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The Crested Crane, Uganda’s Chosen Crest

It walks with grace and serenity, as though the life of the country it symbolizes, depends on its every step. The Crested Crane – chosen as Uganda’s Crest (national symbol) nearly 100 years ago, is one of the most cherished birds in the country.

Commonly called the Crested Crane, it is a bird of national significance to Uganda, occupying a prime position on the country’s national flag and coat of arms.

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The Grey Crowned Crane, scientifically known as Balearica regulorum gibbericeps, inhabited Uganda’s swamps and fields long before the coming of tribes in our territory.

The unusual gracefulness of the elegant Crowned Crane, aptly typifying the country and its people, attracted then Governor of Uganda -Sir Frederick Jackson who, in 1893, chose it to embellish the Union Jack with its exquisite form and heraldic dignity.

With a crown of stiff gold-colored feathers on its head, a bright red gular sac and body made of gray, brown, gold and white patches, the grey crowned crane stands out for its striking features.

The Crane is definitely an object of great beauty. It is a tall bird standing well over three feet, on long-slender black legs. Its neck is almost as long as its legs and towards the base, pointed pearl-grey feathers are elongated to form an ornamental fringe.

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The tail feathers, comparatively short, are the color of dried straw. When at rest, the Crowned Crane seems to be enveloped in a cape of exquisite delicacy with its multi-colored head where the three colors of the Uganda’s Flag (Black, Yellow, Red) seem to be represented. The conspicuous velvety black forehead, yellowish crest and the vivid bright red wattles, make the Crested Crane an elegant creature, befitting its emblematic role.

There are 16 different species of Cranes in the world, four of which are found in Africa, including the ‘great’ Grey Crowned Crane, the Uganda national symbol. All these willowy creatures in the world are in one way or another, facing unfavourable conditions brought about by their ‘greatest friend’, Man, who works for their ‘survival and protection’.

Crowned Cranes generally inhabit dry and wet open areas including marshes, damp fields, and open margins of lakes and rivers, but rarely associated with open waters. In Uganda, the Crowned Cranes prefer freshly-ploughed fields to grasslands and short to tall grass.

Lifestyle: Courtship, feeding and Breeding

The grey crowned crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species. Both sexes dance, and immature birds join the adults. Dancing is an integral part of courtship, but also may be done at any time of the year.

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Their food consists of plant and animal matter including grass and sedge seeds, millet, rice, peas, corn, mollusks, crustaceans, insects (grasshoppers and flies), fish, amphibians and reptiles. They feed by rapidly pecking at food but they sometime uproot plants and rarely dig. They prefer seed heads of grasses and sedges.

Crowned Cranes are monogamous and pair for life. Though they may appear in flocks at a breeding area, they separate in pairs and nest singly controlling territories of about 1-1.5km2 defended by both sexes. They perform a series of courtship displays and excel in dancing, displaying their grace and beauty to the fullest. They twirl and curtsy to one another, with their wings wide open and held high above their backs. In this strange position, with the bill pointed skywards, it gives out a deep, booming love-call delivered from a fully inflated throat.

Man and the Crested Crane

To the many different tribes of Africa, the call of the Crowned Crane suggests many word variations and the sounds are varied and full. Thus to a Muganda the call is Ng’aali; to a Swahili M’waari; to an Acholi, O’welo; to Zulu of South Africa, the sound is Maahem and the same sound is Muraaho to a Munyarwanda.

Different tribes and people have learnt through time how to interact with the Crane, and in most areas, the Crane helps to tell people the time of the day through their calls which are done at specific times of the day. They are regarded as the birds of joy and relaxation in most parts of the country. For instance, when people clap and sing a particular song, the Cranes dance by nodding their heads. This happens in all places where Cranes exist.

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It is estimated that number of Grey Crowned Cranes in Uganda has reduced from more than 70,000 in 1970s to less than 10,000 in 2011. The global threat status declined from near-threatened to vulnerable to endangered in less than five years, and indication of global concern on the survival of Cranes in the region.

It is also estimated that the large number of the Cranes we see today are old individuals who may not survive beyond 15-20 years.

Habitats

Most crested cranes live in mixed wetland habitats, on riverbanks, around dams and open grassland. As a result, they often forage on agricultural lands, which are close to wetlands or riverbanks, feeding on grass seeds, small toads, frogs, insects and other invertebrates.

It is this easy co-existence with humans that is putting the cranes’ survival at risk.

Crested cranes breed in wetlands and this is a good reason for us to see that the environment is conserved.

