Out and about Uganda: Busika Extreme Adventure Park

Guest blogged on oleebranch.com

You’ve all heard about Ninja Warriors or at least watched the series on Television. Those ones that get you cracking up, at how easily someone can fail to overcome a ‘simple’ challenge and end up in a pool of water. Ninja Warriors are synonymous with Asia, Japan to be more specific.

Well, we have an epic version of Ninja warriors in Uganda. You’ve got to have ninja traits and be an adventurous kind to attempt it, else you fall in ‘Air’. There is no water below to waste on you. So you hang in air until someone comes to your rescue. I am not kidding, I mean it. You will be there hanging about fwaaa until Badru or another trainer comes for you. Read more

Self-hate or peer pressure for Zambian Girls?

It is almost illegal to have a dark face and natural hair in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. They come in all shapes, colours, sizes, texture and length. These are the weaves worn by majority of Zambian female city dwellers who prefer to call them hair extensions. It was my third visit to Zambia and during the previous two trips, I had observed an interesting phenomenon of women bleaching only their faces. This last trip however revealed something new, that the bleached faces came with artificial ‘hair extensions’. There were moments when I totally looked out of place with my short natural hair and dark skin complexion. Read more

I survived 111m of Big African Air

When you hear that someone bungee jumped 111m off the Victoria falls in Livingstone, you probably think that s/he is crazy, stressed or was attempting murder. Well, those thoughts hold some truth to them. It takes bravery, courage, craziness and all those fancy adjectives to throw oneself 111meters off the victoria bridge towards the mighty Zambezi River.  If you do not know where the Victoria Falls or Zambezi River are located, you probably didn’t pay enough attention in your Geography classes. Those falls are locally known as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which means ‘Smoke that thunders’. The Zambians and Zimbabweans know best about the ‘small fights’ that they have always had for years over these falls. That’s a story for another day. Read more

A Kiss from a Giraffe

Growing
up, I was privileged to live in a couple of National Parks in Uganda. This was
so, because my dad was a Sr. member of staff at Uganda Wildlife Authority
(UWA). This meant that for every work transfer, we moved along with him as a
family.  We lived in some of the best
National parks in Uganda like the Murchsion falls, Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori
National Park among others. We often went for game drives, Safaris and camping
and learnt a lot about flora and fauna with training to preserve and conserve nature
from a very young age.
I
remember my dad telling my siblings and I endless stories about the park and
how animals are beautiful ‘people’ and that if we didn’t interfere with the
ecosystem, we could live in peace and harmony with all creatures.  We were never allowed to tamper with any
creature by destroying its habitat or killing it for no reason. Over the years,
I have learnt to respect other creatures and appreciate their role and value in
the ecosystem. For me, nature has always been part of my life.
During  a recent  Thomson Reuters  media training on “Sustainable development in a
changing environment” which took place in Nairobi,While discussing the
Sustainable development Goals that are to replace the MDGS, I learnt that for
anything to be sustainable, it ought to meet the needs of the present
generation without compromising those of 
the future generation to meet their own needs. I am afraid that in the
wake of a changing Climate, characterized by deforestation, destruction of
wetlands, human settlement in national parks and poaching, a lot of the future
needs have been compromised.  And
something has to be done.
As I
plan to embark on an afforestation project in Uganda, I have decided to travel
around Kenya visiting parks and reserves to appreciate the fauna. My first
trips were to the David Shedirck Wildlife trust found within the Nairobi
National Park, dedicated to saving baby elephants and taking them back to the
wild once mature and the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi dedicated to Giraffes. In the video below, I was feeding a Giraffe as
I learnt more about its life and value within the ecosystem. What you observe is the famous “Giraffe Kiss” received by lucky and courageous visitors to the
centre.

I
also did visit the Orphaned Elephants and learnt about their sad stories and
how they ended up at the centre. It is mainly as a result of Ivory Poaching. A
human activity endangering African elephants for their tusks.  Read more here 

A baby Elephant being fed at the David Shedrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya.

How
can we move from being addicted to “breaking news” and focus more on
sustainable development issues in a changing climate?  Maybe we could start by being kissed by a giraffe
so that we can appreciate the value of our flora and fauna. Human beings need
to stop being greedy. Just because animals cannot speak they get hurt and when they do, humanity is endangered. This piece was not about being kissed by a Giraffe but rather about the dangers of compromising the needs of the future generations through our selfish acts of destroying flora and fauna. You can do something to change this. What are you going to do today to stop further destruction of our environment? Plant a tree? Report deforestation to save birds? stop reclamation of land for wrong reasons? save those flowers to bring the bees back? what action will you take today? The ball is in your court!

