making a simple bird feeder while off sick

making a simple bird feeder while off sick

Due to some debilitating sickness I have spent a couple of days at home but found the ailment unable to stop me essaying some D-I-Y.

Yesterday I fell upon this article and was intrigued because I have been harbouring big plans of erecting a bird feeder using terrazzo stone, bits of glass both stained and ordinary, paints and ceramic. The damn thing was supposed to be made in Uganda by Ugandans and should have cost me very little in Ugandan shillings, by my estimation.

I feared, though, that in reality I would end up forking out more than I was really ready to pay and that I would somehow be disappointed with the translation of my words and my mind’s eye into the physical artefact.

Hope stayed alive until I bumped into that article and this morning, in between trying to do many other things, I fished out a mug and saucer from the corner cabinet and whipped out a tube of super glue from the toolbox – during which process I found a brand new bathtub plug chain waiting to be given attention.

A few minutes of ‘work’ later, I had idea number two as displayed in the article and filled it with crushed groundnuts, sim-sim and poppy seeds.

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This is what the internet is for.

here’s how to get rid of all those empty plots and make money while at it


FOR months now, my neighbourhood association has grappled with the very disturbing problem of empty plots. These are plotted pieces of land on which buildings have not yet been erected and that, therefore, attract unsavoury characters with undesirable, distasteful habits.
For various reasons on top of just the pain of looking at them, the empty plots are particularly irritating for the residences that occupy the spaces closest to them. One reason is the tendency some characters have of haphazardly dumping garbage on such plots, which besides the offensive smell leads to an accumulation of vermin that gets pursued by snakes.
Another reason is the shrubs and bushes that thrive on the putrefaction and grow annoyingly healthily to heights that serve only one purpose – providing cover for criminals of varying degrees of danger and menace, including those misguided young fellows that gather in groups to take turns puffing away at rolled up herbs rarely found in domestic kitchens.
And, linked to that, are the swarms of mosquitoes and other insects that breed within these plots.
Our problem was so serious that we fired off letters to the city authorities and have kept pushing for something to be done, short of claiming the plots ourselves and putting up buildings thereon.
We identified a couple of the plot owners and one of them agreed to keep his plot clean and cleared, but the other went silent knowing our reaction would be muted (one day he will be shocked to find activity on his plot, as you will see later).
This problem exists in many more than just my neighbourhood, and as we were on the verge of forming an association for ‘People Irritated By Empty Plots’, I fell upon a television programme that introduced me to the Huertos of Cuba, and have re-aligned my approach.
I believe that Huerto, in Spanish, means something along the lines of “kitchen-garden”, or “small vegetable garden” or “market garden”.
The story goes that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba found its most powerful economic partner was no longer in a position to provide the support it needed. The country was faced with its own economic collapse, in the face of serious difficulty being such a close neighbour of the United States and at the same time its most rooted enemy.
The most urgent problem the country faced, at that time, was a looming food shortage because food agriculture was generally quite low as the country had focused on industrial agriculture for export mainly to the Soviet Union.
The country declared an economic crisis and introduced food rationing, which led to the malnutrition in families.
At the same time, because the economy was doing so badly, there were hundreds of empty or disused plots within the city – in particular, the capital, Havana, where businesses had shut down and buildings had been abandoned.
The Cubans put two and two together and started to plant their own food on those empty plots, and before long the government took up the task of officially supporting these efforts, creating a system of agriculture that is to this day feeding the country on healthy, organic vegetables.
It has been so successful that the Cubans have introduced a new word into agricultural lingua: “organoponics” (organoponicos, in Spanish) – the use of organic materials from crop resides, household waste and animal manure, to grow domestic crops.
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Photo from http://www.lagarbancitaecologica.org 

It is not awkward, in Havana, to find a commercial building standing tall next to a neat and lush garden of vegetables along a high street; or a home with soil bearing healthy vegetables all growing on the roof of its garage.

