Today the New York Times published a very personal and, for many people, unexpected op-ed by actress, director, and humanitarian Angelina Jolie. Ms. Jolie, a carrier of the gene BRAC1 with a mutation that significantly increases breast cancer risk, recounts her decision and experience undergoing a preventive double mastectomy -- the surgical removal of both of her breasts. There should be no shame in undergoing such a procedure.
On March 29th, Rehama was privileged to join a team of researchers and environmentalists who visited Tiribogo village in Muduuma Sub country, Mpigi district. This was part of a field survey about the status of biogas digesters. The research team came from the University of Aberdeen in partnership with Makerere University, James Hutton Institute (JHI), Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Phytobiotechnology Research Foundation (PRF), Centre for Research in Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC), Green Heat Uganda (GHU) and Orskov Foundation.
When my boss confirmed that I was representing her among a group of journalists in a media trip to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, I was elated! I was like a teenager excited about her first date.
The mere thought of coming close to the popular ‘human cousins’ was electrifying. I was finally going to have some experience about gorilla trekking; my own story to tell. I remember packing my travel bag three days to the trip. I got in touch with colleagues who prepped me about a gorilla trekking exercise. I even remember borrowing a sturdier pair of canvas shoes from my sister, just to make sure I have the best trek.
Our trip from Kampala, the capital city of Uganda to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the south western part of Uganda lasted two days. It was a very long journey to me but the conversations and arguments I listened to, between these journalists, gave me comic relief for the road. We spend a night in Kabale; a district 430 kilometers from Kampala.
Kabale is a beautiful mountainous land with popular getaways to gorilla tracking trips at Bwindi and Mgahinga gorilla National Parks. It is one of Uganda’s best mountain hiking destinations and also one of the best destinations in Uganda to explore superb mountain hiking with the Rolling Hills and Virunga Mountains at its border with Rwanda. The town also has an airstrip that makes it easily accessible.
The coldness of Kabale that night was not what I had prepared for. My fitting small coat and a shawl was a joke to my colleagues. They warned me before I left Kampala but I simply ignored. Now, I was suffering from a stomachache, caused by the cold as I coiled up in my lonely hotel room. I even had no desire to tour Kabale town that night because I was visibly shaking and biting my teeth because of the coldness. I went to bed early in order to get enough rest. We had planned to leave Kabale town to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in the wee hours of the morning.
We arrived at Ruhija, one of the briefing centres of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park by 9:30 am the following morning. This centre is 50kms away from Buhoma, the park headquarters. According to our guide, we were going to trek the Oruzogo family of mountain gorillas. Oruzogo is a name adapted from a plant in the forest that is a favourite delicacy for this particular family.
During the briefing, everyone was informed about what to expect in the forest like stinging insects, wild poisonous plants and the muddy ground during the rainy seasons. We were reminded that we would have two body guards, for security purposes and were told to equip ourselves with strong shoes, a walking stick, a bottle of water and a rain coat. The park management aided us with some pairs of gumboots, walking sticks and rain coats commonly known as condos for those who didn’t have. I opted for the gumboots, because I wanted to be more than comfortable even through the muddy vegetation.
Trekking officially begun at 11:00am and I, the only lady in a group of ten was advised to lead the group because they thought, I would move at the slowest space.
I wanted to challenge these guys. I wanted to show them that I wasn’t a weakling just because I was a lady so I excitedly ran, jumped and hiked away. I used my stick to climb steep hills and run down slopes. It was fun for the first hour and then booh! My body was knocked out of breathe! Initially, I under estimated the effects of trekking such undulating lands as the Bwindi forest. (Trekking takes place 8000-10,000 feet above sea level).
With the effects of hiking taking effect, I found myself slowing down steadily. Once leading the trekking group, I found myself in the middle, breathing heavily but with a brave heart. I didn’t want to admit that I was getting tired. Gesa Simplicious, a warden writer at the park sensed this and suggested that we get a “water break”. I was the first one to agree.
During the break, we interacted with the guide, Benson Kanyoni, asking questions about the life of this family we were about to meet, among other wildlife topics. He also told us about the wild poisonous plants. We got a chance to see the Oruzogo plant and a fresh gorilla nest to which we struggled to take pictures. A gorilla nest is where the male and female gorilla mate. Then we continued with our journey.
Dear reader, our day had begun on a very cold, cloudy note and it stayed that way for more than half of the day. However, this did not stop sweat from oozing through every pore on my skin. I couldn’t resist getting rid of some of my clothes. I began with my coat, then the shawl and remained in my trouser jeans and sweater top. To make my journey simpler, I wrapped the coat and shawl around my waist.
