May 26, 2017

The community members came up with the projects, and the Global Health Systems in Africa graduate students ranked in order of preference the projects they wanted to work on.Today, the students engaged with community representatives to discuss and prepare a “pitch” to the Kanyawara “Dragon’s Den” – where the dragons included Professor Irena Creed (Western University, and sponsor on behalf of the QEII Scholar program), Dr. Dennis Twinomugisha (a Ugandan scientist who has been working at Kibale National Park for 20+ years), Jimmy Ogwang (a member of the Kanyawara community who facilitated bringing the community leaders together to identify and design priority projects for the community), and Bonny Balyeganira (a member of a neighbouring community who will ensure successful implementation of the community projects).

The competition was real – eight proposed projects, and a maximum of four that would be funded (based on available resources). Here are the students’ reflections of their Kanyawara Dragon’s Den experience.

Project 1: Bee Hives

Project members: Oscar Senar, Jason Knapp, Camille Chemali, and Bob Kigen

In the global north, artists, entrepreneurs and almost anyone with an idea can start a crowd sourcing campaign on the internet with the hope that anyone in the world interested in their project will help them fund it. However, this is normally not the case for rural communities in Uganda. We have met locals with business ideas that would benefit not only themselves, but also the community itself. Projects such as pig farming, bee keeping, chicken raising and various others were presented to us. They were all great ideas but lack financial support. It is our role to become part of the community and work with them to ensure that these projects are developed in a sustainable manner. Have you ever thought about how much it costs to start a bee keeping business?

Project 2: Chickens

Project members: Spencer Yeung, Carolyn Spiegel-Feld, Reshel Perera, and Angelina Zhu

Chicken Chicken

Uganda has a large population of neglected orphans, many children having lost their parents to AIDS. Some are fortunate enough to be taken in by families in the community, but with them comes the financial burden of caring for an additional child. As such, the child often does not receive the same support from their parents as the biological children do. Furthermore, these orphans are treated as lesser members of the community. When we met with the locals to potentially establish a sustainable chicken coop, they told us that orphans are such a common occurrence that there was no stigma surrounding orphans. Therefore, the proposed sustainable chicken coop seeks to give support to orphans by providing funds to cover tuition fees, school supplies, medical costs, and food. We hope to expand the project to fit the vision of community members and create a sustainable project that impacts orphans for years to come.

Project: Community Garden

Project members: Eshan Shah, Leah Rosenkrantz, Elizabeth Pham, and Hannah Guiang

A real-life shark tank

Today was both a stressful and eye-opening day for many reasons. We had the opportunity to meet with community members to form a proposal for a “community garden”. After realizing “the garden” was an acre of land, our perceptions of the project had to immediately change to accommodate. Another challenge was the language barrier between our community members and us. Although most of the members’ English was excellent, it was still a struggle to convey certain ideas. Although the community members came incredibly prepared with a budget and a list of materials needed, their business model was not very sustainable, forcing us to reconsider and deliberate certain aspects. While a challenging and chaotic experience, this was a great opportunity to apply some of the skills we have learned in the school year.

Project: Piggery

Project members: Clare Nelligan, Anya Kochel, Michael D’Agostino, and Felicia Krausert

Let’s get piggy with it!

We are very excited to be working with the local community to help start a piggery in Kibale National Park. In this remote area, where the people and the national park are intricately linked, the piggery will provide sustainable income, food, and training. The most important part of this project is that we are not bringing in new knowledge; the know-how is already embedded within the community. We enjoyed meeting with community executive Isaiah, Harriet and Robert to discuss their vision of the piggery. Although this was a high-pressure day, we are optimistic about our project and excited to help this community realize its vision. Given our lack of prior experience, we learned a lot about pigs and sustainable farming in a short amount of time. We are optimistic that through this partnership the local community will be successful in creating a sustainable and profitable piggery.

Project: Fish Farm

Project members: Daniel Brener, Liz Favot, Christine Park, and Veerta Singh

Something Smells Fishy

Having worked directly with the community and compiling the necessary components of a project proposal under a tight time constraint, we underestimated the difficulty of implementing a realistic project with limited resources in an unfamiliar place. Taking on a bottom-up approach in putting together a project that will reap maximal benefits for the stakeholders involved is already a daunting task but was necessary in order to understand the community members’ perspectives. It was crucial for us to communicate to the beneficiaries that we aren’t researchers here to conduct a research project, nor are we merely just a source of funds for their initiatives, but rather, our role is to offer our insight, listen attentively to their needs, and to work collaboratively with them in actualizing their vision and achieving their goals. Coming from a developed country, it’s easy to assume that we have all the answers, but when actually placed in the situation, insight from the community members is crucial for a sustainable solution.

Project: Tree Nursery

Project members: Kevin Erratt, Michael Dallosch, Onyka Gairey, and Rick Dong

Building Bridges

Stress built as we anticipated the arrival of our guest. With only three hours to craft and pitch an idea to the dragons, we frantically questioned our guests in hopes of creating a brilliant plan to help assist the community flourish in the future.  Our minds were on trees and what varieties would be best suited for local farmers. However, we soon came to terms that our plan to shift the community to native species were not reasonable. Invasive varieties, such as pine and eucalyptus, were highly sought after due to their high market value. It became very apparent that the market value over potential environmental risks that could ensue, were preferred. We had difficulties communicating with the locals despite the use of a translator, and ultimately our budget was disorderly. Although, we got burned by the dragons it was an interesting experience and provided great insight into the needs of the local community.

Project: Women Handicraft

Project members: Erika Freeman, Georgina Mends-Paintsil, Rose Moss, and Stefania Wisofschi

The Women of Kanyawara
A village is like a football (soccer) team, you often can’t win on the talent of a single player. One way to improve a team, or to develop a village is to leverage the strengths and talents of all members, including the women. We feel that the women of this community can use their talents to bring wealth and opportunity to their families and to the whole of Kanyawara. Today, we met with a group of women who run their own small businesses. They were all involved in the production and sale of handmade crafts, including bracelets, purses, and bowls made from local materials. Ambitious and proud, the women explained how they had learned their craft, often passed down through generations. Some were even able to pay for their children’s school fees through the extra income that they made. We sat there, humbled from our conversations with these community leaders. For a group of women, whose farthest horizon lies on cusp of a nearby town, we considered how amazing it would be if the whole world saw their talents.


Postscript from Professor Creed:

Each project team did an amazing job – overcoming challenges of language and culture barriers to work together and make a pitch to the Kanyawara Dragon’s Den.  The Professional Global Health Systems in Africa students were particularly important, bring their business skills to the pitches to ensure each project would be financially sustainability (and ideally profitable) within one year of the initial investment. The judges used the following three criteria to select the winners: cost, direct and indirect impacts on the community, and financial and environmental sustainability of the projects.

The winning pitches were:

Women of Kanyawara (Creating a Safe Space for Women to Produce Crafts to Secure Livelihoods)
Piggery (Raising Pigs to Create Revenue for the Local Community)
Hatching Orphans (Raising Chickens to Feed Orphans and to Create Revenue to Help them Thrive)
Bees and Elephants (Using Bees to Produce Honey while Deterring Elephants from Raiding Crops)

Stay tuned for further updates on how these winning pitches are implemented.