By 2013, according to some official accounts, half of Havana was under agriculture. One Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report states that in 2012 these ‘Huertos’ produced 63,000 tonnes of vegetables, 20,000 tonnes of fruit and 10,000 tonnes of roots and tubers!
THIS is what is going into our neighbourhood’s next letter to the city authorities here.
Rather than attempt to confiscate the empty plots that make life so difficult and uncomfortable around us, we will be asking for permission to turn them into neat, flourishing and highly lucrative gardens.
Besides, our soils here are much, much better than the Cuban soils, so we will need even less work on the organoponics, even though it will help us dispose of our organic waste more productively.
And the fellows who converge amidst the bushes on those plots to smoke weed will most likely happily converge there amidst shorter plants to earn money

doing some weeding instead.

take up opportunities in tourism NOW, since Uganda has signed up international PR firms to promote our tourism


AS our Members of Parliament made their vows at the start of the week my mind was on two unrelated events on either side of their solemn activity, creating a sandwich of thoughts that I am quite happy to share here.
The MPs have sworn to work for us with the help of God.
Their combined job, as the Legislature, is to be representative of the people of Uganda; make the laws that we want to be used to govern us; and check the Executive we have chosen to come up with policies under which our society will be managed in a manner that will enable us to prosper.
Some of these Parliamentarians will be asked to join the Executive, while most will stay in the House where they will meet regularly to consider the affairs of the Nation in Plenary, through Committees, Caucuses, and getting feedback directly from us, their employers, directly or indirectly through the media and other channels.
For the next five years we will keep reminding the Parliamentarians of the humility they showed us during the campaigns and the ‘down-to-earth’ antics they adopted to convince us they are “of the people”, so that they don’t go off on lofty tangents that have nothing to do with us.
We will bring many issues before them and push them to deliver on them within their mandate. My first issue for them is what, for me, sandwiched their swearing-in – and it is an issue all Ugandans need to take up in whatever way they can.
Rewind to the first event: Over the weekend I was in Adjumani to pay my last respects at the burial of the wife of Mohammed Kabba, a friend and colleague. In the midst of his anguish and grief, Mohammed, a passionate Patriot with surprisingly diverse interests, took the opportunity to show us the ‘Adjumani Tree’.
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The ‘Adjumani Tree’. Photo by Simon Kaheru
He said the tree, a Tamarind, was many decades old, and it stood grandly in the courtyard of the Adjumani mosque providing shade to the mourners and a nice stand for a number of bicycles. The legend in Adjumani is that the tree marks the spot where, back in the day, the Madi (I believe they were) who had serious disagreements with each other would congregate to reconcile.
Whereas normally the Madi walked around holding axes, when they got to the Adjumani tree for a reconciliation ceremony they were required to take spears with them – the purpose for which I have not yet established.
In the backdrop of this little tale and its location was Deputy Prime Minister and one-time Minister of Tourism, Gen. Moses Ali. I walked over to him to make the appropriately respectful sounds, and mentioned that that spot could easily be turned into a tourism attraction. I left that thought there to proceed with the solemn issues at hand.
Had I more time on my hands I would have spent it going into some detail over the missed opportunities in Adjumani just because they had not recognised this tree as a potential tourism attraction.
On our drive up to the district we took the first of two turns left to Adjumani. We eventually discovered that this was a “security road” and is not generally in use now that the Atiak road is so well-tarmacked and the road from there to Adjumani is a much better grade of murram (laterite).
The thick, bushy vegetation beside this disused road keeps you searching hopefully for the sight of wildlife, and wistfully at possible forest trails that would be full of thrills and adventure, a massive campsite just waiting for tents, campfires and people.
Cue to the second event, two days later, sandwiching the MPs oaths – Uganda signing contracts with international Tourism Public Relations firms.
I was part of the process, in some small way, and proudly so because I believe strongly in the power of communication and the need for appropriate marketing. As the ceremony was taking place, I fielded a few questions from friends within the travel industry who were concerned that the US$1.5million was going elsewhere rather than to firms such as my own.
The firms, which my partners have written about here, are Kamageo, KPRN Networks, and PHG Consulting. Each is handling a different market, respectively: the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland; Germany, Austria and Switzerland; and North America. (I suspect I will be talking or writing more about this later on, judging from some of the comments I’ve seen on various platforms elsewhere).
The fears were besides the point, I explained, because the work to be done by the foreign marketing and PR firms is specifically within the realm of tourism and travel in those markets where they operate for the cardinal objective of increasing the number of tourists coming to Uganda.
That doesn’t leave us helpless or in a sitting position waiting for tourists to arrive; if we all identify tourist attractions and opportunities such as the Adjumani tree, and get our respective local leaders and entrepreneurs to develop them, then we will give these PR firms a lot more to work with as they storm the travel industry and media in Europe and the United States.
On the Adjumani Tree alone, if we can unearth the legend of reconciliation and, perhaps, get a few warring politicians to meet at that tree and emerge as best of friends, perhaps we can convince thousands or millions of unhappy siblings, couples and politicians to make reconciliation pilgrimages there?
Every district, Constituency and probably village has a likely tourism attraction that needs to be identified, developed, and then promoted – which is exactly what the foreign marketing and PR firms need in order to give us more value for the dollars being spent.
As the MPs take up their seats in those pews, have them think of this so they make it government policy and ensure it is implemented, just as we all should wherever we are in Uganda.
Find your spot in this tourism sector and occupy it.

