Monday, 3 August 2009

Bugarama Rice Plantation

This project visit was completely crazy. When we got out of the car, we were surrounded by children immediately, and as we did our walk through the rice plantation, they kept appearing till there were probably hundreds nosily following us. I later learnt that the rice valley hosts around 50 000 people! Though no-one really knows how many for sure.

We started our visit with a meeting in a small dark building where the local leaders informed us on the project and its progress. They actually invited villagers to tell their testimonies themselves. Initially, the people suffered from very poor housing, clothing, education and nutrition. RDIS identified the potential of using the valley for rice plantations and started the work of facilitating this through the local parish in the year 2000. This plantation is now one of the very few that serves the whole country, and provides an income for 90 families with many more involved with consequent village activities.

The locals told the following stories:
  • Before, our houses were made of only banana leaves because of the shortage in trees. Now, after assistance with growing trees, we have much more sturdy houses.
  • Before, we (mainly women) had to process the rice with hand tools which took very long. Now, with the new machine, we are able to process rice much faster and to a better standard.
  • Before, I didn’t have proper clothes. I didn’t even have soap. Now, because of the benefits of the rice plantation, I have good quality clothes (and she stood up to show us) and my children can go to school. I belong to the Mother’s Union (around 30 women per group meeting on a regular basis). We learn to make clothes and sell to the people. With the profit we make, we run a microfinance programme to support other women in need. We also learn to read and write and we pray together.
  • Before, our widows, elderly people and the sick were left to look after themselves as we were not able to. Now, we are financially strong enough to support them in their needs.
  • Before, I wasn’t able to obtain education. Now, I am literate and have been trained to teach others in literacy and funds management.
  • Before, I was an orphan living on the streets. Now, I have a wife, a house, clothes and I was taught about the Bible, all made possible by the support of the community.

We were sent off with a glass bottle of Fanta each. It must have been a real expense for those people, but it was a real blessing for us in the heat!

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