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How Unwanted Witness – US Mission Kampala project is giving hope to fading freelance journalism in upcountry



Before the coming of Unwanted Witness – US Mission Kampala, countless journalists especially from Upcountry areas of Uganda suffered a lot due to the poor working conditions and limited working tools like computers, internet among others. This wanting condition almost prompted a section of journalists to forego their profession.

But guess what, Since Unwanted Witness moved in to facilitate the suffering journalists through offering them several trainings, free computers, Internet, life has not been the same and here are some of the many beneficiaries availing their breathtaking testimonies;

George William Mugwanya, the Mubende Journalists’ Association coordinator applauded the training saying that its impact is now being felt because members have improved on the quality of the content they produce.

DSC_1207“Just two months after the training, we have improved our content and we have a desk at our secretariat handling content before it is published on the website.” Said Mugwanya adding, “The training also contributed a lot to the field crew on what to consider most in the field on different story projects,”

He further added that “this partnership with Unwanted Witness, has transformed lives of journalists in which we now have limited expenditure on internet costs in internet cafés since we now have a full-time internet service at office, and as upcountry journalists this is a gateway to opportunities and to the outside world.”

Commenting about the contents of the training, Mugwanya said “the training took us through generating business ideas which gave us potential not to rely on the little salaries from media houses where we have unsecure employment, as many of us work without appointment letters and we are implementing it.”

Lastly, Mugwanya asserted that him being the coordinator at MJA-Uganda, he sees a solid association since their website is progressing thus assuring their respective partners that Unwanted Witness training did not go for trial rather a reality.

Also Christmas Rutaagi, a member of the association and participant said, “Internet has solved problems relating our safety and security while on Internet and spending much money on Internet cafés, which at times serves at a very low speed and unsecure.

He notes that the Internet and computer donations helped them to reduce security risks at cafes where they work on stories in an open space while everyone is seeing including those you’re writing about. “our [journalistic] work is so sensitive in nature, that we need privacy which cannot be got in any internet bureau, this alone has many risks in that security operatives keep moving in and out these facilities for spying purposes to know who’s using the Internet and in most cases its us the journalists ever in these cafes filing stories. ”

Harriet Nabbanja, a member of MJA, says that Internet has made work easier for her as a journalist in terms of bridging up communication gaps with journalists in the urban setting through networking because it made the exchange of information possible and quicker.

Kiggundu Abraham IT desk“Internet is not only just a source of information but I can use it to do my research rather than going to the library, and also use it to promote my business to reach the outside world. It has cut-down the need for travel and expenses in transport looking for information to produce a story.”

On the other hand, Ibrahim Kiggundu, head of IT department at MJA says, “The presence of a computer and full time internet at our office make it easier to have access to internet, and also, we are now having free internet. More so, I am now learning a lot of new things during my free time while using these donations because I am now grasping the best methods of attaching files using emails, using the social media platforms, and I don’t need to go to an internet cafe or use my cell phone. I have leant how to publish stories on our website and learning more new online security mechanisms now that I head the IT departments at the secretariat,”

Meanwhile, Wilfred Atenyi also a beneficiary applauded the training for equipping him with investigative skills.

“Sincerely, before the training, there was missing gaps on investigative journalism which I later discovered after various modules during the training,” said Atenyi.DSC00958 Nabbaale Josephine Kiyingi Board Chair

“I have managed to attain skills in compiling reports before writing up a story even sharing stories with other reporters just in case a story may be dangerous to me at that very moment, in this case I have managed to understand that there is no story worth a journalist life.” He further stated.

Atenyi explained that “Currently, I can take time gathering enough information instead of giving half-backed reports on very important stories because I have now gone an extra mile in Internet usage since we now have it installed at our office premises throughout the day which has helped in affording us to get the information concerning different issues at a zero price.”

Kimazi Experito at WorkSince September 2016, Unwanted Witness-Uganda-a digital rights nongovernment organization with support from US Mission in Kampala rolled out its campaign to train upcountry journalists in e-media, e-business, human rights approach and investigative journalism.

Through its agenda ‘using technology to building an independent and sustaining freelance journalism in rural Uganda’ the organization’s officials partnered with ten media associations across the traditional regions of the country, trained them, donated them websites, full desktop computers kits, and internet routers.