how to celebrate being appointed minister


Uganda Flag Waving

AS you make your way to the swearing-in ceremony today, you might be poised for an appointment to a Cabinet position – either as Minister or Minister of State.
If you do get onto that list, first and foremost, do NOT do things in the usual manner – so the first thing you should do is AVOID thanksgiving parties.
By all means, do go ahead and hold prayers at your church or mosque of choice, but don’t do the reception.
Consider all the angry comments that have been loudly made these last six months alone about service delivery and the need for efficiency, and resist the urge to throw a lavish set of parties (one at your Kampala home for friends and relatives, and another in the village constituency for ‘voters’).
Instead, compute the cost of those parties, and divert that money towards something nobly long-lasting like equipment or furniture and fittings at your local schools or hospitals.
An average party could cost up to thirty million shillings (yes – Ushs30million!). THAT sum should not be spent on perishables such as scholastic materials and medicines. Instead, make a lasting mark that will even come in handy when you are next heading out on the campaign trail.
Then, after announcing to all and sundry that you consciously and deliberately dropped the idea of throwing a one-day fete for the option of filling schools and hospitals with life-changing, long-lasting equipment, bid them farewell and head off into a retreat.
The retreat is with the officials of your Ministry – whether you’re just joining a new one or you’ve been re-appointed to the one you were in before. Take them into an inexpensive location and spend serious thinking time establishing three things from the last term of office: 1. What has gone well 2. What could have been done better 3. What did you (the ministry officials) or we (if you were a Minister before) learn.
On the way back from the retreat, your first salary should have landed onto your account. I strongly suspect that most Ugandans would appreciate it if you spent a little of that money and invested it in learning learning about the field in which you have been appointed Minister. Don’t apply for a university degree or anything so drastic (yet); buy a couple of books and take a short course from a very good set of professionals.
It should be helpful if a member of cabinet is given advice and guidance by the most proficient people in the field whose national policy they are going to take charge of.
Thereafter, make it firmly clear that you will NOT make any public statement for at lest a month. That will give you enough time to study the situation in your ministry and confirm that things are actually as they might seem or should be.
During that month you will identify the right staff to work with and establish the procedures that will ensure you are actually as efficient as Ugandans want the government to be. From spelling mistakes through time keeping to the big things like handling procurement sensibly and without corruption or the wastage of tax payers money, you will spend the first month laying down terms of engagement and making them all sign the dotted line.
Do it right and your administrative experts will ensure that you never get to any event late, therefore avoiding that murmuring audiences do when they insult guests of honour arriving late at events. Plus, your speech writers will be subject experts who ensure everything you say is on point, and not so verbose that you sound like a character out of a movie made by people who think that African politicians are mostly variants of Idi Amin at his most comical.
That first month is crucial because the whole of Uganda will be watching you closely and some of them might be spitting anger and vitriol just because you have been appointed to a position of authority instead of them, we of little faith.
Use that first month wisely to convince us that you, as an individual, will make a serious difference on the Board of National leadership called the Cabinet. Use that first month carefully to set the expectations amongst your staff that Ugandans have of you, and of this government.
And recite to yourself every day the mantra against which you have been appointed to that job: For God and My Country.

