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Gulu and a perfect start of the year

Gulu and a perfect start of the year

A good afternoon to all of you,

A month has gone by since my last update, so there is a lot to tell. As Chris described in his last blog, we spent Christmas on a remote island in Lake Victoria. After celebrating New Years Eve on a festival in Kampala, Ralf (a friend who is currently working in Kampala) and me spend the remainder of the holidays to explore Kenya for one week.

Already on the bus it became apparent that we had not planned our trip too well. Ten minutes into the ride, we realized that we were not carrying enough money to pay for our visas. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be sitting next to a Ugandan girl who was so friendly as to lend us the 100 dollars we needed for the visas. Considering that 100 dollars are more than 3 monthly wages for most Ugandans, we knew how big a risk the girl was taking for us. Once again, and still after 5 months of living in Uganda, I was astonished by the friendliness of Ugandans.

The next five days in Kenya held various experiences for us in store. Ranging from a safari by bicycle to standing on the highest skyscraper in Nairobi and hiking in the mountains, we really did our best to see as much of Kenya as we could. Surprisingly, I found Kenya to be very different from Uganda: The state of development, the landscapes, the climate, the culture, the food, everything seemed to be different, and clearly not “all the same” as many tourists proclaim. I was particularly fond of the diverse landscapes from bare mountains, volcanoes and green hills, to jungles, big lakes and vast dry plains. After 5 horribly short days however, we already had to turn back to Uganda for Ralf to start his internship and for me to take care of my recently neglected bacterial children for Yoba.

The first work week of the new year turned out to be exactly as a first week of the year should be: promising! A simple modification of our production protocol seems to have resolved the issues with the production of starter culture that we had been struggling with in December. With heightened spirits we are now setting about the task of finalizing the production protocol. In other words, we are very close to finishing a Yoba production manual that is so simple you might almost call it “making probiotic yoghurt for dummies”. With this manual in hand, the Yoba concept can be spread with much more ease and at a higher speed.

January 2012 then decided to bless us with yet another pleasant surprise: The Yoba team was invited to visit two yoghurt producers in Gulu, northern Uganda. Curious about both the north of the country and the two potential partners for our project, Chris and me boarded a bus heading north last Thursday. Gulu, known for the recent war in which the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony spread terror in the entire region, turned out to be bland, peaceful and quiet. Except for its history, the small, dusty town really has nothing to offer from a touristy perspective. Nevertheless, a few days in this calm town far away from the development and buzzing life in Kampala were enough for us to grow attached to the town and its inhabitants. Without really being able to pin down why, Gulu with its mixture of round clay huts and one-storied buildings has become a town I would love to visit again. Maybe it was simply the openness and friendliness of the people that instantly made us feel at home. On Friday evening I was asked to join a volleyball game, and on Saturday we were even invited to a graduation ceremony. The ceremony was given for a girl that graduated in IT from Gulu University, and the children’s dancing competition, the music and the adorable grandmother of the graduate made for an unforgettable afternoon.

By this point you might start wondering whether we worked at all during our visit. Well, before the above events during the weekend, we made sure that this would not be Yoba’s last trip to Gulu. On Thursday and Friday, we had a series of meetings with representatives and employees of the Gulu Women Dairy Farmers Association (GWDFA) and the Gulu Dairy Association Society. Both organizations are cooperatives founded by groups of local farmers and each support the lives of more than 100 families. Their products are mainly distributed to public institutions and schools, rendering them the ideal partner for Yoba production. If Yoba were to be produced by these organizations, we could both increase the incomes of all the families in the cooperatives and supply the local youth with a health-boosting yoghurt as part of their diets. Realizing this vast potential that these organizations represent for us, we were overjoyed to hear that both are very eager to adopt the Yoba concept and produce Yoba in their facilities. In fact, they are so keen on working with Yoba that they tried to convince us to stay in Gulu and start producing Yoba right away.

I do not want to count the eggs before they hatch, but so far January has been a great month for me personally and for Yoba. The trip to Gulu and the eagerness of the people to start producing Yoba fueled our motivation to round up the work in the laboratory as fast as possible and bring Yoba to the people. Right now, I am sitting in that same lab conducting experiments to ensure that our new production protocol is absolutely error-proof. The only thing that casts a shadow on this day is that Chris is not able to support me today as he is down with a flue.

So, recovery to Chris and warm greetings to everyone at home!

Until next time,

Bernd

Bernd Isenberg

Bernd Isenberg

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1 comment

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