Ugandan Family Development in Action: Collaborative but Locally-Led

The on-going community development program, run by The Real Uganda and Hopeline Organization, with funding from Kain Foundation, examines family, youth, and income development in Kkoba Village, Buikwe, Uganda. Back in November, 2016, I reported on our initial successes as regards improving communication at the household level. The family development program is our attempt to curb domestic violence and family abandonment, and to encourage the child’s voice in the home.

Of the 24 planned family development meetings, we’ve so far held 21. Since the November report, new meetings have focused on increasing household income, while continuing to encourage communication at home and reporting on family abuse. Good communication goes hand-in-hand with building income generating skills and options.

RAISING FARM INCOME

 

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The Ministry of Agriculture and regional commercial farmers were brought in to share the latest, efficient farming techniques. All Kkoba residents attending the meeting received 2 kgs of maize and beans seeds to ensure they quickly put their new knowledge into practice. It was stressed to always plant for family consumption first, with the excess sold in the local market. Unfortunately, due to an unexpected drought in late November, the seeds given out didn’t germinate.

Pride Micro-finance, a loan granting institution in Uganda, was invited to teach savings culture and to talk about how to obtain small loans for the start of planting season. Through micro-credit, farmers can buy seed quickly, with no delays when the season starts. Pride earned many new clients in Kkoba that day. Representatives came back subsequently to confirm who qualifies for loans. Planting season begins in March.

GOOD BUSINESS SENSE WITH A CHALLENGE

Local Lugazi businessmen came out  and spoke on the daily work and commitment involved in starting and maintaining small businesses. Raising initial capital is only the beginning. Kkoba residents were encouraged to also save a portion of sale proceeds to reinvest in stock, stay away from alcohol, marry only one wife, and plan their family size. Each of these were discussed as keys to long-term success. The speakers offered a challenge to local men. Should they raise the capital to rent and outfit a small shop space, they would be awarded with a little free stock to sell. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of this challenge.

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HOUSEHOLD COMMUNICATION AS AN EVERYDAY EVENT

The Ministry of Gender sent representatives to speak about communication skills in the home. Local married people show a tendency to keep quiet and suffer in silence, while the other gets away with whatever bad behaviour they wish. Another common pattern is for partners to fight madly and leave when they can’t win, which leads to family abandonment.

Ministry officials talked about the importance of daily interaction and peaceful negotiation. Communication in the home is ongoing and will always be needed. Parents who work together at home and in the garden teach children how to interact peacefully, and ensure there is always food and love at home. However, there are few role models  in this community. Rural Ugandans are often told from an early age to keep quiet when they face injustice. Silent perseverance is highly regarded in a wife. Persistent communication habits, needed every day in order to maintain strong relationships, are not easy to develop in adulthood.

GOING FORWARD

We’ve got just three more family meetings left in our program. However, our monitoring team will continue to survey the local community over the next 18 months. So far, we’ve learned that home violence has reduced and kids are sharing more of what they learn from school, at home. These were two of our main objectives. Men and women admit they are communicating better, and even see a change of attitude in their partner. Empathy is developing.

While this has been a small initiative, reaching about 300 area families, with a budget of under $2,000, everyone involved believes it has been a beneficial exercise. Family development and cohesion is not an easy thing to develop without visible and vocal allies. Having government, local business, and financial institutions involved has been a wonderful boost. Now let’s see where Kkoba families go from here!

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