether there is any way to offset these costs through local rotating credit schemes. The fact that the machine is not a handout ensures that production will always be sustained by proceeds from sales, which happens in a functioning market. This was the key sustainability selling point, and the presence of a local production facility enhances the price reduction.

  • widely available

How easily available is this device. Can I go to a hardware store and order it? Are there distributors willing to stock the product and keep the price low. I guess I have to ask these questions somewhere. How are people getting to know about it. Is there an indigenous radio station that it would be cheap to advertise the device or community meetings to introduce the product to the community? All these questions began to be answered as the production facility was first built then sales of the machines began.

  • easy to work with

I think that the bulk of the easy to work with category deals with language instructions, use by people with disabilities and who trains them. If I had a wish I would dream of a machine that did not involve flying in a team of experts to teach. I believe that the adaptability of the nut sheller is dependent on training of trainers and implementing a system where the trainers can receive remote education by extension. Indeed, although the machine’s fibreglass moulds were shipped in, the rest of the production was from local materials. Currently, there are efforts to try and make the moulds out of readily available plastic and further reduce the cost of the finished product.

For the short time that I was in Iganga and in the greater Uganda region, I received a warm welcome from the whole team, and i thank the group for enfolding me in the heart of student-led sustainable development, the initiatives of college students at their prime, supported by organizations which believe in their ideas.The group was composed of students from UNC, Duke and ECU who spent six weeks in Uganda. We had several decades worth of work experience and a number of college grads amongst us, as well as quite some enthusiasm. It was a rather large group and team dynamics repeatedly got tested on every aspect of the project. I had not been part of such a trip before and it was clear that there lay another challenge in ensuring that people worked equally on all aspects of the project.

We stayed at the Red Chili Inn in Kampala, which is a backpacker outpost in Kampala. I learned a whole lot about the people leading the project and their commitment to from evenings spent over Ugandan staple ‘matoke‘ and conversations on work and other interests in the group. When we left the city, we took a ‘boda boda‘ (small vans used for public transportation) together to Iganga and I stayed at the Najja Complex, a town lodge owned by our local contact family in the town, with the group for three days. Iganga is a major truck stop to the interior of Uganda and the main feature about the center was its main street, which was part of the major highway network.

The living there was new to the group and took many of the inconveniences of living in rural Uganda in good stride. I was reluctant to return to Kenya, where my own work was beginning, and I plan to keep in touch with my contacts from the Uganda trip and get more involved in real projects on the ground.


Images from the trip( Photographer: Ashley. Z)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s