On 6 March I had the privilege of participating in a field training activity in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Kibuuka District which currently hosts over 90,000 refugees (Persons of Concern - PoC). I was largely an observer, watching Rosemary Mukonyezi, one of SNV's staff, as she trained over 15 members of a rural producer group on post-harvest handling. What was interesting about this group was the presence of a diverse mix of nationalities and languages. Some were PoCs from Rwanda, Congo and South Sudan. Rosemary and her Swahili interpreter (Swahili is a common language among PoCs) caught the attention of the entire group so at the end of the two-hour meeting we asked them what they thought about the training. Many of them expressed appreciation for what they learnt, especially on how to plant and store their grain in order to get good quality grain.
Rosemary showcases the hermetic storage bags
Within the muddy walls and wattle structure where the meeting was taking place, the positive feedback from the group members would make someone think that Rosemary’s work was an easy job. However, a cursory walk outside exposed the challenges faced by staff in the settlement. One of the biggest challenges is sanitation and hygiene. When she first moved to the settlement, Rosemary recalls how they used to wear skirts and sandals until she got jiggers due to poor sanitation in the settlement. Now they wear trousers and closed-toe shoes at all times. The weather is not very forgiving either, especially in the dry season when it is hot and very dusty.
After the morning prayer at 5:30 in the moring, Rosemary’s prepares food for her one-year-old son whom she leaves at home with a nanny as she goes to work. Most of her work day is spent in the settlement; mobilising groups for trainings, and performing training and home visits to monitor the implementation at the household level. Since she started working in the settlement in December 2018, Rosemary has been able to train 70 leaders from 35 rural producer groups on post-harvest handling as well as on establishing savings and loan associations. For Rosemary adjusting to the living conditions of a refugee settlement camp has been one of her biggest highlights this year. She is also happy that the PoC are slowly starting to save as groups and keep records of their savings. Her goal now is to see the groups bulking quality grain and she is optimistic that this will happen this harvest season.
As we parted ways, I asked Rosemary what she would like to be in five years and she answered that she hopes to take over her project manager’s job. Her manager – Annet who was with me clapped and applauded her vision. As we left Kyangwali refugee settlement, I left with a deeper sense of gratitude for the comforts that I take for granted and respect for staff like Rosemary who are working under difficult conditions to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Learn more about SNV's work in Uganda.