village soccer thinking; chasing the ball without coordination


I JUBILATED along with the rest of you the other week as the Uganda Cranes thrashed Togo into bits, but this is not about soccer.
 
During the game, I kept noting an exciting aspect of the game – the coordination of the team members that kept leading to the desired result in the opponent’s goal net.
 
It was beautiful to watch, especially for those of us who recall the days long ago when we (not the Uganda Cranes, I must clarify) played what I will call ‘village soccer’. In ‘village soccer’ we generally split the field into two with no regard for numbers, so it was possible to have teams of about twenty people per side.
 
As such, there was no allocation of roles and responsibilities besides that of the goal-keeper – and even that position could undergo rotation during the game if the team generally felt the need.
 
Of course, we had no team managers and therefore no game plan.
 
One specific play was called “Diimula” – where one person on one end of the pitch (or field) kicked the ball into the air as far as possible in the direction of the opponent’s goal. The other side, when they got the ball, would kick it back in the same way.
 
Presumably the person kicking the ball had hope in his (we were mostly males) mind that somehow it would end up going through the goal posts.
 
Because we generally had no game plan, wherever the ball landed, the entire team would converge around it and try to make it go towards the goal posts. The opposing team, meanwhile, would also converge at the very same point in order to try to stop the attacking team, while at the same time trying to get the ball to the other goal posts.
 
It was always messy, and you almost had no choice but to engage in “engwarra” (rough tackling that involved tripping up your opponent) because of the size of the melee.
 
As we became more organised people began to emerge as team managers and coaches, but I remember hearing a high level (maybe even national, but don’t quote me) player complaining that their Coach did not give them guidance:
 
“This man just shouts at us things like, ‘Play harder!’ Yoongera mu amaanyi!’ But HOW are we supposed to play harder or kwoongera mu amaanyi?!”
 
As I said, this is not about soccer.
 
I only recalled all of this during a couple of discussions this week of a political and economic nature in which it occurred to me that some people were engaged in intellectual ‘diimula’.
 
In fact, I laughed to myself, there are issues that crop up like the ball dropping on one side of the field and attracting a throng of rather uncoordinated mental activity, thoughts entangled in a muddy mess and erupting in non-stop verbal “engwarra”.
 
Be it floods in the city or the supply of hoes, one feels that the discussion would have as smooth a flow as a Uganda Cranes game if one’s thoughts are guided by a thought coach or manager who shows you how to guide them from one idea to the next until the point goes through the goal posts.
 
It doesn’t work for only discussions and arguments; reading a blog post by my brother Paul the other day about City floods and the planning of our infrastructure, I had to share it with a City manager and point him to a small pile of garbage accumulated by the side of the newly constructed Kintu Road, near a mini-slum in my neighbourhood.
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That pile of garbage, I pointed out, was bound to end up in the drainage trench and would eventually be part-cause of flooding one day, which would cause part of the road surface to be eroded, but also more likely to drown the slum-residents who had dumped the garbage by the roadside.
 
Constructing the tarmac road, therefore, needed to go along with a provision for a garbage collection spot in the neighbourhood, and sensitisation of the residents so they carry their garbage just fifty metres to the collection centre, which should have a truck parking provision for the garbage collection trucks assigned.
 
Instead, it’s messy – like the spot where the ball lands after a shot of “diimula”.

following up the wheelbarrow full of ideas with real-life implementation


Remember this story? This one —> https://skaheru.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/a-wheelbarrow-full-of-ideas/

Here I am to proudly report progress, with photographs to prove so.

See, I put my local metal worker guy to task after that post and insisted that he converts the satellite dish sitting in my back yard into a wheelbarrow of sorts.

What I had in mind was a simple contraption that we would put to use carrying gardening waste from the garden to the disposal point, and perhaps conveying heavy shopping one day when I am earning a regularly heavy salary (#OmugaggaSsiMuntu things).

After design discussions and my insistence on one or two points, the guy gave me a bill of Ushs75,000 and I gave him the dis-used satellite dish a Ushs40,000 deposit, and a stern deadline of today because I wanted to do some gardening and felt I could do with a wheelbarrow of sorts to help me out.

Three days later, today, I called him up to complain about his lack of seriousness and to express my disappointment with him for failing to deliver on time, only for him to cut me short with, “I am on my way!”

