Sunday, 18 January 2009

Hope North: Camp for Rescued Child Soldiers

In 2008, I travelled with a group of Capoeira teachers to a camp called Hope North, a refuge and school for rescued child soldiers in Northern Uganda.

This film documents our trip. See the text below for more information on the situation and the camp.

Uganda has rebounded from the abyss of civil war and economic catastrophe to become relatively peaceful, stable and prosperous but the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the north remain blighted by one of Africa's most brutal rebellions. The failure of two years of tortuous peace negotiations in February this year dashed hopes that the 20-year war in could soon be over and the UN news network IRIN reports that children are once again being abducted.

Hope North Uganda was founded in 1996 by Sam Okello, a prominent Ugandan artist located near Bweyale, 100km south of Gulu in northern Uganda, to be a refuge for rescued child soldiers, often ostracized by their communities because of the crimes they committed. Home to 300 young people between the ages of 10 and 25, the camp offers secure accommodation, food, medication and a school and vocational centre to help them reintegrate back into society.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Ugandan Eco-Tourism Housing Development

On the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda, an innovative new development hopes to tackle increasing pressure on resources caused by Kampala's rapidly growing urban population, by combining a housing development with an ecotourism site.

It is called: Kakungulu Satellite City. The idea behind the development,
says private real estate developer, Arkright Ltd, is that as houses in
Kakungulu are sold, a portion of the proceeds will be set aside to protect an
area of virgin and new forest that covers over 50 percent of the 500 acre

The first stage of this development, 18 kilometres outside of Kampala,
is set to be completed this year and will contain 2,500 homes, a business and
IT park, golf course, subsidized and free housing for employees and even a
sports stadium. The site has also been designed to include what the developers call a miniature river Nile to attract day visitors.

Rather than being an exclusive middle and high income enclave, Akright
say they have set aside ten percent of the homes as low cost housing.

Money to protect the forest is also coming from guided eco-tours
through the site and an adopt-a-tree scheme.

Serbian tourist Lydia Mavra was one of the first people to visit the
protected area on an eco-walk where visitors are encouraged to choose and
adopt their favourite tree. The tourists are then given the GPS co-ordinates
of the tree so they can keep an eye on it using Google earth.

"I thought it was absolutely beautiful, the project as a whole, I
thought was so interesting because they are trying to incorporate social
enterprise with ecotourism, and it sounds quite new, and by the sounds of
things it will be a big attraction for Ugandans who live in Kampala who
wouldn't normally be near a national park, but I loved it. I loved the jungle
walk, slightly hair-raising especially jumping across the river, the trees are
amazing, and I think it's a really precious thing they are doing so I was very
impressed with it," said Mavra.

Kakungulu Satellite City is the tenth and largest project in and around
Kampala by Akright Ltd.

So far the cost of the project has reached ten million US dollars but
Arkright say they are expecting to spend around 70 million US dollars to
complete the second phase of development which will include a large shopping

Alex Kamukama with his children. Alex has moved his family to a house on the Kakungulu site.

Alex Kamukama, who helped found the company in 1988, believes the site
can be an example to cities all over Africa trying to cope with rapidly
growing populations.

"Once we are able to do our development in an organized and
systematic way, there won't be any difference between Africa and Europe. So
believing in ourselves, getting good leadership in terms of giving us right
direction, and stopping the dependency syndrome in us will change the whole
set up," said Kamukama.

The site is also receiving support from environmentalists. Raymond
Katebaka is an environmental resources expert at Makerere University.

"We are trying to conserve and at the same time develop within our
environment because Uganda, with it's current population which is almost 27
million people, there is a lot of demand for resources and demand for
resources contributes to a lot of environmental degradation," said

The project has received government support with the inauguration of
the site officiated by the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni in July

The commissioner of physical planning, in the Ministry of Lands,
Housing and Urban Development, Silvano Katsigaire, said that the government
needs to review its planning and land use policies to accommodate Kampala's
growing population.

"It's now estimated to have a population of about 1.8 million, and
this is up from about 1.2 million in 2002, which is a great leap and if we are
going to continue at this rate, then I think we must have massive
interventions," said Katsigaire.

Uganda's fast growing urban population has resulted into various social
and health problems associated with over-crowding and environment degradation.

70 percent of the 3.8 million people in urban areas live in slums.
The situation in Kampala, illustrates the challenges faced by rapidly growing cities in developing economies.

UN Habitat estimate that by 2050, 55 percent of Africans will be living
in urban areas.