Kampala & Mityana

Ugandan Countryside

Ugandan Countryside
a view of Lake Victoria

Saturday, February 3, 2007


Future and frequent fliers:

If you've read the other entries you should know what we've been up to. I thought I would talk a bit about what I learned about travel in Uganda.

If you want to get the full experience when traveling to another country then you have to take a few risks. I’m identifying “risks” as breaking some of those “travel rules” your doctor tells you to follow. I’m not talking about hopping into an unpainted van with armed rebels, or throwing away your malaria pills, but take a walk on the wild side and enjoy a bit of market food, for example. Markets are incredible ways to experience an entire country in about 45 minute period—you have people of all classes negotiating prices, displaying their hard work, and socializing. You may get sick if you don't use common sense (i.e. eating things you wouldn't even touch in the US) but how can you experience a country without partaking in its fresh produce? As a matter of fact, the only place any of us got sick was the Buziga Hotel, which was one of the "nice" hotels in Uganda. In no way am I suggesting you don’t watch your back and maintain common sense; but don’t sit in your hotel with your hands in your pockets! I have found Uganda incredibly safe; much safer than parts of Central America that I have been to; and I would treat it like parts of New York City: be aware, but don't be scared.

Team, think about your experience, and how the risks you took benefited you. Rafting The Nile, for example, was tremendous. Although there are inherent risks with white water rafting, I am absolutely a changed man after that trip. If anything I can swim much better, and any fears of drowning have been completely extinguished. (By the way, it turns out Geoff, our incredible guide, wasn’t in the Olympics, as he claimed. However he is the #1 Whitewater Kayaker in Uganda, and ranked 21st in the World Championships in Australia)

Something else you need to do is make friends. And in Uganda, this is incredibly easy. After being there about 4 hours, we had already made a friend, Solio, a Rafiki-like wise-man/cell-tower guard on top of the Buziga hill. Through the contacts and projects, we made even more friends who took us to enjoy the life this country has to offer, including the Uganda nightlife. Club Audio in Mityana, which in my opinion, puts the “life” into “nightlife”, was an exhilarating experience. I even hear rumors that Professor Sullivan blessed the dance floor at Club Silk in Kampala.

So I will leave you with this: don’t be afraid to explore, meet people, and live a little. We all worked about 15 hours a day, and deserved a bit of additional fun. Do it vigilantly, since you don’t want to come back in a box; but on the other hand, I would rather come back with a couple battle scars than to come back without a story.

-Matt Boynton

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mityana College, Kikumbi - John Mecham

Friday January 12, 2007

I woke up early to plan the day’s agenda. I really wanted to be prepared so as to yield a fruitful experience for everybody. I spent over an hour trying to print off everything I wanted to share, but was only able to print off some of the documents. Due to daily power outages, or a limited amount of power delivered to the hotel I was rarely on the computer where I wasn’t interrupted by lack of power.

I was picked up by my host: Emmanuel Ssennoga (School Proprietor & Director) and left for Mityana College, Kiukumbi (MCK) around 9am.

A simplified version of the day’s plan was as follows:

  1. Share vision of the College
  2. Start listing New, Innovative Ideas each teacher has had – talk about potential obstacles, and how those obstacles can be overcome
  3. Compare Current B-Plan with the Recommended (Give them a copy of the recommended b-plan guide, and a copy of a business competition winning plan as an example of a well written plan)
  4. Focus on the missing Opportunity Analysis, Marketing Plan, and Financial Plan
  5. Hand out a copy of the IDEO process for innovation to each of the teachers
  6. Finish off by sharing the Entrepreneurship & Accounting Books

I was only able to get part way into number 4 before it was time to go do additional interviews with students (clients). After I assured the teachers that Emmanuel Ssenoga’s goal for MCK to be the best secondary education available in all of East Africa was possible, I gave them a few examples in the U.S. that supported this possibility. We then started listing each teacher’s best idea and next best idea for improving their respective departments, and began the process of flushing out how possible the ideas were, etc. Up to this point I had already given them a lot of different new ideas, and had encouraged that they come up with new ideas that would differentiate them from the competition. I think one of the most interesting things during this process was that in spite of my efforts to explain and encourage innovation, the teachers would still give ideas that were nothing more than a rehash of what they were already doing. In addition, the ideas were almost never accompanied with how something would be accomplished. For example one teacher said that his idea was to implement a set of rules to instill discipline. Well this had already been done, and had been done for years. There was also no detail as to how he might improve discipline, etc. I hope that the teachers realized that they must think out of the box, and have some idea of how they would then implement those ideas. I think it was o.k. to take the slow road to flushing out these ideas, because it was really important that the ideas originated from the teachers and staff themselves, not from me.