He has learnt my ways, and was taking me seriously.

But I did NOT expect THIS!

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He made a real wheelbarrow!

I was genuinely nonplussed for a few seconds! In my mind, the dish was going to be deepened a little bit and it’s protruding end was going to be fashioned into a handle while the other side would get a wheel appended to it.

He had made a wheelbarrow! He had cut into the dish on the different sides, and folded it up to form the barrow, then fabricated the rest.

You can probably see the dstv logo here:

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Now, I own a wheelbarrow made of recycled materials.

Made in Uganda.

I only came here to report progress – I’m heading back outside. I’ll be the one riding a wheelbarrow the rest of this weekend.

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re-starting independence with the children and their toys


WHEN you spend a few days sequestered with hundreds of people talking repeatedly about innovation, technology and education you tend to develop ideas along those lines.
My head was full of them as we emerged from a summit called ‘Innovation Africa’ and prepared to embark on Independence week. Because there was a weekend punctuation between the two, I was reclaimed by the children and eventually found myself inside bookshops that insist on selling toys.
I can understand the business imperative that makes them stock both products, so I have sympathised with them for years in spite of the irritation – I think it is unfair to distract these young ones with toys when we try to immerse them into a world of literary appreciation in order to stimulate their imaginative powers.
But there I was, trying to herd attention away from playing to reading, when I noticed one plaything priced at five million shillings (actually, it was Ushs4,999,000).

My next venture should be making these!
My next venture should be making these!
I was a little panicked because one of the children was paying more attention to this item than I was comfortable with – and if my bankers and a few other stakeholders had spotted us at that point I would have had to hold difficult conversations.
As I firmly drew her focus away from the thing, my mind was on one of the key statements people kept making at Innovation Africa – “But can’t you guys make this here (Uganda or Africa)?”
On closer inspection, the Ushs5million plaything was a creation of painted plastic or fibreglass, with a few lights here, buttons, and a motor that made it move to and fro.
I know a guy in Kampala who once did a fibreglass fabrication for me, and estimated the total cost here to be less than one million shillings. The lights and wiring involved couldn’t cost more than a couple of hundred thousand, and neither would the paint.
So I figure that if I got an artist and a technician together I could reap handsomely from toys – and the shop attendant confirmed to me that people buy these things, imported from China, quite frequently.
I looked around a bit more at hundreds of other items – all imported – including a little children’s bookshelf painted in lively colours and priced about eight times higher than a locally made one sold in most carpentries in Kampala.
The price of that bookshelf was even confusing because of the cheapness of the materials used to manufacture it – especially compared to the hardwood ones we make locally that are priced so low.
There was also a set of toys made of wooden blocks, each painted with numbers and letters and going for just over one hundred thousand shillings.
Believe it or not, every carpentry workshop in this country generates enough waste (paint inclusive) to be converted into such toys saleable at sensibly profitable amounts to a very willing foreign-toy-purchasing public.
Plus, if we start this with toys then we are doing it at a point where the next generation interacts quite closely, and the true meaning of independence will sink in better in their minds.
What do we need in order to do this?
Independence – and an understanding of the theme of Independence Day Celebrations this year: “Striving towards a prosperous people and Country: the meaning of true Independence.”
Prosperity and Independence – the two go hand in hand, if we strive at them, apparently. Importing toys from China enriches only a few of us here in Uganda, namely those who import those toys – but MANUFACTURING those toys here in Uganda will enrich many, and it IS easy.
As we made our escape from the toy bookshop, my daughter asked me the confounding question, “What is Independence?”

