Monday, December 21, 2009

Uganda: A Banana Republic

According to Wikipedia, Banana Republic is "a pejorative term for a country that is politically unstable, dependent on limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt clique." On all accounts Uganda seems to qualify, but at the moment let us focus on the second definition.

Agriculture is the most important sector of the Ugandan economy, as 89% of the population is rural. The sector accounts for 51% of GDP, 90% of exports, and employs 80% of the population. The country is blessed with a good climate and fertile soils and the agricultural sector has the potential to feed the country, to supply food for the regional market (Uganda is often referred to as East Africa's food basket), and to act as a powerful engine of growth. But bananas -a staple food and export- are in trouble. Bacterial Wilt (or BXW) hit Uganda in 2001, destroying most plantations and causing losses of an estimated $35m (sh57b). "BXW is the most serious threat to banana production in East Africa,” says Wafa Khoury, a plant pathologist and agricultural officer in the Plant Production and Protection Division of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s commitment to grant $74,000 to sponsor a planned Pan African banana conference in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa is being praised by African banana farmers, despite the controversy surrounding the foundation's spearheading ($30 million endowment) of Africa's potentially devastating Green Revolution. In a Sept 2009 article in The Nation magazine Raj Patel warns us of past Green Revolution destruction...

"Beyond the massive displacement of peasants, the Green Revolution wrought other social damage--urban slums sprawled around cities to house displaced workers, pesticide use went up, groundwater levels fell and industrial agricultural practices began racking up significant environmental debt."

Read more about BXW and Banana Wilt in the Crested Journal.

And the Gates Foundation's Green Revolution in the The Nation article.

...and let us know what you think.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

PF Holiday Cards Now Available


Project FOCUS is selling handmade holiday cards this year as a social entrepreneurship project to support our work towards sustainable development in Lyantonde, Uganda. Photos of the cards are below.

Card packages are being sold for $12.95 per package of 10 cards (5 of each image, photographed by Project FOCUS member Gloria Bernard). Each 51/2" x 41/4" card, printed on recycled paper, contains the simple message of "peace" inside, with plenty of room to include your own message. Printed on the back of each card is a photo description and how this card benefits the work of Project FOCUS.

Cards may be purchased by check or credit card.

* Checks may be made out to Project FOCUS and mailed to our office (1618 W 17th St, Unit 2R, Chicago, IL 60608).
* To pay by credit card, please click here and you will be taken to our paypal account.

If you have any questions, please contact Rhea at or 630-310-0964.

Happy Holidays!

With Gratitude,
Project FOCUS

This photo, taken in Lyantonde as children returned from school and ran to greet an unfamiliar face, captures the energy and curiosity of the Lyantonde youth.

This photo was taken outside of Prince Primary School in Lyantonde as children gathered for a game of Duck Duck Goose before one of Project FOCUS’ art therapy classes.