The forest vegetation was a source of freshness. When we had emptied our mineral water bottles, our thirst was quenched by the fresh air we breathed in from the forest green vegetation. Everyone was impressed by my energy throughout the journey. I was very tired but all this feeling remained a secret because I am not a weakling remember? We were just two hours into the journey but some people were already tired. Gorilla trekking can take 1-4hours or even more.
As we penetrated the impenetrable Bwindi, we buried our thoughts into discussions about the nature and the history of this great forest. We couldn’t just give up because we were near; at least that is what our guide kept telling us.
The surprise call from one of the guides in the forest to Benson brought good news just like the star that appeared to the three wise men in the bible. The Oruzogo family was less than two kilometres away.
‘It will take us less than 3o minutes to get there. Don’t worry, we will be there shortly.’ Benson turned and assured us.
Breathlessly, some of us even increased our pace. In less than the 30 minutes mentioned, we were suddenly stopped and told to keep quiet. We were now in the Oruzogo family territory. Although many were hidden in the thick forest trees, we could hear their I was now in the company of the gentle giants.
We are briefed again about gorilla behaviour and how we should behave while near them. Among these behavioral guidelines were issues like leaving our walking sticks behind because they send a wrong impression to the gorillas-they think you are an enemy who has come to hurt them. We were also reminded to switch off camera flashes because gorillas hate them and also, to leave behind any mineral water bottles and other snacks.
Then we moved closer to meet the Oruzogo family!
I learnt that all habituated Gorillas in Bwindi have names that all guides know. Bakwate, a silverback in the family couldn’t stand us intruding his comfort zone so he first charged, then backed loudly and proudly thumped his chest; it was a sight to behold! Benson explained that they usually charge when they want to defend themselves from the enemy. He (Bakwate) however calmed down and posed for us to take as many pictures of him as we wanted and he left shortly after.
As we struggled to have a better view of him, we discovered Kakobe, a female with Toto, her young one. The strong mother-to-child bond was priceless as the two enjoyed their meal. She later protectively carried her onto her laps and started feeding her with tree branches. The sight of the two gorillas together was intriguingly sweet and incredible. It was such a remarkable sight. Mother and child suddenly sat still for two minutes, as if posing for the cameras, then disappeared into the bush. Their behavior is so much like that of humans. No wonder they are 97% related to human beings! The Oruzogo family boasted of 23 members then; 2 silverbacks, 8 adult females, 4 juveniles, 5 infants and 5 black backs.
In silence, we struggled to have more views and shots of all the Oruzogos as they played in tree branches, and as some enjoyed their lunch time meal; oruzogo plant. I couldn’t believe it when our one hour visit came to an end.
Even though we huffed and puffed all the way back on the steep slopes of the rugged Bwindi forest under heavy rains, the feeling of satisfaction we had obtained from trekking and coming close to the mountain gorillas kept us going. It was worth all the effort.
Full article published here http://www.newuganda.com/a-date-with-mountain-gorillas/
“I love change. I love that tension between fear and hope; courage and anxiety; faith and hesitancy. I don’t know how to settle for the path of least resistance so I always trudge along the cliff of possibility, daring to believe that what will be will be. So I love change because it reintroduces me to myself… to what I am capable of facing and what I am brave enough to let go of.” – Que sera sera
Last week, I was part of a team of researchers and environmentalists who visited Tiribogo village in Wakiso district in a field survey about the status of biogas systems that were donated to farmers in a research study by a team from the University of Aberdeen in partnership with James Hutton Institute (JHI), Scottish Agricultural College (SAC), Green Heat Uganda (GHU), Orskov Foundation, and Makerere University under DFID.
The team had gone to examine farmers’ experiences about the use of flexible balloon biogas digesters since project initiation.
Good reception about biogas
All the nine users of the flexible balloon digesters appreciate the technology because of various advantages it has over using firewood. However, more efforts need to be geared at educating and sensitizing the masses about biogas technology and how to adapt to maintenance demands.
Kaloli Kimuli, a resident of Tiribogo village and a lead user of the flexible balloon digester believes that much as they are benefitting from the systems now, they have faced a lot of challenges because they didn’t know how the system works.Through all the testimonies I listened to, I summarised just five basic facts people didn’t know about biogas.
What is biogas digester?
Biogas is gas created from organic matter such as animal manure, dead crops or food and human waste under anaerobic conditions. Let me explain the meaning of a biogas digester using an example of the human stomach. When you eat food, it goes to the stomach, where digestion takes place.Energy is created and waste is released in form of faeces and gas.
