Editor’s Note: This week we have a guest blog from Scott Walters, MAP’s Chief Development Officer. Scott is presently traveling in Uganda along with Michael Nyenhuis, MAP’s President and CEO, as well as Dr. Ravi Jayakaran, MAP’s Vice President of Global Programs. They are visiting different MAP programs, encouraging MAP’s Uganda staff, and meeting with sister NGO’s in the country. The team is currently in Gulu visiting the Total Health Villagein the Abala community. Here, Scott discusses an empowerment tool developed by Dr. Jayakaran which uses simple plant seeds to empower villagers to participate in community problem solving without any outside assistance. This ten seed technique enables locals to develop a situation analysis of their village, and probe into different dimensions of a issue- whether literate or illeterate, male or female, young or old- everyone can participate.
Dr. Ravi and I arrived here in Gulu thanks to the expert driving of Jimmy, Map’s Uganda country leader. It was a full day’s drive from Kampala. We literally crossed the Nile River over an absolutely stunning waterfall and rapids. Once on the other side of the bridge, we had to stop for a group of monkeys who apparently thought they owned the place. No exaggeration, it was quite fun!
I saw some things along the road that were absolutely fascinating. Scores of children all dressed in the same brightly colored uniform walking along the highway with no shoes. After 5 or so kilometers, another score of children again all dressed in stunningly bright clothing – all the exact same color but different from the group 5 kilometers back. And this happened mile after mile nearly all day. I think I noticed one pair of shoes in the thousands of children I saw. I also saw many men pushing bicycles with 4-5 huge bundles of bananas or sometimes huge baskets of pineapples who were probably heading to market.
Once we arrived here in Gulu, my jaw dropped. This village is beyond description. The poverty is staggering. I had the opportunity to experience first hand, Dr. Ravi’s Corporate Community Empowerment Index using the distribution of the seeds. Funny, but I have read about it, watched Dr. Ravi’s lectures, and also have spoke with him many times, but now I truly get-it. It’s so simple, its ingenius. Within the Ugandan Total Health Village of Abala, village leaders gathered under a tree to discuss various aspects of public health. They distributed seeds among various circles that Dr. Ravi drew with a stick in the dirt. For instance, he drew two concentric circles and asked everyone, “Since you have been using the water filters that we supplied, how has it affected the number of stomach problems people have experienced here in your village?” Following a lengthy discussion, we discovered that stomach problems decreased 60%. This after a robust discussion among the community leaders who kept redistributing the seeds until a group consensus was reached. The genius in the system is that no matter what age, sex or education level – everyone quickly understands the concept of ratios and participates. It was interaction at its best. And the beauty of it was that neither Dr. Ravi or any other MAP Int’l staff member told people what do to or directed them how to act, etc. It completely empowered the people of Abala in their discussion. Dialogue helped us to identify correlary issues that should be
addressed in the future. The people of Abala enjoyed the discussion and you could see they had a great deal of passion for the various issues address whether it was maternal and child health, food security, or water and sanitation. Dr. Ravi’s system works. He is a blessing to MAP but more importantly a blessing for our efforts in Uganda. Jimmy, Dr. Ravi and I are certainly blessed to be here.
Please pray for our team as they continue to travel in Uganda. For more on the ten seed technique, click here. Check back for more updates from the team!