My experience as a trainer in Sudan

Web 2.0 & social media training, an initiative by CTA in ACP countries, provides practical training for practitioners of information and communications for development and other agricultural stakeholders on how to use Web 2.0 technologies in their work and lives. And the learning process is made enjoyable and memorable through the use of practical sessions, a process that allows learners to engage and interact with the different tools.
I have had the privilege of conducting a couple of Web 2.0 and social media trainings on behalf of CTA in Africa, and I must admit that each country that I have been to has come with its own experiences. My most recent training was in the republic of Sudan, at the University of Gezira , Wad Medani, about 200 km from Khartoum, the capital city.
Going to Sudan came with a mixture of feelings, both excitement and uncertainty. I had questions like: Wasn’t it too hot in Sudan? (Considering that I come from Uganda where the weather is just ‘okay’.); Would I be forced to dress like the local women there? How about the language? I had no idea how I was going to communicate in a country where Arabic is the main and predominantly spoken language. As a matter of fact, the only word I knew in Arabic was shukran, meaning ‘thank you’.
The exciting part of it all was the fact that I was going to train men and women from academia. It was also the first time I would be travelling to Sudan to experience a new culture and, most important, to share knowledge.
I arrived in Khartoum on 9 May 2015, together with a team from the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), with whom the training was to be conducted. Straight away, we set off for Wad Medani to prepare for the event. Of course it was very hot and the people were very warm and friendly.
The next day, a Sunday, our training began. I had to adjust to the new ‘Monday’. In Sudan, Sunday is not a holiday like it is in Uganda, and the working week starts on Sunday. During day 1 of the training, we were reminded that we needed to include time for prayers in our agenda for all the training days. This is something I had personally never experienced but the reason was obvious.
Then came the language. Since the participants where mainly from the University of Gezira, an academic institution, they had a fair command of English and that made it possible for the training to be given in English. However, we had to speak a bit slower and very clearly and use lots of gestures. It was amazing how effective the learning process was. The level of enthusiasm and commitment that the trainees showed was overwhelming.
Even though the training generally went well, it came with a couple of challenges beyond our control. For example, Sudan is on a US blacklist concerning Internet access, which means that some websites are not accessible from Sudan. For instance, when registering on Twitter the user has to confirm his/her phone number and ‘Sudan’ is not among the drop-down list of options. Also Picasa, an image organiser and image viewer used for organising and editing digital photos, is blocked in Sudan. However, this did not stop us from going ahead with the training, but it did mean that we had to look for some alternative platforms.
Overall, for me as a trainer it was a totally new learning experience. It made it possible for me to compare experiences with my previous trainings and highlighted the need to always be prepared when conducting training in a new country.
Are you a trainer? What are some of the unique experiences you have encountered that you would like other trainers to learn from? Please share them.

A road trip to a ‘mysterious’ place called Molo in Search of Knowledge!!

How it all started.
When The Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural cooperation ACP EU (CTA) announced a web 2.0 Learning Opportunity in Molo, Kenya through it’s mailing lists, I was excited and very enthusiastic. I quickly but accurately read through with a focus on the requirements for the training which all seemed perfect for me except one “YOU MUST BE A KENYAN”.  This would have made me give up easily since I am UGANDAN  but being the curious and daring kind of person, this did not deter me from applying for the one week training. I said to myself that I needed the skills just like the Kenyan’s did.

A few weeks Later, I received a call from the Coordinator “ICT and Innovations”, CTA who wanted to know if I really needed the training . My answer was definitely affirmative. I also had an opportunity to ask him why the training was being restricted to Kenyan Citizens yet we call ourselves ‘East Africans’, He told me that CTA did not have enough finances to cater for transport of participants from Outside Kenya but added that a similar training will be conducted early 2011 in Uganda [Not sure about how the political situation will be then]. He added that if I was lucky enough to be shortlisted, I would cater for my own transport to Molo. As I write this blog post, I am seated in a room with 23 Kenyans[Excuse me: Fellow EastAfricans] attending the Web2.0 Learning Opportunity at Baraka Agricultural College in Molo, Kenya.
View Molo on Google Maps

My Journey to Molo.
On the 26th Sept 2010, heeding to a friend’s advice not to board a bus, I headed for the Old Taxi park in Kampala to begin my journey to a mysterious place called MOLO. I was lucky to find the taxi with a small Card board almost half way full having the words TORORO/MALABA inscribed on it. I took up the front seat just next to the driver’s. When it filled up, it was about 9:37am and it took us another 13 minutes to find our way out of the disorganized Taxi park. Once we were out of the park, I estimated 3hours of non-stop driving to reach Malaba boarder. And indeed we were at Malaba at about 1:00pm with delays that  resulted of a few stop overs in Tororo and some time that got wasted when some of the language[also known as “muzigo” in swahilli] fell out of the boot and had to be put back.
At Malaba, the immigration process on the Ugandan side was less of a hustle, I had my passport stamped in  less than 5 mins and straight away headed for  Immigration at the Kenyan side. I nearly shed tears when I saw the long queue. [I later on learnt that the queues were long because the Arrival/Departure forms had gotten finished]. I had to join the queue until I had my passport stamped. I  then rushed to the stage to board the “Eldoret|Nakuru|Nairobi” taxi also known as ‘matatu’ in Kenya. I had to start using Kenya Shillings and start speaking Swahili………………..the money bit was easy but the speech……..

View Larger Map
Conclusion
To cut the long story short, I left malaba after about 2hrs of waiting for the matatu to feel up, reached Eldoret at around 5:47 and left for Nakuru at 7:25. Now MOLO my destination is located between Eldoret and Nakuru but I had to go straight to Nakuru to be on a safer side then board a Matatu on 26th Sept to Molo for the training. I had to speak all the little swahilli I knew because nobody gave a  ‘damn’ about English.  I managed to reach my destination at round 8:00am on the morning of 27th Sept 2010 and was warmly welcomed. I MUST say that despite all the stress and Tension I went through, I am so happy to be at Baraka Agricultural College. It is totally awesome Read more about Baraka 
Please do not ask me how I managed to pay my transport fares!!!
That will be told verbally