NEIKER strengthens its collaboration with SALUGANDA Elkartea for sustainable development in Uganda

17 November 2023
  • The main objective of this collaboration is to train and equip schools and women’s livestock cooperatives with sustainable infrastructures that guarantee their self-sufficiency.
  • This year, we will analyse soil samples in the school gardens and make technical recommendations to improve their fertility.

Since 2011, we have been collaborating with the SALUGANDA Elkartea association and NEIKER to improve living conditions in rural areas of Uganda based on subsistence farming. Specifically, we help the association to address this challenge, aggravated by climate change, in the rural districts of Buikwe and Mukono, in the south of the African country.

The main objective of this project is to provide communities with the necessary infrastructure (e.g. ecological dry latrines, rainwater harvesting tanks, livestock facilities and school gardens, among others) to generate a sustainable production cycle and improve their long-term self-sufficiency.

This initiative is being developed in two areas: primary schools and women’s livestock cooperatives.

  • Firstly, the organisation has promoted the implementation of vegetable gardens in nine orphanage schools, where it has also built various infrastructures such as chicken coops, pig farms, dry latrines and water tanks with the aim of generating organic fertilisers (manure) and ensuring the supply of drinking water, thus reducing infections of faecal origin.
  • On the other hand, it also provides support to women’s livestock cooperatives, made up of women in charge of large families with low incomes, who have been provided with pigsties, studs, feed and veterinary services for community piglet rearing.

These cooperatives, according to Iker Mijangos, former NEIKER researcher and current head of SALUGANDA Elkartea, “started with 5 groups and has expanded to 10 thanks to part of the piglets produced, which they themselves donate to other women to generate new cooperatives“.

In addition, this year, with the voluntary participation of Roberto Pérez-Parmo, a technician from NEIKER’s Plant Production and Protection Department, agricultural advice is being strengthened by carrying out soil studies. “We have collected soil samples in those school gardens where we detected a loss of fertility. With the laboratory analysis we will provide fertiliser recommendations using our own resources, such as compost from dry latrines and animal houses and ash generated in school kitchens” he stresses.

Access to clean water

Another of this year’s novelties is the collaboration between SALUGANDA Elkartea and the NGO TADEH-Mobile Water School. First of all, prototypes of water pumps and manuals for their homemade manufacture with low-cost materials such as PVC have been developed. The next step is for the representatives chosen by the schools and livestock cooperatives to receive this basic training to try to build these pumps by their own means, demonstrating their commitment and skills. Once this requirement has been met, the third step would be to deploy TADEH staff to provide a full course on well drilling and water pump installation for continuous access to drinking and irrigation water sources.

At the same time, we have taken soil samples at different depths (up to 30 metres deep, where water is usually collected in local wells) to evaluate the possibility of drilling using these safe techniques, which avoid the need to enter the well at those depths as they usually do here. With the analysis at NEIKER’s soil science laboratories in Derio, we will provide this information to TADEH so that they can determine whether it is possible“, Pérez-Parmo adds.

Women’s culture and sport

The project not only focuses on covering basic needs such as food and access to drinking water, but also promotes cultural and sports programmes based on gender equality.

For example, SALUGANDA Elkartea has been supporting women’s school sport for several years with sports material donated by different sports entities such as Athletic Club, Real Sociedad, Alavés CD, Danok Bat CF, Mungia CD and Singuerlín CF and this year several football and netball matches have been held between different schools participating in the programme. “They are a good opportunity to strengthen ties between schools and, above all, to promote gender equality in the local communities. Many neighbours come to watch the games and at first they were surprised to see the girls playing, but now they see it as normal and it’s impressive how they cheer them on and the festive atmosphere that is generated. Roberto can tell you about it, he was the referee!” laughs Iker Mijangos.

Cultural exchange is another fundamental aspect. For years the students of the 9 Ugandan schools participating in the project have been exchanging letters with other schools in the Basque Country: Plentzia Eskola, Gorliz Ikastetxea, Urduliz Eskola, Zipiriñe Eskola, Ignacio Aldekoa Eskola, Lauro Ikastola, La Salle Ikastetxea, Otxandio Eskola and Zeanuri Eskola, with the volunteers from Saluganda bringing the letters back and forth during their coordination trips. This interaction not only serves to practice their level of English (the language used in the Ugandan education system) but also brings North-South realities closer together, encourages empathy-solidarity and allows pupils from both centres to learn from each other.

Relationship between NEIKER and SALUGANDA Elkartea

The “Health in Uganda – SALUGANDA” initiative started in 2011 at NEIKER, where several researchers began to contribute their knowledge to improve hygiene, food and agri-environmental education in two schools in the Buikwe district of Uganda.

Subsequently, in 2020, the SALUGANDA Elkartea Association was set up as its own entity to meet the needs of a project that was adding schools and groups of livestock farming women, until it reached 4,591 students and 50 livestock farming families that currently benefit directly from the project.

From NEIKER, in addition to financially supporting the different activities promoted by the association since then, we maintain a collaboration agreement that we renew every year. Thanks to this agreement, the technology centre is also responsible for carrying out soil and compost analyses to optimise the management of the organic waste produced in schools.

In addition, every year we host the Solidarity Pumpkin and Coleteros Solidarity Sale Day at our headquarters in Derio, which serves to generate new funds for the project. Some of our workers even sew these beads in their free time and others are members of the association on a personal basis, with voluntary membership fees. All this allows us to generate an annual budget that is spent entirely on the activities agreed with the schools and women’s cooperatives in Uganda, as the Saluganda team is made up solely of volunteers who contribute their work without any financial remuneration.

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