KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
By Katherine Crabtree
On my flight in to Uganda, I finished reading No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin, her bio of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Oh my goodness, what a fantastic read. I knew what was going to happen, obviously, but still I cried my eyes out on the plane at the end of it. My seatmate was tactfully unaware.
I left it with Lillian for her library project the night before our last day, and she told us she’d stayed up until 4 am reading it.
There were a couple of points in that book that felt pertinent to my time in Uganda:
1) Eleanor Roosevelt pushed for the creation of daycare systems when women entered the workforce in WWII. Women here have been “in the workforce” for generations, since they do the main farming, but their daycare consists of tying the baby to their back in a sack.
We watched a woman in this predicament one day with one of KIHEFO’s preceptors, Lilian. The woman’s baby was crying while she dug. Lilian said, “Tomorrow she’ll take her daughter out of school to take care of the baby while she digs, and eventually the older girl will drop out because she can’t keep up with school and take care of the baby,” meaning that daycare could not only be beneficial for productivity, but also for improving the potential of girls to be educated. When we were in schools for deworming, there was a clear gender bias in the senior classes.
The villages are pretty organized, actually, with elected leadership and groups that pool their savings and make plans for community improvement. We asked them if they’d thought about a daycare at one meeting, and they said that it doesn’t make sense because the women would have to go back and forth to breastfeed. So is there a solution?
2) Goodwin mentions that one of the economic benefits to WWII was that it brought many subsistence farmers into urban areas for the war effort, and then they didn’t go back to farming afterward.
My question is, if economic gains in the US can be attributed to that, should advocates for development in countries like Uganda also be pushing to get people into more urban environments and away from subsistence farming?
I borrowed one of Holmgren’s Permaculture books from our Local Coordinator, and he makes a good point that there is a huge source of unmeasured wealth for people in subsistence agriculture economies, in how they are able to use the land, farming, and natural resources. And just because the people we’ve met in villages here don’t live the same way that we do in the states, it doesn’t mean that they can’t live well.
I don’t know what the answer to that question is either, then. But the benefit of coming here is that before, when I read Goodwin’s statement I just accepted it that moving away from subsistence was a good thing, and now I am actually thinking about it.
3) The last thing is that Goodwin’s mention’s that Franklin Roosevelt wanted to avoid nationalizing the war industry because he had a firm belief in the ability of the people to get things done more creatively, efficiently, and effectively than the government. Interesting balance coming from the creator of the New Deal.
Anyway, I thought about that a lot here because there are so many ways that people are stepping in to fill in the gaps where government has left them.
You have Dr. Anguyo, who left his post in the government hospital to create the amazing KIHEFO.
There’s Lilian, whose ambition is to build a library.
We met village savings groups that have organized to improve their farming practices, schools, and health.
So I think that Roosevelt was right to believe in the capacity of the people. But that doesn’t let the government off the hook– the reason he was right about the ability of Americans to accomplish what they did in WWII was because it was all done in the context of a government that was supportive and for the people.
The friendly government is the fertile ground that is needed to let people like Anguyo and Lilian flourish to their full potential. That’s all I’ll say about that.
Katherine Crabtree is a recent graduate from medical school at UC Davis School of Medicine. In April-May, Katherine participated in a 4-week internship with KIHEFO in Kabale, Uganda, focusing on food security and nutrition via the Child Family Health International (CFHI) partnership.
Read more about her experiences in Uganda – click here.
Inspired to get involved with KIHEFO? Please visit our official website – click here.