education needs to be taken apart so we start innovation


A couple of months ago I began work on a project currently running at the Speke Resort Munyonyo – a summit called ‘Innovation Africa’.
This is NOT public relations for the event because, frankly, they don’t need it – they already have their participants in the rooms, the relevant transactions are being made left, right, centre, and I hope Uganda benefits from the event as other African countries have done previously.
Rwanda hosted last year’s summit and bagged a project assembling computers/laptops within their borders which will help supply their (and maybe ours, one day) ‘One Laptop Per Child’ project. The project came before the summit, but their hosting preparations helped.
What’s prompting me here are two things – my interaction in a small room with Education State Minister Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa, Tickodri-Togboaand the nomenclature of education ministries across Africa.
Starting with Prof. Tickodri-Togboa, when he was appointed Minister we celebrated because we knew him to be technical and were aware of his involvement in the Kiira EV Project.
That project is not a white elephant, as some people scoffingly claimed when it was unveiled; whereas we do not produce steel and the other bits that make car manufacturing a short-term viability, the process of interrogating, researching and attempting this project helps boost local innovation.
Allowing and empowering students to think big enables them to aim high even though they might hit low – but if they aimed low then they would hit lower, so the better alternative is obvious.
Due to the Eid public holiday, Prof. Tickodri-Togboa found himself at the centre of the government Press Conference announcing this event and he read up on it quickly, and his blood got racing. In a meeting with a group of us shortly before the Conference he rallied gallantly about the importance of innovation in education, and our national skills development needs.
“As I was flying back last night from China I was thinking about how many toys we import from that continent into this country. Why are we not making our children here manufacture those toys? They are just bits of plastic and wiring that jump about and make noises…” he pondered, jet-lagged, rather irritated and frustrated.
I like it when a government official in a position of authority gets irritated and frustrated by something such as this – his boss is often to be found in this mood as well, which is why Prof. Tickodri-Togboa was appointed in the first place.
He told us, thereafter, how his own children spent so many hours taking apart toys and other pieces of equipment in their home that he was not surprised when they ended up studying advanced sciences in universities in South Africa and what not.
“I still haven’t cleaned up their bedrooms!”
Which made me think wistfully about some children in my neighbourhood who I found wheeling about toys fashioned from empty splash boxes and Safi bottles, with twigs for axles and chokolo (soda bottle tops) for wheels.
It made me sad to see that in 2015, when I had done the same back in the 1980s. But then it made me happy that they were as industrious today as we were back then. (Still, I hurried home and emptied a toybox on the verandah of their muzigo…but told them and their mother not to stop making toys of their own).
They were still pushing their makeshift toys at the start of this week, and I was pleased. And I thought about them that same night as I perused the list of African ministries of education, because that is where, perhaps, we should start our spurring of innovation on this continent.
When Prof. Tickodri-Togboa was appointed, the Ministry of Education and Sports was renamed Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports.
Considering how well we do at Sports these days, that docket should be made substantive and separated from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which itself needs renaming – and I hope we append ‘Innovation’ to it.
Not that names mean anything, unless one does some research into what these countries actually produce by way of innovation and skills, but here are the words other African countries use:
Skills (Botswana), Literacy (Burkina Faso), Scientific Research (Burundi, Cameroon & Congo Republic), Technological Innovation (Congo Republic) Vocational Education (DRC), Science & Technology (different from Education – Ethiopia), Science, Technology &  Research (Lesotho, South Africa, Tanzania), Science & Technology (Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique & Sierra Leone), Technology, Communication & Innovation (Mauritius), Human Development (Mozambique), Higher Education, Training & Innovation (Namibia),  Higher Education & Research (Senegal), Higher Education, Scientific Research & ICT (Tunisia), Education, Science & Vocational Training (Zambia).
Over, now, to Professor Tickodri-Togboa, the people in charge of naming ministries, the teachers, and parents who should encourage their children to take stuff apart and learn to rebuild it.
Education needs to be taken apart so that we can do some innovation.

the cassava chronicles – in this, the regional centre of excellence for cassava: UGANDA!


Cassava Garden
Photo taken from: http://cdn-write.demandstudios.com/ – with thanks

A CHANCE meeting at the start of this week has re-focussed my attention onto agriculture as an economic activity and one day, a few years from now, I will share stories of my successes perhaps even in in one of those newspaper pullouts that inspire us weekly to till the earth.

