As the second team of students of the forestry department at TU Dresden, we, Veith, Pauline and Julia were in Uganda from October to December 2018 for conducting research within the WoodCluster Project.
All of us prepared beforehand proposals for the data gathering for our Bachelor thesis we planned to do in Mubende District, Western part of Uganda. Due to some obstacles in the preparation phase we had to spend more time than planned at Makerere University in Kampala before we could finally start off to the research area. Thanks to the support, guidance and introduction in the field of the local project coordinator Dr. Justine Namaalwa and her assistant Ritah Kigonya of the Faculty Forest and Nature Conservation at Makerere University, we were able to obtain the clearance for our research plans from the local authorities. Dr. Namaalwa Jjumba helped us to find suitable accommodation throughout the data collection period, as well as translators and transport for our daily trip to the village where we collected the data. Thereafter we started with our field work.
Julia and Veith conducted interviews with small scale farmers focusing on the factors influencing the decision-making for or against establishing a woodlot. Julia concentrated on the female-headed households in the area whereas Veith interviewed male-headed households. Veith found out, as expected, that the decision for a woodlot is mainly dependent on the size of the farmland and the ownership. Farmers who can afford to plant a tree often see it as a kind of saving for the future. During Julias investigation it turned out that there were only a few female interviewees that were able to plant trees, presumably due to their different living conditions and social challenges they are facing compared to the male respondents.
Pauline talked to the youth with the aim of documenting their perception of agency and belonging in an intergenerational comparison with their parents’ generation focusing on the complex legal situation of land access. She discussed with the young people the connections between changing concepts of belonging, the difficulties in accessing to land and their perception of agency. The first data analysis of this sociological research shows a shift in the concepts of spatial and social belonging of the young people. The transformation of the concept of social and spatial belonging requires a reflection on the striving for psychosocial agency and social integration by the generation youth. This renegotiation of coping in life is approached by focussing on the (re-)distribution of physical space and the reorganization/production of social space.
From Monday to Friday we started in Mubende around 9:30 am and arrived in the village about 40 min later. There we all had our individual programs until we met together with our translators for lunch around 1pm before we continued until around 4:30pm. It was great to experience a warm welcome by the village inhabitants and find a good mode of collaboration.
In the evenings we sat on the balcony of our hotel or in front of our favorite Rolex stall (Ugandan informal national dish: rolled eggs, some fresh tomato and cabbage in a chapatti) and reflect on the events of the day. Sometimes these were moments of exchanging newly learned words in Luganda, of talking about fascinating or simply beautiful or funny moments of the day, but sometimes it also offered the necessary space to support each other in dealing with new and sometimes challenging and unexpected situations or impressions.
After about six weeks and a lot of time spent on the back of Bajaj Boxer motorcycles (Bodas) we completed our data collection. With a soccer match we celebrated that day with the village community.
We are very glad that we got the chance to spend the time in Uganda. We are grateful for getting the opportunity to observe the way people get through life around Mubende, experience the unique nature and get to know ourselves better through the encounter with a new and completely different world.
We would like to thank the WoodCluster team in Uganda and Germany for their support and we are hoping to soon be able to support to the project with our final papers as contributions.
By Pauline, Julia and Veith