First look.

Last night I arrived in Uganda after long hours spent travelling (a day and a half if the change in time zones is counted!).  I would say finally but it doesn’t feel that way.  This has been a journey of stretching and pushing myself and continues to be this amazing adventure where I spend every moment embracing something that I love and believe in.  Today, we (Chris and I; go Uganda JFs!) got to go on a scavenger hunt in downtown Kampala; an adventure which proved fruitful and a pain in the same breath.  We were tasked with finding a phone and plan, internet stick, cloth, food etc.  Simple enough when all your surroundings are familiar and you are dealing with a currency that is not foreign ($1 CAD ~ 2500 shillings; good mental math practice!).  Not to mention, Kampala is a bustling city! There are buses, taxis, high-rise buildings, stores upon stores and amazingly clean streets.  The intensity of the city life is somewhat overwhelming coming from small little Fredericton, with sights and sounds continually grabbing your attention.  Just as the city life was becoming tiring at one point this afternoon, I was reminded that blessings come in all shapes and sizes.  As we hungrily wandered in search of meal, a woman asked “Where are you going?”.  What started with a simple discussion with a woman that I had never met before, resulted in this humbling experience which involved tasting my first Ugandan meal (involving matooke – plaintain mushed up like mashed potatoes, poscho – made from maize and is the consistency of porridge and a goat soup of sorts – to have with the matooke and poscho) and getting a dress in the Owino market.  Rose, an amazing woman with a beautiful smile, an English school teacher and mother of two, reminded me of how wonderful people can be and left me wondering why in western culture we can be so self-driven.  We get so caught up in our fast-paced lives with wall-to-wall appointments that we don’t take time to ask, “Where are you going?”.  We lose sight of the amazing opportunities to make someone’s day or to invest in a relationship with another human being.

*written Tuesday May, 15



Filed under Body, Heart

Unintentional learnings.

A chapter experiment turned learning and growing experience for effective involvement of general members stemmed out of a game created to help the chapter get excited about the fact that I am heading to Uganda for my placement.  Beginning with an activity, groups of two and three selected areas to research (including art, history, food, industry etc.).  The energy mounted as members responded enthusiastically to a points system created and dove into their research.  This activity not only provided a great learning experience for myself and the chapter as we discovered Ugandan economy, politics, art and much more but also provided an alternative workshop style.  Moving from the more typical workshop style (intro, creation of common platform about a subject, diving into an activity to clarify understanding and wrapping up with a discussion or questions), this activity explored the ability of the chapter to adapt to situations where there was limited explanation.  Chapter members were thus pushed to set their own boundaries and had the power to direct their learning.  This shift from a more structured format allowed members to shift the power dynamic that commonly exists in presentations, resulting in the presenter knowing much less about the subject than the participants.  The sense of empowerment and enthusiasm that developed in the presentation is a strong indicator to explore alternative models of member learning and challenges the standard templates that are commonly used during workshop development.  Some potential factors that could have led to the strong uptake of this type of workshop (which demands self driven learning by participants) could include: the age of the chapter (activity occurred at the end of the month), the strong friendships (trust based relationships) and that the build-up and investment in member learning throughout the year.

I would love to hear some feedback and ideas around successful workshop structures, understanding the implications of the audience on the structure, performance indicators for workshops (and when the workshop success cannot be directly attributed to its setup), participants feedback/ideas or anything else that floats your boat.

A few interesting facts about Uganda that came out of the workshop:

  • Women in parliament:  24.9% in Canada vs. 30.7% in Uganda
  • In the past 30 years, industry has gone from 56% agriculture to 52% services and growing manufacturing industries.
  • Economic growth rate (estimated): 0.8% in Canada vs. 5.2% in Uganda

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What is market facilitation and why does it matter for smallholder farmers?.

Market facilitation is a type of market intervention, agent or action, which works to stimulate markets while still remaining outside of the market themselves. This approach targets relationships, ownership, incentives, light touch intervention and continuous exit strategy. Through improving commercial relationships between market actors and actors seeing these new relationships and activities as beneficial, market facilitators invest in resilient interventions. Incentives can be used to “buy down” risk but careful consideration must be made about how this stimulation impacts the system (including type of incentive, who offers the incentive and how long it will last). Market facilitators think about market intervention strategically, getting actors to change behavior in a way that leads to on-going upgrading and increased competiveness.

Important concepts:

  • Facilitate linkages
  • Separate from system/intervention
  • Improved relationships
  • Ownership of actors over relationships and activities
  • Less attributable but more sustainable solutions

Why does this all matter anyway?

Market facilitation takes a broad systemic approach to analyzing what key constraints face smallholder farmers and works to connect and reconnect market actors in a sustainable way where actors see and believe in the benefits of these relationships, NOT just the facilitators.  Also, rather than servicing one farmer or one community for over the short-term, market facilitation allows NGOs to upgrade the whole chain and linkages, allowing not only farmers but ALL other players to benefit.

I am extremely excited to work with Engineers Without Borders in Uganda this summer and be introduced to market facilitation in practice, gain insight on the barriers that limit this approach from being implemented and to explore the effectiveness of this approach as an intervention method.

For more information on the Agriculture Value Chains (AVC) team and market facilitation:


Filed under Mind

What’s in a name?.

“Routes to roots” builds on the idea of discovering new roots, exploring new ideas, perspectives and redefining my sense of home as I live in Uganda for four months this summer.  More literally, this title can represent my adventures as I travel to new cities, towns and villages, discovering others history, culture, story and roots.  This title also builds on the personal development and growth that I will experience this summer as I challenge my own paradigms, opinions and perceptions.  The title of my blog has many meanings for me and I hope that it will spur the imagination of those reading my blog to also share what it means to them.

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Filed under Heart

The adventure begins.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog! I look forward to sharing my experiences with you over the summer. Stay connected my work with Engineers Without Borders in Uganda through this blog; expect regular posts to begin around the end of April.

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Filed under Heart