On Tuesday, we finally began our engineering work in Soroti. It is Wednesday evening now in Uganda, and I can definitely say that the past two days have been both rewarding and sobering.
Our mission was to help with implementation of two new Multi Function Platforms (MFPs) in rural communities. MFPs are agro-processers that have been implemented in rural communities all over East Africa. The concept is simple enough for a non-engineer like myself to understand: a diesel engine uses pulleys to attach to various ‘components,’ which can each process various crops. There is a maize huller, cassava chipper, and oil press, among other attachments. These are very important for communities, as they drastically cut down the amount of time needed to process the crops. Columbia EWB started implementing MFPs, housed in brick structures, around 10 years ago. Each MFP has local leadership that owns the device and charges individuals to come process crops. Unfortunately, the funding from Columbia for the two MFPs did not arrive in time for us to implement them, and so we have shifted the focus of our trip. Instead, the last days have been filled with assessment of old sites.
On Tuesday, we visited Orungo, which is about one hour away from Soroti town and talked to the chairperson of the MFP. It was incredible to see how the work we’ve been doing over the past few months in New York has actually been implemented. However, it was also immediately clear how problem-plagued the system is, from engine trouble to lack of communication. Our Wednesday visit to Tubur confirmed both the positive and negative aspects of the project—there has definitely been a beneficial impact, but there is a long way to go until the communities are independent.
The team from Pilgrim that has been driving us to the sites and participating the meetings is truly incredible. Julius is head engineer for the project, and is warm and outgoing. David, the driver and special assistant, is also a remarkable individual. During the 2003 violent insurgency, David took up arms along with 30 other teenagers to help defend the region from the rebels. David took the time to share his inspiring story with us, and we were blown away by his bravery and selflessness. Titus is the MFP lead at Pilgrim, and he is truly passionate about his work, and has dedicated his life to improving the lives of those displaced by the insurgency.
It feels great to be out in the villages working, and we look forward to continuing the project in the week and a half to come.