My chance encounter was with an old friend, Gerald Owachi, whose story shocked me on so many levels there is no way a newspaper article can do it justice.
He will write a book about it all one day, since he is a journalist by training and a well studied one at that, having attended classes at Harvard and Tufts in the United States.
After those classes, he joined various high end organisations doing public policy, conflict resolution and what not, earning money in foreign currencies, but one day dropped everything to do agriculture. Teaming up with two other friends – Harry Hakiza and J.J. Onen – they went into northern Uganda.
The story is rather long and I have since moved on from the incredulity I felt when they shared their plans many years ago, so by Monday morning I was asking for a simple update only for Gerry to tell me they had 240 acres of cassava full grown!
Cassava is one of my favourite foods right now, because my domestic arrangements have involved training people up to fry cassava sticks to a point that we are soon entering the dish into cooking competitions for local foods – another story coming soon somewhere near you.
Every time I find there is a shortage of cassava in the markets near my home I marvel at how silly our agricultural marketing is – but that is nothing compared to Gerry’s experiences in the fields of cassava.
With 240 acres, for instance, their cassava project is probably the biggest single one of that crop in Uganda but, for some reason, they are not one of the major suppliers of the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS). They are one of the suppliers, but only got listed after a hilarious story that must go into Gerry’s book.
It involved having their ‘project’ inspected by a superior, imperious NAADS fellow who had the bearing of a small god simply because he has the power to determine whether or not the results of the sweat and investment of people like Gerry, Harry, J.J. and their thousand-odd workers, should be placed onto a list of suppliers.
See, there are these well-intentioned projects that governments around the world implement but in doing so they employ small-minded chaps who take their representation of the government to such heights that if they don’t like your attitude they can reject (or frustrate) your project into oblivion.
So this big cassava project was off the supply list but they insisted their way onto it and eventually got allocated some bags – meaning they were assigned the privilege of supplying bags of cassava cuttings to the NAADS project.
Off their 240 acres they were assigned 663 bags. Or, let’s say they were assigned 6,000 bags. Cuttings are just that – you get a cassava stem then cut it into segments of about 30 centimetres.
I interrupted the conversation to call up my pal, the Executive Director of NAADS, and left him with that information to deal with – which he undoubtedly will.
Anyway, what madness had possessed these three young men to plant so much cassava?
Cassava has hundreds of uses besides being fried, salted and put on a side plate next to my cup of tea. Uganda Breweries uses cassava as a local raw material in brewing beer; CIPLA, the multinational pharmaceutical firm, is buying up 51% of Quality Chemicals and one of the major ingredients in pharmaceuticals is…cassava; it is used in making glues and one hundred other things industries rely on.
“You know Uganda is the Centre of Excellence for Cassava growing…?” Gerry began, making me choke on my coffee as I spluttered a ‘What The…?’
It is true.
The internet even says stuff like, “The Cassava Regional Centre of Excellence is based in Uganda, taking advantage of Uganda’s proven track record of success in providing leadership in cassava research, training and dissemination of technologies and information…”
Go and ask the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations for more.
Another website declares that six years ago Uganda was the sixth largest producer of cassava in Africa, and the crop is our second most important after bananas.
It would be – it basically grows anywhere under even arid conditions. Which is why the three chaps’ project was so important – because on their 240 acres they focussed on one, consistent breed or strain of cassava, rather than the very many funny ones in existence elsewhere.
As they were starting up, they tried to get the right cuttings and couldn’t find any that were consistent for a while. They went to the National Crops Resources Research Institute at Namulonge and eventually set up a partnership that ensured they had a sensible strain of cassava.
That’s another reason NAADS should be interested in them, and them in NAADS, because if one of the odd strains gets into their 240 acres they could lose their entire crop. You see, a short while ago someone said they had found Cassava Brown Streak disease in Western Uganda…
No – crisis meetings have not been called, even if Ugandan Brown Streak disease is ranked among the top seven biological threats to global food security.
All in all, their book will be an interesting read – wait for the section on ACF – the Agricultural Credit Facility under Bank of Uganda, an abbreviation few of us can recognise as quickly as TDA today, yet it’s been there since 2009. Under the ACF you and I can get up to Ushs2.1billion (or even Ushs5billion if the project is good enough), at 10% per annum.
They got one of far less than that, and because of bureaucracy found themselves paying a commercial bank loan at a much higher interest rate a couple of months into planting and…they are now in court minus the tractor they purchased with the loan, and the 80% they had paid for it in cash.
But they have their 240 acres of cassava sitting intact, for now, and they’re aiming at 3,500 planted by 2017.
As a resident of the Cassava Centre of Excellence, how many patches of your own cassava will you have by then?