Friday, October 2, 2009

2.October.2009 - Introduction

This Monday, October 5, 2009, I leave on my eleventh trip to northern Uganda since 2005. I began going as a part of my research on armed conflict and extreme poverty (I am a professor at the University of Notre Dame). The war in northern Uganda, about which I will say more in my next entry, has since abated. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels and the Ugandan government came to a cessation of hostilities agreement in August 2006, and although the LRA has been active in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the western part of South Sudan since then, Uganda itself has been without conflict.

Seeing the devastion wrought by the war, I could not continue to go to northern Uganda and simply do research. I had, as any decent human being would, to help the Acholi -- the local ethnic group -- get back on their feet. I used my research trip to ask an additional question: What do you need to get going again? The reply I heard time and again was, "We need oxen." The Acholi lost 98% of their oxen during the war. Now the people do not want handouts, they want the opportunity to work again as they have always worked.

When a benefactor heard of my work in northern Uganda, he gave me a $5,000 check and said, "Here, use this in any way that you think will help the Acholi." I gathered together a small group of people who have also spent time in Uganda, and the meeting gave birth to PeaceHarvest.

We raised enough money to do a pilot project in March 2008. We brought oxen and donkeys to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps of Lokung and Madi Opei, and did two weeks of training in each camp.

We are now planning to do another iteration of the project, this time inviting residents from South Sudan to join in the training. One of the aims of PeaceHarvest is to establish relationships across political and cultural borders so that people are less likely to resort to armed conflict to resolve disputes.

One of the key aims of my trip this time will be to do the groundwork for the next PeaceHarvest project.

I have attached two photos. One is of me in one of the huts in Lokung IDP camp, where I first began my research and asked the people, "What do you need." The second is of a young boy in Lokung during PeaceHarvest's first project. Although the armed conflict has died down, hunger and malnutrition continues. The boy's thin arms and legs are obviously from lack of food. The distended belly is from lack of protein. I do not post this photo as a means to alarm, but to visually inform you of the ongoing need. Please help. You can donate diretly through the website.

Wanen (Acholi for "See you later").


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