Eight Canadian co-operators are visiting Uganda to learn about CCA’s Integrated Finance and Agricultural Production Initiative (IFAPI) model. CCA and the Uganda Co-operative Alliance have developed an innovative approach to rural development by linking agricultural co-operatives, marketing co-ops and savings and credit co-operatives.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Friday

Before leaving for Uganda, I bought a book from Amazon.com. Consequently, Amazon got my email address.

I mention this only because I spent Friday — Black Friday — walking the streets of downtown Kampala. In the morning we left our hotel and walked roughly 10 minutes to the offices of the Ugandan Co-operative Alliance (UCA).  The purpose of our meeting at the UCA offices was to be debriefed on the work the UCA — in conjunction with the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA)  — is doing in Northern Uganda to connect farmers with marketing co-operatives and Ugandan credit unions.

Part of the debriefing also focused on some basic facts about Uganda, and the one fact that jumped out at me was that a full quarter of the population lives on less than one U.S. dollar per day.

That statistic is jarring enough on its own, but it was driven home on our walk back to the hotel, when we passed people begging in the streets. Old people, people missing limbs, and the one image that I was unable to shake: a woman begging with her infant child sleeping beside her on the bare sidewalk.

That image stayed with me for the rest of the day. That evening, as I was checking my email, I was bombarded by emails from Amazon, offering fantastic Black Friday deals on high-definition televisions, computers and other electronics.

The contrast between the privileges we enjoy in the developed world and the struggles of people in the developing world was never starker. 

That’s why I’m so excited to spend the coming days learning more about how the UCA and CCA are working to improve the lives of Ugandans. My hope is that we’ll hear stories about how the project is providing them with opportunities to become self-sufficient — and therefore avoid the fate of that woman and her child.

Jim Harris

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