This process took us through our daily snack break which consisted of fruit, eggs and buttered wonder bread, and up to lunch, which was the same as the meal yesterday. Realizing that we were running out of time Emmanuel Ssenoga tried to get me to move along. So I discussed b-plans real briefly and then talked about the 3Ms of opportunity. It was really difficult for them to grasp the importance of the 3Ms. I even questioned the real benefits in going through the Opportunity analysis considering their extremely limited access to the information required to do the analysis quickly. It’s true that they could conduct primary research, but looking at their schedules, do they really have the time to do a good job based on 30 minutes of teaching from me?

Soon it was time to do more interviews. The interviews this time were extremely difficult. Yesterday the students interviewed would only take maybe 1 minute to answer each question, but today, the students were so excruciatingly shy, it would take sometimes 3-4 minutes before an answer would be given to a question. Even then the answers were always questionable themselves. With 4 teachers, the Director and my self all gathered around to ask one student questions, it was probably intimidating, and not the most conducive circumstances for a student to give free, open answers. A Muzungu (me, a whitey) being there defnitely didn’t help the situation. The children realize they don’t speak very good English, and are apprehensive to speak it at all, especially with a Muzungu.

One interview with a former national government employee - John, now a matooke (plantain banana) farmer, and president of another secondary school PTA proved fruitful. What he had to say was filled with personal opinion, something that was near impossible to pull out of the young students.

Father Emmanuel who was responsible for transporting the Mityana students to Kampala that night called Ssennoga to let Emmanuel know that he would be at Enro Hotel any moment. We tried to leave, but John insisted we see his matooke plantation and pig pens. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer so we went along with it. John being a neighbor to the school means it’s probably a good idea to keep a good relationship with him.

Emmanuel took me back, but first stopped off at the Stanbic Bank so that I could make a withdrawal. When I arrived at the Hotel it just so happened that our ride wasn’t there, and we didn’t leave till about 6pm that night.

When we arrived in Kampala it was apparent that everybody was trying to do their own thing, and that there was a high degree of freedom. There was also no water in the main hotel, and no warm water in the little cottages. Minea, Sarah and I were all put up in the little cottages as a result, but at a discount because of there being no hot water. The plan was to have a group discussion on all the projects, but this never happened. The best we could do is to communicate the wedding festivities that we had been invited to tomorrow. In place of a well organized meeting many went out on the town, and others of us just stayed at the hotel.

I talked with the students that stuck around, and then tried to read Mark Albion’s book –“True to Yourself” before falling asleep under my trusty mosquito net.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Preliminary final Report from Tom S.

We have had an amazing time in Uganda, and our work here is not quite done, but I thought you might appreciate an update on all that has been happening. One of the big challenges of this trip has been that our team members are spread out, over two cities (well, OK, one is a town on the edge of rural Uganda!), and nine projects, some of which have required extensive travel over challenging roads. And it’s difficult to sum up our “group” experience, since each of us has met new people, different business challenges, and a variety of encounters and adventures that have shaped our personal responses to Uganda.

But we have all encountered friendly, helpful, and grateful people, wherever we have gone, and it has been heartwarming to see how the language of business and economic development has been relatively easy, despite some interesting cultural and geographical differences. We are also blessed to be visiting a culture where graciously hosting guests is an important social value; everyone we meet says, warmly and with enthusiasm, “You are very welcome to Uganda,” followed by a warm smile and, usually, with the offer of food!