All these, were aimed at improving the lives of up-country reporters through equipping them with the requisite skills to approach stories from human rights angle and making business sense using the digital tools at their disposal unlike the situation before Unwanted Witness’ intervention.

Prior, on average, upcountry reporters could spend at least Sh20,000 (about US $ 6) to put together a single story for him/her to earn maximum Shs14,000 (about US $4) worse still with limited or no working tools.

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farm news

Falling coffee prices, reduced output forecasts rattle Uganda farmers



There has been a slump in international coffee prices and shipping costs in the last quarter of 2022

Uganda’s coffee industry is walking into a challenging 2023 defined by falling prices and diminished output forecasts following the recent dry spell that hit major growing areas.

While the sector enjoyed a boom between 2020 and 2022 – with surging coffee prices, rising export volumes and considerable incomes for farmers – decline in international shipping costs and improved production forecasts in Brazil triggered a slump in coffee prices in the last quarter of 2022, according to industry players.

International shipping costs dropped from record highs of $10,000 per container charged on certain sea routes in January 2022 to less than $2,000. Shipping fees charged per 20-foot container ferried from Indonesia to North America, for example, are estimated at $800-$1,000 currently.

Consequently, local and international coffee prices have dropped since October 2022.

International robusta coffee prices fell from an average price of $2,400 per tonne to $1,856 per tonne towards the end of last year, according to industry data. Local robusta coffee prices declined from Ush7,200 ($1.9) per kilogramme to Ush5,800 ($1.6) per kilogramme during the second half of 2022 while Arabica coffee prices fell from Ush11,000 ($2.9) per kilogramme to Ush8,000 ($2) per kilogramme in the period.

In 2021, average coffee prices stood at more than Ush15,000 ($4) per kilogramme.

Dry spell

Robusta coffee production accounts for more than 60 percent of Uganda’s overall coffee output.

Besides gloomy coffee price forecasts for 2023, a severe dry spell in the past six months could pose a huge threat to coffee production levels. The weather affected major coffee-growing areas like the Central region and risks cutting this year’s output to around 5.5 million bags, industry players forecast.

“Brazil and Vietnam are headed for a bumper coffee harvest this year while India and Indonesia have discounted their local coffee prices in a way that has undercut Uganda’s growth momentum on the international market,” said Robert Byaruhanga, chief executive of local exporter Funzo Coffee Ltd.

Post-Covid shift

Asian and Latin American coffee exporters are regaining dominance in European and North American markets after the lockdown period because of the lower coffee prices, reduced freight charges, shorter port clearance turnaround times and reasonable coffee quality grades, Byaruhanga explained.

Ugandan farmers are now holding onto their coffee produce in anticipation of better prices.

Overall coffee exports stood at 6.26 million bags valued at $862.28 million in 2021/22 compared to 6.08 million bags worth $559.16 million registered in 2020/21, data from the Uganda Coffee Development Authority shows.

An estimated 447,162. 60 kilogramme bags of coffee valued at $64.1 million were exported in November 2022 at an average price of $2.39 per kilogramme — 6 US cents lower than the average price of $2.45 per kilogramme posted in October 2022.

Original Source: Daily Monitor

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farm news

Over 40 goats die of PPR disease in Madi-Okollo



At least 43 goats have died of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) disease, also known as ‘goat plague’ and several others are undergoing treatment in Madi-Okollo district.

Madi-Okollo district veterinary officer, Dr Charles Onzima, says the viral disease, which is related to rinderpest in sheep as well as goats, has claimed the lives of goats in Olali parish in Ogoko sub-county.

He adds that PPR disease was confirmed in the district after 500 local and 94 Boer goats were supplied to families in Olali parish under a poverty eradication programme that he suspects infected the local goats.

43 of the boar goats died while 10 of the local goats of the communities also died of PPR disease.

Onzima says immediately after receiving information about the disease, the veterinary officers got the goats manifesting the signs of PPR that include sudden onset of depression, fever, discharge from the eyes and nose, sores in the mouth, breathing difficulty and death among others.

He says that they have already had three rounds of vaccination for the available goats in the affected area.

Original Source: New Vision Via

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Artisanal gold miners defy government on mercury use



In October, President Museveni signed into the law the Mining and Minerals Act 2022. One of the key provisions in the law is the banning of mercury use in mining activities.

Artisanal and small scale gold miners in Uganda use mercury to separate gold from the ores, a method they say is cost effective, fast and easy to use. During this process, mercury is mixed with gold containing materials to form a mercury gold amalgam which is then heated to obtain the gold from the sediments.

