Friday, December 5, 2008

Snakes and Superstitions

Snakes are a very big part of life here in Uganda and there are many strong fears and superstitions towards them, some warranted and others unfounded.

I (Mike) have seen five different kinds of snakes since I have been here. I’ve only been able to identify one of them and it is poisonous. The others I’m not sure about, people say that they are all poisonous, but that is just one of those unfounded fears.

Today I found a 5-foot cobra in the driveway orchard which is obviously a threat to the hundreds of children who are constantly running around here. I killed it with a garden hoe.

The people here (including the well educated ones) believe that holding a special black stone will cure a bite from a poisonous snake. They think it works because when someone gets bit and they hold it, the person usually lives. But this is not because of the stone, it is because most of the snakes aren’t actually poisonous and even when the snake is poisonous their bite is not usually fatal (unless of course it is one of the major ones like a mamba).

It was kind of scary today to think that if any of those children would have gotten bit by that cobra that they would have run for a black stone and not the hospital. I sat down with the ones present and told them what they should do, but it was very very difficult to convince them, and I even have a book here, “Where There is No Doctor” that discusses the superstitions around the black stone. Their grandparents and parents have been telling them since birth to hold the black stone, so this is what they believe very deep inside of them. And it is not just snakes; they have very strong superstitions about many things.

Anyways, poisonous snakes and very deep superstitious beliefs are a couple of the challenges we face working here in Uganda.

The Entrance Area is Transforming

The entrance area is undergoing a radical and sometimes controversial transformation. It is the centerpiece area of the site, the place that everyone sees as they are coming to the home, and that everyone walks through to go just about anywhere. Until now it has been an open area of compacted earth. There was very little shade from the hot hot sun, cars drove all over it, and it created a lot of dust which dirtied everything and made it hard to breath sometimes. The children swept the entire area twice a day which caused a lot of erosion. In the rainy season more soil was washed away and it turned into a mud pit which is difficult to walk on.

Below is a draft design of the area along with photos of some of the changes that are taking place. We have planted 20 fruit trees in the area and will be planting 22 more in the hopes that this area will be a lush food forest someday providing shade, a place to hang out, and many varieties of fruit throughout the year. We have also fenced out vehicles, dug up the hard compacted earth and will be planting Bermuda grass to control erosion, dust and mud, keep the soil loose to absorb more water for the trees, and to provide a lawn for children to walk and play on.


The design for the area

The transformation is happening

Good Luck Joseph

The past few weeks Ssegendo Joseph has been a huge help with the project and has been showing a strong interest in permaculture. Here are a couple of photos of Joseph’s work.

His garden bed just outside of the kitchen with a little pond (which we have filled with gravel and reeds) to catch the grey water coming out of the kitchen

Joseph making his artistic and functional goat-proof tree protectors for the tangerines and lemon out front of the library (and unfortunately next to the tree-eating goats)

Joseph has recently finished P7 and has left Sabina to begin secondary school, although I am hoping that he will come back now and again to continue feeding his interest in permaculture. Good luck Joseph and thank you.

Our Latest Designs

Some of our latest design creations

A draft design of the entrance area to provide fruit, shade, a place to play and hang out, and a beautiful entrance for visitors

A draft design for behind the dorms to deal with grey water, collect rainwater, and use the area to grow food

Lake Sabina for water storage, beauty, and more eco-diversity

Circa 2011-2013

Circa 2038

A brief whole site water design

Some Misc Photos

Paw paws, yams, and matooke (cooking bananas) at the bottom of our Mandala Garden

A few weeks ago:


Veggies growing in our Mandala Garden

Godfrey and his garden

Beautiful yams

Kids chillin’ after finishing the term

Dembe with his 89 baby chicks that he has been mothering day and night

Washing day

Our extremely talented Sabina girls and boys practicing the traditional Buganda dances

And eventually performing them

My beloved Rashida

Some of Kayinga and friends’ garden creations

Anthony helping himself to the Mandala Garden

Dan and Mike teaching some village women about composting, garden planning, and pest management

Anthony with his homemade football

The adorable Rona