One moment stands out for me, not because it is somehow brighter than the others, but because it seems to symbolize the work we are doing here. I am working, with several students, on the Wekembe project, which is a microfinance scheme (their word, not mine) that empowers women organized through local parishes of the Roman Catholic church. I have visited two local “branches” of the Wekembe “bank” – centered on benches in the local parish hall, where loan payments are collected by deposit by the branch treasurer. At yesterday’s visit the women jumped up and sang a Ugandan welcome song to me, in four part harmony, and then rose, one by one, to give what they called “testimony” about eh effect of the Wekembe project on their lives (Wekembe means, roughly, “we will struggle together to overcome our difficulties”). In Ugandan culture, the women are responsible, physically and financially, for raising children, so the goal of many of these women is to earn enough extra household cash to pay for school fees for their children. Several women stood up to tell me about a variety of business ventures that Wekembe had funded, including an expanding phone card business, money for a chicken coop, feed, and baby chicks, an interesting farm plan where pigs and bananas were raised in a sort of symbiotic way (waste from the pigs used to fertilize the banana trees, and vegetation from the banana “plantation” used to feed the pigs!), and an ingenious idea that turned a vacant lot into a car park, complete with refreshment stand and, because of the latest loan, a small refrigerator to provide cold drinks. After their stories, I asked about challenges they had faced and overcome, what benefits and changes they had experienced as a result of the Wekembe program, and some questions about “bankability” (instead of traditional collateral, Wekembe uses the group as a way of establishing bankablity for its members; when one woman is unable to make her biweekly payment, other members of her subgroup must pay for her, and should one default, the entire group is required to repay her loan – of course they will encourage her, to pay, as you might imagine, in lots of creative ways). I also aksed them to sing again for me, so I could make a short movie (aren’t digital cmaerss wonderful, and I even sang a hymn for them. But then I asked them to tell me something they were proud of because of their Wekembe experience, and every woman there jumped up – even the shy ones who had said nothing thus far – and wanted to share with me their experience of feeling economic independence, of pride in their work and how it made life better for their families, and of how much it meant to them to feel as though they did not depend on anyone – husbands, church, aid workers, or anyone – for handouts. Given our goal of working to establish self-reliance, through sharing business education rather than simply giving funds, I was speechless. Then, of course, we adjourned to the home of one of the businesswomen, who showed me her farm and then fed all of us samples of her catering business.

Many of our other projects have led to similar experiences. Our peanut sheller project, based on a revolutionary peanut sheller created by the Full Belly Project in the US, is working to spread affordable shelling technology for shelling nuts around the world; this has the potential to increase the profits farmers make from their peanuts (called more commonly “groundnuts” here) by 40 to 60 percent. It also provides an interesting side effect: the shells are useful fuel, and could be sold by the farmers as fuel to cement companies or other ventures that currently use carbon-based fuels for heat or other needs. The three young men working on this project have traveled all over Uganda, meeting with farmers, cement company representatives, Rotarians (who are interested in sponsoring the project – each sheller costs about $75 US), and agricultural agents, along with some interested entrepreneurs who want to support rural agricultural development (again, primarily an activity of women). We have encountered some roadblocks and challenges, but this group has laid the groundwork for a pilot project of manufacturing the shellers in Uganda getting them to farmers, and working with cement companies to fill trucks that otherwise return empty with peanut shells to use as fuel.

Other projects include a family-owned transportation business, which is also working with the UN to haul food and supplies to relief camps in the troubled northern part of Uganda, RUCREF (Rural Credit Finance), another microfinance company that works to have fund rural business projects (using more traditional “bankablity” criteria than Wekembe), Mityana College, a secondary school that is trying to build a curriculum based on skills rather than traditional education, an affordabel housing initiatiev, HOSFA (Homes shared for famlies), which provides hoems, education, and health care for AIDS orphans, the Kolping Society, a women’s empowerment initiative, and a coffee company that is trying to recover business lost during the difficult political times of years past.

We're ready to come home, but we're sorry to leave our new friends. See you soon!

Saturday, January 13, 2007


In Uganda, agriculture is everywhere. Very common crops include maize, cassava, beans, and g-nuts (or peanuts, as they are called in the United States). Groundnuts are grown mainly in the eastern and northern parts of Uganda, but are grown in small amounts all over the country.

While in Uganda, Matt Brown (Babson MBA '07), Alex Souza (Babson'09) and Ben Salinas (Olin'09) are working with U.S. based non-profit organization, Full Belly Project ( and local farmers on a new venture.

Currently, half a billion people across the world receive their primary source of protein from g-nuts. In fact, over 90% of all g-nuts are grown in developing countries. In Uganda, almost all g-nuts are grown by subsidence farmers. In order to use and sell their g-nuts, women and children must shell the nuts. This is a very tedious task that is done by hand. For 2 months out of the year, women and children in Uganda will spend all day shelling g-nuts by hand. In addition to the tremendous time commitment, the tedious work is very hard on their hands.