don’t take Ugandan food for granted…ever


IMG_6059WE have a vernacular reference that goes something like ‘ssi mmere’ (“It’s not food”), indicating that the matter being referred to should not be treated simply.
My girth will tell you that I do not subscribe to the use of that phrase or the spirit behind it. I am of the persuasion that food is a serious matter, to be taken seriously, and all else be damned.
Living in Uganda has helped firm up that position, because of the tastiness of the foods over here – from the boiled cassava my grandmother wrapped in banana leaves, to the spicy matooke and meat balls designed by my brother’s kitchen at his Ntinda bar, and my recent discovery linked to smoked meat and sim sim (more on that later).
It is because of this tastiness that I have eaten my way happily through life at every turn and opportunity presented to me in bufunda and hotels with varying star classifications across the country, and why I am very excited by the increasing number of food festivals and events taking place here.
It is also why I get confounded up to this day we still have concepts such as ‘Mongolian Dinner Night’ happening in our towns. Finding one such night in progress at a top-notch hotel this week reminded me of a cooking competition I entered into a few years ago, where our team came second in a competition against hotels.
We were pleased to perform so well because we had been pitched against professional hotel chefs, but our greatest pleasure came from seeing one of those ‘professionals’ scoring very, very, very poorly because the chef had done ‘Mongolian’ food.
I recently asked the internet about the big deal we here call “Mongolian night”.
It turns out that the “Mongolian night” we know, that involves involves stir frying strips of meats and vegetables on hot pans as people queue up with their plates and watch, is a concept that began in Taipei in 1951 – and Taipei is not in Mongolia.
Why are we doing this?
Where is Mongolia, even? Or is it Mongol?
Mongolian food is a whole different story, just as you would be hard pressed to do Ugandan night and focus on one or two styles of cooking or individual foods.
We’ve got luwombo and muchomo; foods like Pilao, Biringannya, entula, nsenene, malakwang, angarra, boo, firindi, eshabwe, akaro; different stews and sauces; foods with an Indian and Swahili influence but of Ugandan origin, like the Chapati (yes – it IS Ugandan!), modern creations like the Rolex and the Ekicommando…
The list is endless and could easily keep an army of food enthusiasts occupied for a weekend just eating.
Hence my excitement these last couple of months at finding more and more food-related events taking place in towns around me, allowing me to join the army of food enthusiasts.
One was the Kampala Muchomo Festival, and the other the Tokosa Food Festival. The third, coming in a few day’s time, is the Kampala Food Network ‘Twist & Cut’ Cook-off, with a focus on beef, and the fourth is the Kampala Restaurant Week when we will sample food from a long string of high end eateries.
The events typically involve cooking competitions between amateur chefs, and attract sponsorship from wise corporates promoting food-related or domestic items.
As all this happens, my hope is that we are heading for the ultimate food festival in Uganda, involving thousands of stalls of street food served in small amounts, at very IMG_6062low charges, and available all day from breakfast to breakfast.
The events we are attending now are fun, family-oriented, small events that made me think of one word echoing all through like the thud of a persistent toothache (which I also developed, from all the meat eating). That word was: Potential.
If our Export, Investment, Tourism and Commerce promotion bodies woke up to the opportunities these events represent then we could translate this industry into benefits for a whole range of other sectors:
– agriculture, processing, tourism, to name but three.
It should all be pretty obvious: everybody in the world eats something, and people must eat regardless of how broke they might be – so tourists will alway spend money on food even if they carry tents on their backs to sleep in instead of taking up a hotel room.
Plus, food events attract people in families, therefore increasing participation numbers. And food draws in very many sectors in many ways and creates jobs for various reasons – designers get involved in packaging and branding, chefs cook, waiters and waitresses serve, energy (gas and kerosene) is spent preparing food, petrol and diesel are spent transporting it…
I am double convinced, diets be damned, that food is not a simple matter and should not be treated simply.
I am available to attend the first proper food festival arranged to the scale of the Uganda Manufacturer’s Association International Trade Fair. ANY day!