Right from childhood, Linah Nanziri has been interested in environmental conservation and ecology. She co-founded Pearl of Africa Environmental Organisation to restore Uganda’s pride as the “Pearl of Africa”. We had a chat with her to talk about her idea.
What is and why Pearl of Africa environmental organisation?
Pearl of Africa Environmental Organisation, or as we prefer to call it, ‘PAE’ is a non-governmental green organisation. The name actually holds a profusion of historical value and sentiment. Uganda was named the ‘Pearl of Africa’ by Welsh- American, HM Stanley in 1892 (Fortnightly Review, Volume 52), who was taken aback by her beauty. She, however got her international identification as the ‘Pearl of Africa,’ when British Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies/writer and eventual two- term Prime Minister, Sir. Winston Churchill aggrandised her aesthetic in his book, My African Journey, which was published in 1908, saying, “Uganda is a fairy-tale. You climb up…and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different…from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa…I can say: Concentrate on Uganda: For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life— for a vast scale–Uganda is truly ‘the Pearl of Africa.” These powerful words that were made by such a powerful man are still remembered to this day, however, this is where the underlying concern ‘stems’ from (no pun intended). Our once attractive, alluring and appealing country is facing an age of atrophy, which is what induced my co-founder and I to start this NGO in order to put an end to this appalling degradation of our environment.
How did you start this organisation?
Many answer this question with the date their organisation was up and running. We, rather prefer to paint a picture of how the idea was born and how it eventually came to life, from the perspective of both founders of PAE. I was around 8 years of age when I got interest in not only environmental conservation, but ecology as a whole. My primary school, Greenhill Academy Kampala held a writing competition on the notion of preserving the environment. I was quite agitated since I was one of the youngest competitors but this did not stop me. I do not vividly remember what was written, but I do remember how passionate I was about what I wrote about. Unfortunately, I did not win the competition but I won the love and the drive to move forward with this newly acquired passion, which subsequently led to the birth of PAE when I was at the age of 13 years. How exactly did it start? Co-founder, Mr. Seruwu Isaac, who happened to be my father’s good friend (or as we traditionally refer to them ‘uncle’) was always a keen environmental enthusiast. Mr. Seruwu believes that the misuse of the environment leads to substantial damages, loss of lives and could cease the development within a country socially, economically and even politically. Once he found out about my love for the environment, he acquired interest in working with me since he believed that he who has influence on the youth, has influence on the future. He subsequently registered PAE as a non-governmental organisation in Uganda during the close of 2010.
What is this kind of work do you do at PAE?
Our organisation ensures to preserve pastures, trees & water bodies, promote the sufficient utilisation of natural resources (which happen to be available in abundance). We work to propel education on the benefits of environmental conservation to the civil society, ensure the refining of environmental policies, foster the restoration of the once known ‘Pearl of Africa’ to improve the tourism industry in order to boost our economy and guarantee food & water security for our generation and those to come.
What are your biggest accomplishments ever since you started Pearl of Africa Environmental Organisation?
Tough question, considering the fact that we have been in existence for close to 10 years. We are very humbled to have had the privilege of working with the army of Uganda, conventionally known as the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) on improving sanitation and recycling of items. We were also fortunate enough to be supported by National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), The Ministry of Water and Environment, Sewage and Water Corporation Company (SWCC), which have are essential institutions since they affect they greatly influence the environmental situation in Uganda, whilst working with us on our common cause. We have also had the privilege of introducing effective programs in 20 schools based in Kampala, some of which include recycling of items, education on sanitation, personal hygiene, agriculture and leadership. This has definitely helped us feel somewhat accomplished since it practically incentives the youth to realise how crucial the environmental conservation is in the world, which is a main point we have been and still are trying to get across. I am a part of the British Ecological Society (BES) and have had the privilege to be accorded to the nomination for the Mash Award for Ecologists in Africa.
What are some of the programs that you run at Pearl of Africa Environmental Organisation?
Well, education is a vital aspect in PAE. We educate people on the benefits of environmental conservation. There are some recent programs that we have been involved in, one major one being renewable energy, which entails utilising the energy from the sun that we have in abundance, by using solar panels instead of Hydro Electric Power (HEP), which negatively affects fish and dissolves oxygen levels in the water. Axis, a start up company in Uganda has endorsed our cause and has been supporting us far beyond our expectations. They install automated solar panelled lights in people’s homes/ company environments at extremely affordable prices. Axis also collects spoilt laptop batteries and they are able to recycle them into power banks. Yes, power banks! Some have been sold earlier this year, 2018 to finance some of PAE’s activities. I better stop here before this turns into a commercial. Nevertheless, we are truly thankful to them.