The same theory applies to a biogas digester. A digester is a closed up structure where organic waste is put and later turns into gas under no oxygen supply. The digester is fed with animal manure, human waste or dead plants. With no supply of oxygen, this waste will decompose and a gas will be produced from the process and the remains will form fertilizer flows out of the system. Gas is formed and trapped through a tube and later piped to the chicken for cooking or tapped and turned into lighting energy.
To read more about how biogas works and some of the types of biogas digesters, visit the sites: http://greenheatug.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/how-biogas-works/, and
NOTE: Just like how the human stomach is fed daily to support the functioning of the body system, the digester has to be fed with waste on a regular basis to generate gas or else, the gas will get used up. You cannot survive without eating regularly. Can you?
What are some of the factors to consider before investing in biogas technology for home or institutional use?
Just like any other energy generating technologies, one needs to have some requirements in place before installing a biogas system. Here are the important requirements one needs;
Constant waste material supply: This can be human waste, animal waste (cows and pigs have the biggest amounts of waste and most recommendable. However, if you have goats, sheep and any other animals that you can constantly access, it is okay to use it). This waste has to be readily available. I mean, it will be easier for someone to adopt easily to feeding a digester if the waste doesn’t require them incurring transport.
Water: This is used to mix this waste material before its fed to the digester. In order for complete decomposition to take place, there has to be water.So, water is required to mix the waste material.
Interest and commitment to the digester/“stomach”: This comes so easily if one has the interest in the technology and how it works.
Doesn’t that gas smell because it’s former out of rotting waste material?
No, biogas doesn’t not smell at all. It burns cleanly.
Towards the end of 2012, a friend of mine sent me a message. It wasn’t a festive message because it came earlier than that. It read;
“Thank U for being my friend. Remmy, you have been one true person I have always relied on. U’ve been there 4me in so many ways. U’re so kind, free yet with such a big heart. Thank you for all that u’ve done for me always.”
It was such a sweet thing to do. I was humbled and at the same time challenged. There are so many people in my life I would love to take time off and appreciate.
They mean a lot to me but have no idea how much. The whole idea made more sense when another important person to me lost a loved one.
This friend of mine kept saying; “She was everything to me. I wish I had told her that before all this happened…”
This got me thinking about:
• How many times do we appreciate our friends? I mean the ones who are there for us without a second thought? Do you even know how much time and resources they invest in you each time you need them?
• How many have you lost without letting them know or appreciating them? Maybe not yet but is it too late?
Life is too short to live in regret so I have decided to live each day to the fullest. I am spreading as much love as I can to those people I consider very special in my life. I have categories of friends: they have made me who I am today because I have learnt a lot from each and every one of them. These people have been the wings beneath my wings.
There is one who has made my career what it is today. He made me discover the true potential in me because he introduced me to the working world. The media world became easy for me to understand with his brotherly support. I have never looked back since. And there is another extraordinary one. She has silently sharpened my intelligence. During my journey with her, it’s always been a learning process. We don’t always agree about certain issues but the arguments have helped us understand one another better. She is my “wise one”…but she doesn’t know this yet. And many others have introduced me to professionals in my field who are tirelessly shaping and mentoring me into a better communicator. I truly appreciate all your efforts, good people.
I have a group of “hot” true friends who have shaped my social skills. These girls and a few guys are very decent people. They have contributed to the responsible lady I am today (ani awakana? lol). Together, we have walked the turbulent waters of youth; I have learnt the world with and from each of them.
It has been an on-and-off journey with some of my male friends. Sometimes, they forget you when there is a girlfriend but come back when they are nursing heartbreaks or just bored…and that is okay. I understand but that doesn’t mean I should forget you. I still love you and care, with or without those special people. (NOTE: this paragraph got a little bit personal, couldn’t help it) Thank you all, guys… true friends are rare (wink wink)
There is one I have perhaps learnt a lot from spiritually. We may have divergent religious views but we are very similar, morally. She has been my counsellor and guide during times I really doubted my courage to deal with certain emotional challenges. I thank God for having her because she has helped mum raise a lady of substance.
There are other special ones. Some are just new and very promising! (That sounds like a teacher’s remark to a student but never mind). I can’t really mention all here but I am ready to spread the love to you too. I thank God for bringing you all into my walk of life.
Above all, God answered my prayer and gave me a sister. She is a gem, one of its kind and I have told her this before. She is one detail in my life I cannot thank Allah enough for. Musa (this is the big brother), thank you for giving me a sister and I love you Fatia.
There is one simple lesson I have learnt about friendships. It’s an investment. Show the love, it will come back to you. I am a living testimony.
Thank you for making me who I am, friends. (Taking a bow)