In 2001, a man named Jock Brandis ( invented a simple machine that shells peanuts. Made out of concrete and a few metal pieces, the machine can be locally made and is a great example of "Appropriate Technology."
This sheller can shell nuts at a rate of 50 kg per hour, 50 times faster than women can do by hand. And this machine only costs about $75 to make in Uganda.
On Wednesday and Thursday, we visited several farms in Uganda and spoke with cooperatives about growing g-nuts. The women in the co-ops were extremely excited about the opportunity of having a shelling machine that could save them hundreds of hours of work a year and offer them a chance to bring in extra income (shelled nuts demand twice the price as unshelled nuts on the market). However, this raises the question of how we can effectively distribute these machines to the farmers of Uganda. While it seems like a very little amount for most Americans, $75 represents a large portion (approximately 20%) of an Ugandan farmer's annual income, so selling the shellers directly to the farmers is not an option.
Now, let me tell you a story about the concrete industry. Worldwide, the concrete industry is responsible for 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Due to the Kyoto Treaty and other agreements made, concrete companies are looking for ways to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. One company, Lafarge ( which is the world's largest building materials company, has committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2010. This is through a partnership with the World Wildlife Foundation.
Hima Cement, a Ugandan cement company, is a subsidiary of Lafarge and has begun to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through a new program. To reduce their dependence on oil, they collect waste coffee husks and burn those. This has reduced their emissions considerably and also has saved them money.
Matt, Alex, Full Belly Project, and I (Ben) are working on a new program to pitch to Hima. We plan to distribute shellers to farmers and buy waste peanut shells (which most farmers burn as waste, but not for fuel) from farmers. These shells will then be purchased by Hima who will burn them in their factory. This gives us the opportunity to create a sustainable business around distributing peanut shellers. In addition to saving time, these farmers will earn a secondary income from the sale of their shells. They have told us that with this extra time and money, they will be able to grow more g-nuts to better provide for their families.
The three of us are spending our time researching how this program might take place. We have met with several businessmen and many farmers. One of the highlights of our trip has been our meeting with Dr. Specioza (, the former vice president of Uganda (also, the first female Vice President in Africa). She offered valuable insight on our plan.
This next week we will spend more time talking with farmers and have scheduled a meeting with Hima for Monday. At a later date, I will share with you some of our results from our meetings.
I know I speak for all three of us when I say that this trip has been a wonderful experience.
-Ben Salinas

January 13th, 2007

We’ve been in Uganda about 8 days and the work that we are all doing on the projects is well under way. I came to my project thinking I had little to offer a trucking company delivering UN World Food Programme aid to northern Uganda. Rebels, impassable roads, fuel siphoning, and truck maintenance were all completely foreign to me. What I found when I arrived was very different than what I previously thought. The Mukasa family greeted my partner Stephanie Lang and I. As we worked on the business we were cared for beyond measure, with tea time hosted by the youngest daughter, Maria, traditional lunches, and Steven, the oldest son and manager of the business showing us around down for endless hours of sightseeing. The issues and problems faced by this business are common to many businesses we have seen before and I was able to offer far more than I once thought. The most interesting issue was one that I have more recently been in contact with in social entrepreneurship talks, “How should your values and morals affect the mission of the business as well as your bottom line?” A devout Catholic family, the Mukasas feel called to help their fellow Ugandans in the north during this crisis. Picking the dirt off a rhino’s back, creating financials for the Mukasa’s trucking business, attending a traditional Ugandan wedding, rafting the strongest rapids in the world on the headwaters of the Nile River, and perhaps a visit to Chimpanzee Island will remind me of my inexplicably wonderful journey to Uganda.

