Boda Boda – The driving force in Uganda?

Blog-BodaBoda-4013Boda boda is the African term given to the motorcycles and drivers that provide a significant portion of the transport capacity in the cities and villages. From my observations the motorcycles are old, in poor repair and as a consequence contribute a large portion of the smog that clogs the Kampala skies each day.

Blog-BodaBoda-1030408There is no licensing required for the Boda Boda. The government tried several years back to implement a licensing programme but the drivers revolted, marched and in the end forced the government to back track on their plans.   And it’s this strength of the boda boda driver that can’t be ignored – the youth of Uganda is a significant force as they make-up such a significant portion of the population overall.

Blog-BodaBoda-4017Jobs are hard to come by in Uganda and for the uneducated and the educated alike the simplicity of jumping on a motor bike and driving customers to earning a living is an easy option. Whether it is in the large cities or small villagers there is a need for transport and the comparatively cheap rates offered by the boda boda present a ready and willing customer base.

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Boda boda and taxi battle for patronage in Kampala

Through out Uganda there is no train or public bus service and t he only form of competition is the “taxi”. Taxi’s are usually a Toyota HiAce van and guaranteed to be in poor repair and just like the boda boda these vans are every were.

Blog-BodaBoda-3582Several nights back we had dinner with two couples from the Mengo are, one of the men is a doctor in Mengo hospital and he told us that 60% of the admissions to the hospital are related to boda boda injuries. Malargo hospital, the largest in Uganda has a whole ward devoted to patients of boda boda injuries.

 

 

Interestingly Rwanda, Uganda’s neighbour to the west, has a well licensed and policed boda boda infrastructure. All riders must be licensed and their motor bike must display the license number. The driver must wear a helmet and must also provide the sole passenger with a helmet and ensure it is fitted before commencing their journey.

Blog-BodaBoda-1030401The view of all westerners resident in Kampala that I’ve spoken to there is no option but for Uganda to license the boda boda.  Whether the government has the strength of will to go through with it is another matter.

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The many (missing) faces of Koffu

During the drive back to Kampala after our day at Koffu village I was reflecting on the individuals that I had seen and tried to converse with during the days events.

It took a few moments for me to realise that there were few in the 30-45 age group and it was then that James’s comment from earlier in the day about the “missing generation” really began to get some traction in my mind.

Where were the middle aged men?  I had seen many under 15, a few from 15-20, a smattering of those in their 20’s  but then there was a big gap through to the 50-80 year group who were also well represented.

A similar pattern existed with the women but my recollection was that there were 30-50 year old women but they were few in number.

Today I was reading the Care For Kuffu web site in more detail and saw reference to the regime of Idi Amin, the Bush Wars between 1981 and 1986 and then the AIDS epidemic.  When you consider these events and see the impact that they have had on Kuffu you can  understand the magnitude of the impact on the nation of Uganda.

You will see the absence of this missing generation in the photo strip below.  Now consider how long it will be before the impact of the loss of the missing fathers and mothers is removed from Ugandan society.

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NOTE: The Ugandan Bush War refers to the guerrilla war waged between 1981 and 1986 in Uganda by the National Resistance Army (NRA) against the government of Milton Obote, and later that of Tito Okello.

The overall death toll from 1981 to 1985 was estimated as high as 500,000

CareForKoffu – An inspiring village aid programme in Uganda

Blog_Kuffu-3693On Saturday I was invited to join a group from the UK who were also staying at Namirembe Guest house, on a visit to Kuffu Village, Kuffu is approx. 1.5 hours north west of Kampala. The first hour of travel is on tarmac road and then it’s turn right at the fish market, follow the dusty red dirt road away and then left at the goat before completing the last 1-15 minutes and pulling into the compound.

Blog_Kuffu-3719For the past 5 years the team (www.careforkuffu.org) have been assisting the local community and to date have built a community hall, a kitchen block composting toilets, , classrooms and a guest house. They have also dug a well with hand pump that all the families have access to.

Today’s task is to provide a free medical or dentist check for all the villagers, including the young children. Each person who wants to see the doctor registers, waits, has blood pressure pulse and weight measured, moves to the “waiting room” and waits again before being seen by a Doctor as they become available and then presents the inevitable scrip to the pharmacy team for the required med’s to be prepared.

Blog_Kuffu-3741From the outset the muzungo (white person) are centre of attention and I found myself drawing some extra attention from the young kids as I had a camera on my risk and they all wanted to have their photo taken and then to see the result on the small LCD screen.

By mid afternoon the waiting room is overflowing as the doctors struggle to keep pace with the triage team and a 10 minute break is called. I’ used this break, that eventually extended out to 90 minutes to walk further along the dirt road to get a feel for village life.

Blog_Kuffu-3773There are a few mud and stick constructed buildings but in the main all of the homes are made of mud brick. I was luck enough to see one group of 3 men making bricks form the local red clay. It was a wet and muddy operation but they were obviously very skilled in the process. One of them used a pick to break up the congealed clay and mix in extra water. The second would place a square frame that would make 2 bricks onto a small table and grab a large fistful of clay and slam it down into the frame and smooth it off before carrying it away to turn upside down to release the bricks onto the ground for the initial drying phase.  Once the bricks have initially dried in the open air they are stacked into a kiln shape but importantly there is a tunnel through the centre. A fire is built in the and the heat from this fire completes the final drying and then finally the kiln is disassembled and the bricks are stacked and ready for use.

Blog_Kuffu-3833Banana palms grow right up to the side of the road and there are also cultivated patches of yams along the side of the road. The climate in Uganda is ideal for agriculture – plenty of rain and fertile soil. There is effectively 3 growing seasons each year.

Blog_Kuffu-3726 In the trees I can occasionally hear the squeals of small piglets and at one point along my walk they are brave enough to come out and check me out.

Back in the village the doctors have continued through the afternoon to catch up on the backlog and the final official count of “patients seen” is 400 but I’m told the “illegal’s” who will have inevitability managed to slip through will have lifted the final count higher.

At the end of the day we are all exhausted and the drive back into Kampala is relatively quite, a chance to rest and also chance to reflect on what we have seen and achieved in the past 12 hours.

If you want to find put more about the CareForKoffu programme check out www.careforkffu.org

I’ll be posting again from Kampala in the next few days. To get an update when the next post hits the page FOLLOW my blog (top right below the menu bar)

 

GAVIN