Exploring & Experiencing the Pearl of Africa

by tuftsigl
Jun 23

Manisha Basnet is a Development Economics candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (MALD '15), as well as an Empower Fellow. 

As I write this, I am quickly approaching the end of my first full month in Uganda. By now I have settled in quite well at my guesthouse in Kampala, attended a local wedding and traveled to over 9 districts in Northern Uganda; it seems unbelievable that up until a few weeks ago I had never been to Africa!

I arrived in Kampala in May with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. On my ride from the airport I noticed that Kampala was very similar to Kathmandu (my home town in Nepal) at first glance. Both are surrounded by hills and every road has ample potholes, street vendors, not-so-cautious motorcycle riders, and similarly lined rows of shops along main roads with advertisements painted for Coke, Pepsi or telecom companies. It felt good to be ‘back.’ Since then, comparing Uganda to Nepal (albeit superficially) comes naturally to me; there is less deferential here…women ‘seem’ relatively more empowered…people are equally laidback…sodas and food cost twice as much, etc. Generally though, Uganda is similar to Nepal in that the truly poor population does not have nearly enough and the truly wealthy have way too much. In Uganda this gap seems slightly wider, as Nepal has a relatively larger middle class, but the principles of disparity are there and our countries are suffering for it.

In the days following my arrival, I began my work as a Consultant for FIT Uganda, an agri-business consulting firm. The work includes assessing the implementation of Farmer Record Management Information System (FARMIS) in North Uganda, and providing recommendations based on the assessment to facilitate delivery of enhanced results. FARMIS is an innovative project that provides farmers with market information and intelligence, financial literacy, as well as web and mobile-based farm record management capabilities. My trip to Northern Uganda was a part of this project. We met and interacted with over 300 farmers. I am now working on the financial linkages component of the project for which I have presented a concept note that proposes a framework on access to and use of credit by farmers that links them to the formal financial system. Additionally, I am contributing to and editing the Market Analysis Report, an annual national agri-market analysis publication of commodities in Uganda. Before my time ends here, we are working to outline the design of a financial literacy program in partnership with Mercy Corps, GIZ and Bank of Uganda. The program is intended to provide farmers in rural Uganda with financial management and educational information through SMS and radio.  

Everything is coming together well! All in all, it is shaping up to be a productive and a fulfilling summer. The night is coming to an end so I’ll leave you with some pictures: 

At a Ugandan wedding

Field visit in Northern Uganda

Wildlife spotted so far!