While the rest of the community was taking the Easter break, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) in Partnership with Igongo Cultural Center organized a 2-day cultural exhibition and festival guided by the theme ‘The Role of Culture in Inspiring Innovations for economic development”. The festival was intended to bring together individuals, organizations and institutions whose innovations have been inspired by Culture and indigenous knowledge in the fields of  medicine, food, fashion, crafts, music, solar energy and other economic activities also directed towards improving the welfare of Ugandans and create employment.

Day 1: April 14th, 2017 was started off with Design Thinking Training facilitated by a team from RAN. 48 participants actively engaged in this training among whom were students from Mbarara University, Lake Mburo Farmers’ Co-operative and Bishop Stuart University,. Other participants were from Kanyaryeru self-employers, teachers from Lake Mburo Secondary School and , businessmen.

The expectant crowd was welcomed by Mr. Ronald Kayiwa, RAN Innovations Officer who asked them to share their  expectations. Some of what the participants shared  included the following;

  • Some of them were expectant to gain knowledge that would further help students out of the university to move forward
  • Learn how to develop communities using the available resources
  • Gain more skills about innovation and how they can be used directly for the benefit of the communities in need
  • Working closely together and being able to innovatively solve personal challenges
  • Learn how to professionally approach problems with everlasting solutions
  • Learn how to address community challenges minus government intervention among others

Brian Ndyaguma, RAN In-Charge Innovations Scaling  took over the stage starting by assuring the crowd that by the end of the training all their expectations would be met.  He engaged the crowd in problem identification, brainstorming, prototyping, Pitching and  business modeling during his presentation.

The participants were taken through the 5 steps of design thinking (needs finding, problem reframing, brainstorming, prototyping and testing). This session delved deeper into the challenges that have affected the appreciation of culture and tradition as a form of social economic development. Among these included;

  1. Rigid traditional beliefs that have continued to bias the free and explicit adoption and interaction between various societies and cultures in Ankole.
  2. Ignorance of the various ways to add value to culture and tradition that could spur economic opportunities.
  3. Other underlying factors like poverty, famine and land disputes among others, that overshadow the need to innovatively focus on the benefits of embracing of the (indigenous) culture

The participants then used the knowledge shared in the Design Thinking session to collaboratively brainstorm, prototype and present their most viable solutions. Some of the outstanding solutions included documenting the cultural practices that were used in agricultural activities and how they can add value to the currentagricultural (economic) activities, re-purposing and adding value to local materials like cow-horn, hides & skin to make luxury products, encouraging urban-rural migration by supporting the youth through SME activities like soap making that can earn them a living, encouraging intermarriages within cultures to get society to appreciate the differences in the cultures.

With prototyping, the teams were split into working groups as the last phase, each pitched their ideas to fellow participants including Mr. James Tumusiime, Executive Director at Igongo Cultural Center.

Mr. James Tumusiime in his closing remarks at the Design Thinking Training called upon the participants to always use what they have to innovate and multiply on what they have and to also be impactful to their communities. The festival was also attended by several Tourists from all walks of life who joined in to share experiences new  food, culture , and dress code among others. ”Let us all strive to preserve our culture  for tourism. Let us brand our environment with our cultures for example; music, food, clothing etc”. noted Mr. Tumusiime also shared that he too owns Crafts shop which solely depends on selling  products from Kenya and Rwanda, he called upon all participants to innovate for culture since Uganda is a gifted country with a lot to exploit including man power and raw materials.

In conclusion, he emphasized that CULTURE is part of our lives and everyone must embrace, love and respect their roots.

Day 2: Exhibition

Day two was a day for the entire community and interested individuals to drop in at Igongo Cultural Center to view what different organizations and individuals were exhibiting during the Ankole Cultural festival. Some of the exhibitors included Makerere University School of Public Health-ResilientAfrica Network (RAN),Igongo Cultural Center ,Nile Breweries, Makerere University Business School, Kazaire Herbal Products, NUMA Millers among others . Some of the Innovations that were showcased by RAN included; Arvana, Pedal Tap, Kungula-Maize Thresher, Irrigation pump, Back to Millet ,Water Purification, Eco Cold-room, the Bio mass dryer and  Solar dryer. Details about these innovations are shared on https://www.ranlab.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/EA-RILab-Innovation-Portfolio-11.pdf.

Hon. Ephraim Kamuntu, Minister of Tourism represented Rt. Hon. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, His Excellency the President of Uganda as the Chief Guest at this exhibition.  On his arrival, he was taken around by Mr. James Tumusiime to tour all the exhibition stalls. At the RAN exhibition stall,  he was welcomed by Mr. Joseph Mukawa, RAN Multimedia Developer who clearly explained what each of the innovations under incubation and being exhibited does in an effort to address community challenges. At the mention of the Low Cost Solar Irrigation Pump, the Honorable minister was interested in knowing all the cost implications there in noting that  ”the President has always  emphasized the use of Irrigation for improved crop production and thus I pledge to visit RAN so that we can engage better and more meaningfully discussing these innovations and how best communities can benefit from the concerted efforts to innovate”.

He also mentioned that the president would have been pleased to witness such Innovations that are leading agents of transformation in different communities and emphasized the need for the innovators to preserve culture through Innovations. He thanked Mr. Tumusiime for successfully organizing and hosting the 1st Cultural Festival that focuses attention on employing culture to solve modern social economic challenges. ”We must jealously guard our culture, preserve our inheritance and heritage for hospitality as this keeps our culture intact” Hon. Kamuntu added. In his closing remarks, he commended Igongo Cultural Center and the exhibitors for the initiative to Innovate for culture preservation which also provides livelihood income hence poverty reduction .

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