Oli Otiya Uganda!


After spending a week in Kenya with Kounkuey Design Initiative and at the WEDC conference, I hopped west to Uganda. Fred Rose, Cheryl Robertson and I taught a course on social-environmental entrepreneurship at Makerere University in Kampala. The course came at the last week of master’s programs for veterinary science, nursing and public health students, as part of a USAID-funded OneHealth program. OneHealth brings together students and faculty from animal and human health areas to develop collaborations to address animal-to-human transmitted diseases.



On the first day of the class, the 60 Makerere students identified potential opportunities for businesses that could solve health challenges in Uganda.



The teams self-selected around 12 challenge areas such as child malnutrition, animal diagnostics, sanitation, water, etc.



Students then spent the remaining 2.5 days developing their business models, customer empathy maps and business pitches.



Fred, Cheryl and I worked with the teams to refine their business models into potentially viable solutions.



Makerere University is one of the oldest and largest universities in East Africa, located on Makerere Hill in Kampala. They have 40,000 students.



Da class.



On the second day of class, students shared their 2-minute elevator pitches.



On the last day, we met with students from teams that were interested in piloting their venture ideas in villages. We’re now working to provide funding to the start up teams to pilot.



In July 2013, I had the opportunity to visit Hope Integrated Academy in rural southern Uganda. Our Engineers Without Borders-UMN teams installed rainwater and solar-powered groundwater systems in 2008-2009. The EWB-UMN Uganda  teams and projects have continued to evolve over the years. The main implementation this summer was household rainwater projects.



The phase 6 Uganda project team did repairs to the groundwater system this summer, including a new pump and electrical protection. The system faced some difficulties over the past few years with electrical surges from the grid. The grid is now detached and the system is now well protected from lightening strikes as well including surge protectors, breaker box and heavy duty grounding wire.



The robust groundwater system storage tank in the matokee field. We conducted flow tests on the tank this summer. The well should maintain a consistent flow of 7.5 L/hr through peak sunlight hours.



The updated pump controller at the school. The water system includes a low water sensor in the bore well and a high water sensor in the storage tank to shut off the pump when water is too low or too high, respectively.



The school certainly has changed since the first assessment in 2007. At that time, there wasn’t yet a roof on the school. Now, is a 96K Liter rainwater system and there are 20 solar panels to run the groundwater pump and provide electricity to the campus. There is also a primary school, teacher hostel, student hostel, new toilet and updated bathing room.



Groundwater distribution tap at HIA.



Ambrose, Uganda Rural Fund staffer and technical guru. Ambrose manages the water and electrical systems for URF at the school. System maintenance wouldn’t be possible without Ambrose living on site!



Rainwater tank outlet.





New Main Hall going up at Hope Integrated Academy.



The EWB-UMN 2013 summer implementation involved design and construction of two 3,000 L household rainwater harvesting tanks. These were quite different from past EWB projects in Uganda, as the UMN students were primarily responsible for optimizing the design while the households did much of the labor and provided funding for the construction materials. It may not have been a big sexy groundwater system, but it certainly has more potential for scalability and impact.



Yassin, owner of one of the rainwater tanks, was deeply proud to show off his new investment in rainwater infrastructure. He has been approached by 15-20 other households in the village to help them construct their own rainwater collection systems. Yassin is hoping to make a business building rainwater tanks in the area.

Tank materials cost approximately $200 per household. Some households are able to afford this cost while others may requiring financing through a revolving loan fund. While there is hope household rainwater tanks will be a scalable solution in rural Uganda if farmers like Yassin are able to build a business around it, there are still many challenges to overcome such as cost, transportation, financing, management. The involvement of the households and their willingness to pay for rainwater installations was absolutely encouraging.



Ambrose ready to zip to the next household in the URF van.



The second household that paid for and constructed a rainwater tank this summer with EWB-UMN support. This women was kind to give us a glove box full of freshly harvested peanuts.



In January 2013, EWB-UMN constructed a 150,000 L rainwater harvesting project at a nearby school in Bugonzi. The system provides rainwater to the community and school throughout the dry season.



The concrete rainwater tanks were more affordable than polyethylene tanks used at the Hope Academy.



The downspout-like devices are first flushes. A first flush allows the first 1 cm of rainwater, and debris washed off the roof at the start of a rain storm, to collect. Once full of water and once the roof is clear of debris, rainwater can then pass into the rainwater tank. The team purchased all materials for the system in Uganda. Originally the gutters were all large gauge PVC, but after a small section was stolen the school replaced the missing section with metal rectangular gutters purchased from a nearby village.



Sunset soccer match in Kyetume . . .