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Crowned Cranes are known to breed in swamps but a combination of increasing human population has tasked these beautiful birds to leave with man due to the demand for wetlands. Eastern and south-western Uganda are the major critical areas for the survival of the Crane.

The level of human activity in swamps influences the ability of Cranes to care for the young and successful breeding. The loss of habitat, therefore, combined with the species low reproductive rate and frequent capture of young, raises concern about the Crane’s survival.

Conclusion

There is no bird more truly representative of Uganda with its meadowlands and sparking green grass, than the Grey Crowned Crane. Throughout the country, there is not a natural sound more typical than the trumpeting of the Crested Cranes as they move to their feeding grounds or fly to the roosting sites in the dimming light of evening.

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Dishing Out Inspiration: How this Man From Nakasongola Became a Globally Celebrated Chef

Joe Semanda is a 24 year old award-winning chef currently making culinary magic at the Kampala Serena Hotel. He’s the first Ugandan to participate in the international young chef Olympiad, an annual competition, twice, and bringing home the prestigious mentor’s medal for the 3rd International Young Chef Olympiad 2017 for mentoring Ugandan contestant Sandra Agasha.

He picked his love for cooking in 2010 after completing senior four. “I always wanted to be a surgeon but after my senior four, I failed to get school fees to push me to A ‘level. When I was asked what technical course I could do, I chose to do catering and I majored in food production” and thus his journey as a chef begun.

He was inspired by an uncle, Ben Musasizi who worked at a top Hotel in Uganda before moving to the United Arab Emirates as a Chef De Partie. Cooking has always been a part of his life. “I always had my holidays in the village with all my cousins. We were many and my grandmother used to make a cooking time table for all of us. We wanted to impress so we cooked our hearts out”.

Joel (middle) at the International Young Chef Olympiad.

A passionate young man, Semanda delights in cooking and expanding his horizons in the field. “My dream was always to work at the Kampala Serena hotel and when I made it there, it opened doors to a world that I knew less about. I learnt more about food and how it moves souls. I traveled to India and met with great chefs from over 67 countries and we all spoke one language which is “food”

Semanda is humble, intelligent and hungry for success. He has always aspired to be the best chef in Uganda. “Thanks to Jimmy Sekasi Business Institute, I was chosen to represent the school and Uganda at large in the 2nd International young chef Olympiad 2016 as student contestant and went back for the 3rd International Young Chef Olympiad 2017 as a mentor”.

He is currently preparing for the African young chef competitions that will be held in May 2018 in Nigeria, thereafter upgrade his diploma to a culinary degree in an international institution for more exposure.

At 24, Joe is one of the most popular chefs at Kampala Serena Hotel

A visionary, he seeks to promote the food industry and boost the culinary profession, “I am trying to reach out to the ministry of tourism to work with me and we promote this fast growing profession by organizing internal cooking competitions among cooking schools, I personally have missed out on a number of opportunities due to lack of funds but I believe with a helping hand, we will raise our flag way high using our talents.”

Semanda has not always been the young award winning chef at a top Hotel in Uganda. “Making it to where I am today has been a battle after all the hardships of raising school fees… At the moment, the greatest challenge I face is passing up opportunities for growth and exposure due to the lack of funding. I urge the tourism and hotel sector to be open to people like me who want to make a difference in this industry for Uganda and come out to promote and support us”.

He implores all young people not to under estimate any job but to use it as stepping stone to their dreams. “Do not allow pride and social status influence your employment decisions” he says.

Joe’s parents wanted him to become a surgeon but he followed his dreams of being a chef, a decision he’s never regretted making.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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How this woman is empowering youth in slums to turn their passions into sustainable careers

Unemployment remains one of the most highlighted challenges for young people in Uganda today. The 2014 Uganda Census Report indicates that Uganda’s population between the productive age of 14 and 64 is slightly over 18 million. with 58% of this population group unemployed, it means that Uganda’s total non-utilized labour potential is 10.4m as of 2014.

One woman is trying to change this status quo.

Meet Noeline Kirabo, a change agent and the founder and C.E.O of Kyusa Uganda, a non-profit organization that is empowering out of school youth to become employable by starting their own business or get available jobs.

“Our organization focuses on youth between 15 to 25 years of age to help them discover and harness their passions and make them employable in the fast growing entrepreneurial environment of Uganda.” Says Noeline.

It all started as a dream when Noeline herself was working a full time, well-paying job. She desired to do something that would leave a legacy. Having a background of not being in tertiary education herself, she wanted to offer the same hope to youth who withdraw themselves from endless possibilities because they consider themselves unemployable due to dropping out of school.