Meredith McLeod Sears

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

January 10th: Yesterday Emmanuel Mukwaya and I (Tom Sullivan) visited the Jinja Karoli Lwanga parish branch of the Wekembe project. Loosely translated, Wekembe means “We struggle together for the future”. It’s a microfinance association, founded by the Catholic Church in Uganda, which currently has 42 branches, 9 in Kampala and 33 in rural areas outside the city. We met with the association there, and heard some success stories from some of the women who have gotten loans. My favorite was Mrs. Proscovia Tibitha, who started her story by telling about her failed chicken business. Because of space limitations, she had tried to raise chickens in the garage, and the business tanked (I’m not sure what the Ugandan word for “tanked” is, but that’s how it was translated for me). Because of the business failure she no longer had money to pay school fees for her children, so they could not longer attend school. She joined the Wekembe association – the village bank - and after establishing herself by repaying a small loan, she got a larger loan to buy chickens and build a sort of chicken coop to house them. This enabled her to achieve some economies of scale, such as buying enough chickens to ensure that a reasonable number survived (apparently a number of chickens in each brood die), and she could also afford real chicken food, rather than scraping together whatever food was available. This led to healthier chickens, which in turn increased her income enough so that her children are now back in school, with fees paid. When we asked whether she was tempted to use the loan money to pay the school fees, we learned that the success of Wekembe depends heavily on the group – in this case, about 20 women – who are responsible for each other’s loans (and, at least indirectly, for each other’s success). The large group is divided into smaller units, which are responsible for paying any missed payment by a member of the group; the larger group must repay the loan of anyone who defaults. This “peer pressure”, along with the support and encouragement of the group members for each other, helps keep Wekembe profitable (it is currently self-sustaining), and it has enabled something like one thousand women in the Kampala area to start businesses and empower themselves economically. Two other interesting notes: (1) the Wekembe project only accepts applications from the “active" poor. This is a new term to me, but I gather it means those poor women who are already doing something to work for themselves (running a small subsistence business, or something along those lines). And (2) accepted applicants, besides agreeing to a biweekly schedule for repaying loan and interest, must also establish a “forced” savings account, so that some of the money they make from the business is put into savings twice a month. All in all, an interesting day’s trip (we are consulting with them to see what a Babson team might do to help them in the future; certainly a new accounting system might be in order)!
Today, the tenth, we visited Modudu to meet with an association of peanut (groundnut) growers; we're trying to hook them up with a new sheller that will cut their work time (for shelling) by about 90%, help them make more money, and get the shells ready for sale as fuel (now they just burn them). Anyway, it was very useful, and when I suggested to the students that we might just buy the association one (for $70) as a thank you, they found someone to donate it for free on the car ride home (these BGOE students can be very enterprising)! Anyway, a lot of driving, but a useful meeting, and a good result. And we learned a ton about the groundnut business from the point of view of the growers, including some valuable pricing information; for example, they can sell a bag of unshelled nuts for about $15, while a bag of shelled nuts - which takes four unshelled bags to produce - sells for about $70. Hello to all from here!

Tom Sullivan

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Enter Uganda - Kingdom of Smiles

January 5, 2007
Enter Uganda-Kingdom of smiles.

I truly could not have dreamt a better, warmer, more human welcome into this beautiful continent, and within, to the breathtaking country of Uganda. Even though the group was exhausted from approximately thirty hours of piercing thousands of miles through the Atlantic, our fatigue was completely replaced by an incomparable sense of welcome and happiness by the greeting received as we took our few steps into Africa. As we exited the airport terminal, we encountered a group of ten or more eager Ugandans, introducing themselves and their smiles. Honestly, the looks on their faces, that insurmountable expression of gratitude and acknowledgment, were worth the entire trip. From that moment onward, I knew the trip was already a success, one that could only grow wider.

We were then introduced to “Bukanso”, our Ugandan-style taxi/van. This creative van replicates the taxis found all within Uganda. These vans are known for their genius use of space, being formed by numerous movable seats that can be either folded and stored or used, the choice dependant on the number of passengers. The trip toward our Hotel was to say the least, a bombardment of indescribable images. It was a feat for the eyes, a feast of biblical proportions. Flying through Kampala’s main road, the country’s capital greeted us with hundreds and hundreds of businesses immersed in noise, trade, and color. The claim that Uganda is the world’s most entrepreneurial country was proven and solidified. The road was simply suffocated by furniture craftsmen, meat shops, hardware stores, supermarkets, artisans, and the local tradesmen, all stacked back to back, leaving only enough room to be covered by he road’s red dust.

As we strayed from Kampala’s main road, “Bukanso” began its trek up a slightly steep red road leading up to our night’s stop, the Buziga Country Resort. Even though the ride was almost over, our feast was not. Our eyes were now savoring a dessert of waves and smiles. As our van glided through the street, we found that all the children and adults within our immediate sight were smiling and waving, decorating their already outstanding gestures by the occasional “How are you?” Our president, John Mecham summarized the Ugandan spirit by expressing how “it is impossible to see a Ugandan wave and not smile”.

As if we hadn’t filled our smiling quota for the new year already, we were greeted, treated, and welcomed with the same self-less devotion by the staff at the Hotel. In addition to offering splendid accommodations edified on Ugandan spirit, the Hotel offered a fantastic view of Kampala’s beautiful geography, a mix of vivid green vegetation surrounded by clear blue bodies of water, towered only by a scorching sun in a cloudless sky.

Before we parted to rest, we enjoyed a delicious dinner made up of numerous local dishes, the group’s favorite debating between a fried tilapia fish from the nearby lake, goat ribs, and ox liver.

Uganda makes up in smiles and generosity, what it lacks in physical size. Smallness is simply not a fruit grown in Uganda. The kingdom of smiles is huge in every aspect.

Alex Souza