The miners do the processing without wearing any personal protective gear. However, different Non- Government and Civil Society Organizations have over the years warned these miners against using mercury as it poses serious health threats to human life and dangerous to the environment.

But even with the government banning the use of mercury and several warning about the dangers it imposes, gold miners are not yet ready to stop using the substance especially since the government is not providing any viable alternative method they can use.

In Tiira mining site, Tiira town council, Busia district, gold miners expressed their concerns on this ban. Stephen Engidhoh, the Eastern Uganda chairman of Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (UGAASM) said that mining has created jobs for over 30,000 people in Busia alone and with the government ban on use of mercury, many of them are likely to remain jobless.

He noted that in every sub county in Busia district, there are people during the exploration of minerals but the large gold discoveries here should not be an excuse to eliminate the small-scale miners from the mining sector because these minerals belong to all of them and it where they make a living from.

He added that if government wants this directive to be implemented, it should enforce it gradually and after finding an alternative method the miners can use.

“Government should first sensitize the miners about the dangers of using mercury before eliminating it. By government coming to abruptly ban the use of mercury, it is already creating indirect employment for smugglers to smuggle it into the country than they think they are eliminating,” Engidoh said.

Paul Angesu, the chairman on Tiira Landlords and Artisanal Miners Association said that even though they have been told that mercury is dangerous, for all the years they have used, they have never seen anyone experiencing the danger they say it causes.

“The government still needs to carry out thorough investigations on the possible dangers of using mercury so that it presents to the local miners with practical evidence that indeed mercury is dangerous and this will make us to easily stop using it,” Angesu said.

He added that sometime back, the Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) came and took samples of mercury from the miners but they were not able to submit in the feedback for them to know if indeed they are indeed being affected by mercury.

An alternative gold extraction method which has been suggested to the artisanal gold miners is the use of borax method’ a technique of artisanal gold mining which use borax (a chemical compound) as a flux to purify gold. However, the miners say the government has not taken the initiative of introducing this method to them and training them on how to use it.

“They want us to use borax as an alternative to mercury but most of us don’t even know how borax looks like or even how it works. How do they expect us to start using something they have never taken the initiative to introduce to us?” Angesu asked.

Ramadhan Birenge, a gold miner in Namayingo district has tried using borax before after an NGO brought a sample of it to them. He however said that there is no any another way a miner can use to get gold clearly and quickly other than using mercury.

“The borax they are telling us to use is very expensive and not easily accessible to us, we don’t even know where it is sold and to get gold through using borax is a very long process yet mercury is a very easy, shorter process and relatively cheap.”

John Bosco Bukya, the chairman of Uganda Artisanal Miners Association told The Observer that they are law abiding citizens and since they have tested the consequences of operating in irregularities, they have no big problem with banning of mercury use in mining areas.

But however, before government bans it, it should provide the miners with an alternative processing reagent. He noted that government may not succeed with the ban and not because the miners don’t want to stop using mercury, but because the available alternatives must be effective, efficient and affordable.

“We don’t know anything about the borax method which they say can be an alternative. We don’t know where it is manufactured from, neither its cost or effectiveness. Government should first train the miners of an alternative method, test its effectiveness and efficiency before banning the method currently being used. If it is more efficient, definitely miners will stop using mercury,” Bukya said.

He also advised government to first sensitize these miners about the dangers of mercury before enforcing it and then phase it out gradually and not immediately because it is going to affect the livelihoods of Ugandans who are in this sector and yet it is the responsibility of government to make sure that all Ugandans thrive in their businesses.

Mercury is smuggled into Uganda through the porous borders with Kenya by cartels which makes its trade illegal. It is then discreetly sold to artisanal miners in Busia with a Kg costing between Shs 600,000 to Shs 1 million.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to mercury, even small amounts may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes as well as pose a threat to the development of the child in the womb for pregnant women.

Most of these ailments manifest over time. People who burn the gold usually take in large doses of mercury because they directly inhale the metals but those who may get it after eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with mercury take it in slowly and it accumulates over time.

Mercury also contaminates the soil making it infertile and unable to support agriculture, water and air. Mercury emitted to the air can also circulate around and contaminate water, fish and wildlife far from the mine from which it was released which affects the biodiversity.

Original Source: The Observer

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