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Last week, Jon and I got the chance to visit the Maganjo Progressive Women’s Group, a small group of artisans in the Kampala suburb of Maganjo. The group isn’t all women, but women definitely have a central role in the group.  Since 1993, they’ve existed as a network of about 25 active members. Together they make and market their crafts and support each other in a lot of quieter ways as well.  The group members who welcomed us to the homestead of  one of the members seemed as close as family.

Apart from their handicrafts, which run the standard gammut of recycled paper beads, woven mats, and hand loom cloth, the group has a number of little innovations which they use individually and spread to their community.  Jon and I were quite dumbfounded at all the little things this group has invented or adopted to make their lives a little better.  The house we visited seemed to be home to about a million little innovations.

First, there was the solar cooker.  This little contraption dries food using just the heat of the sun.  Inside they had tiny eggplants (which are a bitter, but much loved, food here) that get mashed up into a paste.  I also had the chance to have a little bit of dried cabbage, which they also use as a condiment.  Mmm. 🙂

solar cooker

solar cooker

Next, the refrigerator.  This was a small box with charcoal walls.  There were banana stems on a small shelf inside near the top of the box.  Sitting atop the box was a plastic basin filled with water.  Apparently, to keep the contraption cool, you just pour water into the box from the top.  I have no idea how this has a cooling effect… but it does!

fridge

fridge

To improve sanitation, the group invented a sink using a jerrycan and some wood.  Now when people are done in the bathroom, washing hands is simple and clean.

sink!

sink!

This group did not stop there.  They even came up with their own form of coffee or tea… crushing small seeds from a local plant and then adding hot water and sugar.  They let us try this too… and it was quite delicious!

seeds for tea

seeds for tea

Jon and I left feeling quite energized by the ingenuity of this group.  Not only have they come together to do craft work and market their products, they are constantly innovating and sharing ways of making their lives better.  This kind of “development work” hardly gets any play… local, smart, inexpensive development happening under the radar so that it rarely is seen.  It made me wonder how many other cool, innovative things I’ve passed by in my time here…

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