Notes From Uganda

Raising The Village, a unique social impact enterprise, partners with last-mile villages to achieve sustainable economic development as determined by the community themselves. Through innovative human-centered design, and a participatory approach to partnerships, RTV has been able to improve the quality of life and household incomes for over 10,000 people living in ‘ultra-poor’ conditions. Their holistic approach provides resources and training in five major impact areas to disrupt the poverty cycle and foster the rapid development of last mile villages.

What is a last mile village?  Think about it this way.  The villagers, many who have never ventured beyond their limited village horizon, are not living at the bottom of the economic pyramid.  They are not even on it!  They have virtually no access to government services, fail to qualify for base of the pyramid aid programs and typically earn between 10 to 20 cents at the daily household level.  This is where Raising the Village focuses its time and energy and the Greater Impact Foundation is proud to help.

You might ask, where are these villages?  To provide just a little perspective, at one point I was atop a mountain where one of the villages is located and I could see Rwanda, The Congo and Uganda at the same time (pictured above).  We were in the midst of the jungle home of the mountain gorilla in southwestern Uganda made famous as a result of Dian Fossey’s seminal research.  Remote. Beautiful. Surreal. Uganda, especially rural Uganda, is riveting.  Around every turn the unexpected is expected.  Big cities like Kampala can be amazing as well.  Urban poverty is no less compelling than rural poverty and in some ways the pressurized nature of a large city makes it more so.

500 kilometers east in the Lugazi District, outside Kampala, Eco-Fuels Africa, and a GIF partner since early 2015, continues to innovate.  The business uses biowaste to made alternative cooking fuel.  It is not a new idea, but establishing a business methodology that continues to break down barriers and gain market acceptance is.   Green fuel (biowaste briquettes) is more than just an alternative to charcoal.  It is a more efficient fuel source, less expensive, and a healthier alternative.  Gaining market acceptance in a culture that traditionally resists change is a significant positive cultural shift.  If you ever have the opportunity to meet Sanga Moses you will quickly realize why he has achieved that goal.

GIF constantly talks about the notion that great ideas, wonderful products, a rigorous business methodology and the ingrained DNA to measure everything is key to success in the social impact space.  We also know that without the right talent in place to do the work nothing else matters.  Shawn Cheung and his team at RTV and Sanga Moses along with his team at Eco-Fuel exemplify this truth.  They are honest, thoughtful and committed to doing the right thing and they are not afraid to measure results in an effort to continuously improve.  Their leadership skills seem to be a natural part of their psyche, but I know those skills are underpinned by hard work.  It is evident in everything they do and fully represented by the success of their endeavors.