Where do you see Pearl of Africa environmental Organisation six years from now?
Nice question, I see us changing history six years from now, or even prior to that. I see us being the reason for changes in/ the introduction of new environmentally favourable policies. I see free education institutions on acquisition of environmental knowledge with our ‘amazing’ PAE team doing what they do best. I see recycling of paper, leading to decreased murder of trees. I see typhoid becoming a thing of the past. I see our water bodies turning back to the attractive and prepossessing blue, instead of green or whatever colour they are now. I see tourists flooding the ‘Pearl of Africa.’ I see an improved economy. But most of all, I see a world that has been improved by PAE and other organisations that support our cause. Even if this takes over six years, it has always been my obsessive fixation. It is my purpose and it is what I have dedicated my life to revolve around.
Running an organisation takes great courage and commitment, what are some of the challenges you have faced so far?
Mr. Seruwu and I have faced issues in acquiring funds. Most, if not all of PAE’s activities are currently self-funded. By that, I mean that the money that sustains our organisation comes from our personal banks. This is the biggest challenge we are currently faced with. This was not the case some years ago. Just like you said, we do have an amazing team, however, we have had to deal with untrustworthy and incompetent people, which made it eminently difficult to run different programs in the organisation. One of the main challenges faced is the time consumed to run our NGO whilst balancing studies for myself and work for Mr. Seruwu. The challenges are too many to list out individually. However, I run by this rule, “no hurdles no achievements, know hurdles know achievements.” This is what I realised throughout my time running this NGO. The number of unforeseen challenges are too great a number that it is likely for one to give up a few years in. What has kept my co-founder and I going through all these years is our passion and obsession with ‘making Uganda great again.’
Any worst moments or regrets?
One of my worst moments was when I was a young teenager, I believe. Mr. Seruwu would get into esoteric ecological discussions with the PAE team that I lacked knowledge on. I disliked this because it made me feel irrelevant in the team. I do not have any regrets because every mistake that was made was a lesson upon us and it has enabled us to become stronger than ever.
Who have you worked with in your environmental campaigns?
Uganda Rotary Clubs have been involved in our campaigns, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), The Ministry of Water and Environment, Sewage and Water Corporation Company (SWCC), recently closed Television station, Wavammuno Broadcasting Station (WBS), Axis, among many other partnership collaborations.
Any remarks you want you make to appeal to the people?
Oh, I believe there are so many interwoven remarks within this interview, nevertheless, I will conclude by saying, refraining from action is much more ‘comfortable’ than reaction, however, history is not made by those who didn’t take action, so let’s take action now and SAVE GLOBAL NATURE! Postscript: Comfortable is in quotation marks because I cannot begin to imagine how ‘comfortable’ one may be while watching the earth they call home die right in front of them.
This Animation Studio is Set to Release Uganda’s first high quality animated short film
A new crop of animators and cartoonists in Africa are sparing no effort to put the continent on the map when it comes to the genre. From Ghana, to Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, animators are proving that we don’t need to rely on external content for entertainment and education.
One Ugandan animation studio has now also joined the queue. Creatures Animation Studio is set to release a high quality animated short film made by Ugandans and for Ugandans.
The short film “A kalabanda Ate My Homework”, is a tale of a boy and his encounter with a Kakalabanda (a mythical creature that is said to haunt schools in Uganda) bringing a ridiculous twist to the infamous excuse “the dog ate my homework“.
Tendo, a pupil shows up to class one day without homework – claiming that a “Kalabanda” ate it. Who’d believe such a lame excuse? No-one! How will Tendo prove his story? And does this mythical creature really exist? All these questions are what to be answered when you get to watch the short film after it’s premiere.
On coming up with the idea of animation and A kalabanda Ate My Homework.
When Raymond Malinga decided to quit his well paying job in Malaysia two years ago and come back to Uganda, he knew that there was no turning back. His dream has always been to setup up an Animation company that employs local artists and focuses on making local content aimed at exporting our experiences beyond our borders in new and interesting ways”
“I quit my job in Malaysia to come back and start an animation company that will develop Ugandan animation films. Uganda, East Africa and Africa are blessed with a rich culture,experiences and stories that have the potential to translate into impactful entertainment” Raymond explains.