The organization has been in existence since 2014 and has grown from its pioneer lot of 10 students to a total of 250 graduates

‘My passion derives from my experience as a former school dropout. I educated myself using online courses. When I got my first job, there was no turning back. At the height of my career, I was challenged to think about the legacy I wanted to build. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my passion was in people developing more so empowering youth to live purposeful and fruitful lives.’ She says.

Kyusa seeks to eradicate the issue of youth unemployment by accelerating youth employability. The organization has been in existence since 2014 and has grown from its pioneer lot of 10 students to a total of 250 graduates with great testimonies about the impact Kyusa had on their lives.

The initiative offers programs that include business startup trainings for potential entrepreneurs, business acceleration for small and micro entrepreneurs, employability class for youth seeking to enter formal employment.

“Support programs are also offered to participants including mentor matching with business icons, exposure filled visits to gather hands on skill, support to attend vocational training, apprenticeship training, apprenticeship placements, business branding and incubation. “ Noeline says.

Kyusa helps youth discover and harness their passions to make them employable in the fast growing entrepreneurial
environment of Uganda

This rich syllabus has seen majority of the Kyusa alumni successfully running small and medium enterprises.

Julius, one of the alumni from Kyusa started a catering business that has grown into a full restaurant operating in Kisenyi. He employs four people and is working with Kyusa to start an apprenticeship program. He also runs an Events Management Company where he offers ushers, public address system and outside catering services and employs 20 youth on part time basis.

Another beneficiary Henry, runs a commercial farm on eight acres of land. He grows fruits and vegetables. Henry employs 15 youth on his farm and he is also working with Kyusa to launch an agribusiness training center for youth on Nakaseke.

Deborah another alumni,  has started a pineapple jam business and is in the process of standardizing the brand so as to sell across the East African market.

Noeline is a 2013 Kanthari fellow, 2014 Hive San Francisco fellow, 2015 Cherry Blaire Foundation Mentee, 2016 Community Solutions Program fellow, 2017 YALI Regional Leadership Center Fellow.

This rich syllabus has seen majority of the Kyusa alumni successfully running small and medium enterprises.

The journey has not been all rose and no thorn for Kyusa. Noeline started out with very little funding from friends and family. She had to learn to get the job done with the few available resources which is a valuable lesson up to date. But like they say, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way!’ Overtime many people have bought into the vision and partnered with Kyusa to get to this point.

Noeline looks up to her mother who made her believe she could be anything she set her heart to. She is inspired by Pastor Moses Mukisa of Worship Harvest ministries who has taught her a lot about vision, people development, leadership and resourcing for the vision.

Kyusa ultimate vision is to build a replicable model that will empower 10,000 youth annually across the African continent through the collaborative efforts of partners across Africa.

By Victoria Achom. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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13 Ugandan artists We Met on #DrawingWhileBlack Who Will Inspire You

If you’ve spent any time on Twitter over the last few days, you might have noticed a lot of really cool art from around the world taking over your feed.

Black artists, graphic designers and illustrators from all over the world are introducing themselves and showcasing their art to the timeline and to the world, using the hashtag.

You can thank Annabelle Hayford (@sparklyfawn), a 19-year-old, a gender artist studying animation and illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for rallying others in their field to share their work.

Some EXTREMELY TALENTED Ugandans across the globe did not sit down. From New York, to London, Kampala and across the globe, Ugandans took to Twitter to also engage in the challenge and boy oh boy, they are proving that Uganda has got talent.

Let’s not talk too much. Here they are. Enjoy!

1. Here’s Solomon W. Jagwe

2. And then JNK

https://twitter.com/Mr_JNK/status/910094530061508609

3. Say hello to Franco Mpagi who-wait-for-it uses black ink to create his murals

4. It seems we won’t get enough of Solomon W. Jagwe

5. Enter the super talented Neema Lyer

6. Here comes Andrew Mamawi. He’s not at all affiliated to Game of Thrones

7. Introducing Elise aka Seiishin who does character design and story-boarding in animation

8. Dorothy had to introduce Xenson because a multi-media artist needs some respect!

9. The only ballpaint artist on the hashtag- so far. Say hi to Michael Dungu

10. Everyone stand up for Jonas Rayme. This guy is a gem!

11. Darsan Aine is a super talented chap!

12. EZI (not Mr. Eazi) the vector artist also came through!

https://twitter.com/eziwear/status/909640051470061569

13. Daniel the low key chef made a plot twist!

Absolutely amazing art!

If you’re an artist and want to talk to us about your art, we’re eager to say hello! Send us an email on info@thisisuganda.org and let’s talk!

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