Well, we’ve been back to Gulu again, taking two of the new trustees from ETC of PWD this time. We were bringing together the strands of the project so far and thinking about where this accumulated knowledge should take everyone involved.
- Visits to the field with Musema Faruk the project officer from Gulu Disabled Persons Union to see business groups from both phases of the project.
- Meetings with local councillors from the new district of Omorro to discuss their approach to disability and whether our project might fit into it.
- And a very productive meeting with GDPU members themselves, to discuss the project so far and where it might lead in the future.
Many thanks to Faruk for organising the visits, for his hard work with the groups and for supporting the evident improvements that we saw.
Two key issues arose from our field trips:
- What makes a successful group and how best to support business groups to achieve that success, and what does success look like anyway
- What are the best vocational skills for students to learn and how specialised should they be?
And at our subsequent meeting at GDPU we all spent a long time thinking about their plans to make a training hub for future students with disability, what should be taught?
But each of these three questions could be reduced down to one word: sustainability. How can the hard work of the members of the business enterprises and of the members of GDPU be kept going? How can they make sure that what they are doing will earn enough to keep them and their families alive and better than alive; thriving.
Our last post mentioned success by two groups. This time perhaps, by concentrating on the work of two others we can tease out some of the implications for sustainability in their success.
Akera Roberts in Gulu and Lubanga Lakica in Koch Li
Is based in the centre of Gulu town and doing extremely well, has plans and enough money saved to move from his table on a veranda into new premises within 3 months. Has just sent his son to one of the top primary schools in Gulu, paid for by his own work. A real difference in aspirations this year compared to last, Akera Robert has become far more confident and has a vision of his own future far larger than we saw last year. Important to note that he focuses on electrical and solar appliances not mobile phones. He puts his success down to
- Diversity of equipment repaired, unlike for example the Gulu PWDs enterprise who solely mend feature phones and therefore have a diminishing market, Akera’s range will only grow.
- He has a very good reputation, particularly among people from the villages who bring their items on the bus for him to repair when they come into town
- He is always there from 8 in the morning till dark, even when he has no work he will be at his desk, so customers know they can always find him
Based in Koch Li, a very small place on a mud road road between Koch Goma and Bobi. Koch Li is about 5 miles from the main road that passes through Koch Goma, a small town about 20 miles outside Gulu. There is not much at Koch Li, but isolation can bring benefits as well as challenges;
Benefits: in particular a lack of competition. Koch Goma is full of people mending motorcycles, but as the members of Lubanga Lakica have realised there is great market for them if they can learn how to work on the many different possible machines to repair in their area: slashing machines/ generators/ small agricultural machines etc. They have some of the skills needed, but need more. Some of the members already know how to carry out small welding repairs although they lack the machinery to do so.
Challenges: security is a real problem in isolated areas, tools and anything portable or of any value will be stolen. Which means keeping spares for example, is a difficult. These mechanics have a tie up with a spares dealer in Koch Goma, but to run a proper service they need a secure container, which costs money. As is often the way, the group are reluctant to invest their own money in paying for a container, although they have negotiated a good price for one made by Mr Labongo from the disabled welders group in Gulu. As Faruk says, “They fear risk”.
The implications from discussions with these two businesses were twofold
- Trainees need different skills set to succeed in town and in out in the village, in essence urban trainees will need specific skills in greater depth and country trainees will need a very wide range of basic skills. Our Post-Training Support programmes have certainly been location specific and responded to the wishes of the beneficiaries. But, in future training institutions will have to establish where the future trainees intend to work before planning their skills training programme. It seems obvious doesn’t it, but I have never found a training programme that does this
- To build on their success members will need to understand the role of investment and have access to it; either their own money or from grants.
These field trips and Faruk’s great depth of understanding and knowledge of the enterprises he supports, built up over the last few years, gave us all much to think about and take forward to our meeting at Gulu Disabled Persons Union. Where should the ETC project go next? See the next post to find out!