In 2015, he started Creatures Animations Studio that is based in Kampala. The studio is now home to 8 animators who have been working hard to produce their first ever project- A kalabanda Ate My Homework.
“A kalabanda Ate My Homework is an original concept that was inspired by creature that goes by the kakalabanda and is unique to Uganda. I feel this uniqueness helps create value for our work. Our film is purely based on local characters and setting which Ugandans can relate to but also attempts to present the concept in an accessible way to anyone from beyond our borders” Raymond says.
The characters behind the voices are familiar ones that Ugandans- the target audience, will relate to. The main character voices are; Rising media personality Martha “Kay” Kagimba known for her viral Range Rover video, comedian Patrick “Salvado” Idringi, comedian Omara Daniel and upcoming children’s book author Faith Kisa .
Coming up with the film has not been an easy journey. Works started in 2015 and since the skill of animation remains unchartered to many, a lot of time was put into mastering the script, training the voicing characters and also setting up a fully fledged team capable of building and developing future project. which is typical of a growing initiative.
Beyond A kalabanda Ate My Homework
The team plans on creating many more animated projects to serve the content needs of Ugandans.”We are planning on developing TV animated shows and feature films in the future and are determined to have them see the light of day.” Raymond says.
Raymond believes in sharing of knowledge and experiences and that is why he is training more young people to become animators to create a multiplier effect that will see the rise of an animation Industry in the country and the region.
“Our aim is to recruit as many animators as possible. We have schools teaching animations but students don’t have where to go after. Creatures Animation Studio is positioning itself as a destination for aspiring animators as a relevant employment platform” Raymond explains.
On the state and feature of animations in Uganda
Raymond believes the only challenge that is limiting the jump start of the animation innovations is lack of teams. Most animation projects require a lot of labour (teams) and creating a successful one very difficult if you’re an individual.
“The current local animation landscape is populated with good animators that can accomplish tasks only at a certain scale. Film is a collaborative effort, to pull off a project like a short film, a television show or a film in a consistent way requires a team. The more teams we get the faster the industry will grow.” Raymond emphasizes.
Raymond also teaches animation at the Artfield Institute of Design where he is training young animation talents to co-create and build a network of animators in the country.
This online talk show seeks to be the alternative voice for Ugandan youths
Equipped with a microphone, a smart phone, a computer and some Internet connection, The Zeitgeist has rolled up its sleeve to create an alternative media platform to those Ugandans that cannot be hosted on traditional media.
The zeitgeist means “the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time “The spirit behind the show and the like is because we feel the spirit of the time is to have more engaging and accountable citizenry.” Samson Tusiime said.
The live show happens every Saturday at noon via http://mixlr.com/thezeitgeist/
With an internet penetration of about 10 million Ugandans and nudged by the fact that traditional media only uses the same old people on their talk shows, Tusiime Samson together with his friends; Mujuni Raymond, Kwezi Tabaro, Colin Asiimwe, Pru Nyamishana and Benjamin Rukwengye have put their boots on to offer that much needed voice.
They believe that if only 10% of Ugandan Internet users can listen to their show, they will have a media coverage that is better than that of most media houses in Uganda.
On the show, a range of topics are covered; politics, policy, governance, entrepreneurship, arts and culture. They are careful not to host the people that have been in the mainstream media many times. Listening in to one of the shows, I was blown away by the depth with which issues were being discussed.
With the 9 talk shows so far, The Zeitgeist is quickly becoming a force to reckon with. It is highly interactive as analytics indicate that 900 listeners in August alone tuned in; with people from as far as Canada listening in. Eria, one listener who listened to the podcast from Denmark commended them on the awesome job they were doing and suggested to them what they could do better.
The Zeitgeist hopes to have a website that has an immediate transcription of the show, professional equipment that can make the work much easier, increase the frequency of the shows and partner with mainstream media platforms so as to reach to people that are not online.
In light of the fact that the dynamics of information dissemination in Uganda have changed, social media informs conversation that mainstream media pick, this initiative is timely and is an opportunity for the youth to curate meaningful conversation.
Pictorial: The clouds as they add color and beauty to Uganda from above
As the itesot proverb goes “anyone who sees beauty and does not look at it will soon be poor”, we believed that we are all poor for not looking at and appreciating the beauty of our skies all this time.
Uganda is beautiful from the skies. The clouds add glamour to our beautiful pearl and it took us time to compile some of the best images you will ever see showcasing this beauty. Sit back and enjoy the view of the Pearl of Africa from the clouds and sign, stamp and seal the fact that this is the most beautiful country in the world.
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