We work diligently on our projects
All members with projects continue to look after their projects
How Entanda Community is Coping with COVID-19
When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Uganda in March 2020, many of us thought that it was a matter of time before the pandemic overwhelmed our healthcare system. The Government swiftly made a lot of steps to combat the spread.
The measures included closure of all the entry and exit points into the country except for cargo, banning of public and private transport, closure of businesses, and implementation of a curfew among others. These steps culminated into a total lockdown. It is nearly four months since these measures were instituted and Uganda has reported just about 1000 positive cases with over 900 recoveries and zero deaths. It may be too early to celebrate success against the pandemic but treating over 900 patients without losing one seems good news.
While progress has been made on the healthcare front, tourism has been one of the most affected sectors in Uganda. Like other companies, we had to close shop and only keep hoping for a return of tourism. One of our initiatives, Entanda Cultural Adventure, was also not spared.
Last weekend I paid a visit to the village where this community lives. I was impressed when the leadership of the initiative refused to host a meeting to talk with me about the circumstances we are all in. Instead, they preferred to keep a distance, refusing to shake hands, hug or even get near – the usual things we do when we meet. However, we had a conservation. I learnt that indeed COVID is real and is changing social behaviours, even of rural folks. The group can no longer gather to practice the traditional dancing, to save their money or even to hold the usual regular meetings. They always had monitoring exercises to see how each member was progressing on their individual projects but this is not possible anymore. Before COVID-19 we had bought a motorcycle to ease movement. Most members cannot ride the bike (obviously the women) and as a result, the group cannot harvest their honey. None of the members in charge of honey harvesting knows how to ride a motorcycle yet carrying a passenger is prohibited! We had a plan of opening our new site this year but construction could not go on because no one is willing to be encamped – everyone wants to live with his family. We have had to cancel all booked trips, at least for this year.
As with any disruption, the group was thrown off balance but is learning to cope with the new normal. Everyone is busy in their gardens and they are looking after their projects quite well. I was impressed to learn that they have lots of food and they are not really starving. Only cash is a bit scarce but life goes on. We had started on a scheme of buying pigs for the members (from visitor proceeds) and the animals really looked healthy and people were happy. After the loss (theft) they suffered with their poultry, the members were steadily regaining the numbers of local chickens. It is likely that by the time the lockdown is over, some members will emerge stronger and better.
The key lesson I learnt over the weekend is that it is important to have more than one source of livelihood. This choice has enabled the Entanda members to cope with life without feeling the full brunt of the pandemic. Yes, the effect is there but the new normal will find the members less injured than those who depended on tourism alone. To maximise this new normal, we are going to introduce standard operating procedures to ensure that both the community and our visitors are safe and protected.