FIrst workshops...

posted Nov 21, 2011, 12:05 PM by Mary Edgar   [ updated Nov 21, 2011, 1:00 PM by Dianne Fowler ]

We just came back from 2 workshops - one in Zombo, which is a hilly area and very cool (cold by Ugandan standards!). It was a good workshop - with lots of enthusiasm for both the handcrafts and AVP. In fact the AVP was suspected by local officials, initially, of being a group of rebels planning a rebellion... Not so, however. As the politicians found, it was a group of ex-rebels planning a method of achieving lasting peace within a community that was still suffering from the insurgencies!

The next stop was a small community called Nyarovur in Nebbi District, in the valley of the River Nile and very hot! Quite a contrast to Zombo - much to the delight of the team! This area had been part of the Belgian Congo, and on a small hill there was a ruined building left
from those days - it was the perfect look-out at the border with Uganda. In 1914 the border was changed to the one of today. Apparently there was exchange - Britain gave Belgium an island in the Atlantic, and Belgium gaveBritain the West Nile area. On a neighbouring hill we were told there was a cave where slaves were kept as the waited transportation to the River Congo, and on to the Atlantic coast, then north to West Africa where they were shipped to Europe and America. We didn’t have time to see the cave, but we were told that it held a lot of people in awful conditions as they waited.

Here, in Nyaravur, the participants in AVP were extra-ordinarily enthusiastic.  They were sure that had AVP been offered before the various rebel activities, there wouldn't have been a rebellion.  The participants were almost all ex-rebels, and when I listened to them talking about their lives it is impossible for me to imagine their hardships and suffering during those times - and indeed still now, as they are under frequent suspicion as their stereotype persists.  So many of the them started off in groups fighting others who were rebels originally, but later became the government.  The difference between freedom fighters and rebels - depends on the outcome...

The children came flocking to the workshops - looking in at the windows and pushing to come in at the doors.  Thereis a lot ofpoverty - even though the areas have rich soil.  Coffee and cotton are the cash crops in the area - so they are subject to constant fluctuations in the market as well as weather and pests.  Where there are cash crops like this there is often hunger because only a small amount of land is used for food - and if the crops fail, then there is little money to buy needed food.  Further north, in Yumbe District, there was a heavy hale storm earlier this year and many farmers lost their crops - some of the worst hit were tobacco farmers who are given seeds, fertilizer and everything, and when the crops are sold, the costs are deducted from the payment for the tobacco.  This year many farmers only received bills and now must pay off these debts.

Nyarovur is well known for it's pots and grinding stones.  You can see the stones behind the pots.  You would be amazed how many people still use stones to grind their peanuts and various grains, so these items are very important.  The pots are made of local clay - and keep water incredibly cool - I'm always surprised how cool it can be on a hot day!  It's an African fridge!

Rain is still falling - mud is still a problem.  All too soon, though, we will be complaining about the dust.  People are the same everywhere, aren't they?  Never satisfied with what we have!  No matter how much mud there is, the women still are dressed in colourful clothes and wear elaborate headgear and always look fresh and clean - for me I get grubby feet and mud on my clothes!   

Our next workshop is going to be in Adjumani - on the east side of the River Nile - that will be another adventure!