On the Road Again - Tuesday, June 25

Up at 6 am today to make breakfast in our kitchenette and do final
packing for our journey to Kasiisi, just a little bit south of Fort
Portal, a 2-3 hour drive west from Buseesa. We take the Toyota Land
Cruiser (with double gas tanks) on a short cut that, believe it or
not, John B. was able to show Sister Rita and driver Phillip from a
Google Map printout he brought with him. This road turned out to be a
hellacious (to an American) ride on a narrow rutted track diving
steeply down and up again... the ride was even rougher for those
riding facing sideways in the rear jump seats or sitting in front
squeezed between the driver and passenger. After sailing through two
dirt roundabouts along the way and passing many cattle and villagers
on foot, we came out on the glorious macadam of the Mubende-Ft. Portal
Road. Pavement never looked so good!

During a brief latrine stop, John and Marc spoke with some roadside
craftsmen selling their solid mahogany bed frames and headboards...
most furniture here is made of mahogany since it is such a common
local hardwood. Unbelievable to American woodworkers that pay top
dollar per board foot for mahogany!

Tea crops begin to appear along the road first in small patches and
then in huge plantations that sprawl over entire hillsides. Fort
Portal is very picturesque with Mt. Rwenzori and the Mountains of the
Moon towering near 20,000 feet on the dusky horizon. The source of the
Nile River is nearby, where whitewater rafting is offered to tourists.
The standard of living is noticeably greater than it was in Buseesa,
further "upcountry". Our destination is the Kasiisi government Primary
School, with 1000-1200 students, where a Peace Corps program for the
Kibaale Forest is based. Our contact, Keith Miller, and staff, offer
forest conservation information to the schoolchildren and their
families that live on the outskirts of the forest. They have an
operating biogas digester on site that is one of the high points of
the trip. It is a 16 cubic meter fixed dome unit running mostly on
latrine waste with some food scraps and chicken manure, and produces
enough biogas to run a large single burner (600 liters/ hour) several
hours a day at the guest house kitchen. There appeared to be more
biogas potential, as bubbles rose visibly from the effluent in the
secondary chamber, and indeed the school planned to add another supply
line soon to a set of 3 small burners in the school kitchen. Keith
opened the valve at the water trap and biogas roared out of the 3/4"
line, also giving us a noseful of what biogas smells like! It
certainly does have a barnyard smell, but there is no odor when
burning in the kitchen, or any lingering odor around the digester
itself... at least nothing noticeable above the integrated latrine
house. Chef Paul at the guest house cheerfully demonstrated his biogas
burner in a small corner of the kitchen - he had just finished deep
frying samosas for lunch, which we soon ate with an avocado salad and
lemongrass tea. The guest house offered tasty fare with an Indian
bent, a remnant of the days when uganda was a colony of the British
Empire and the infrastructure was run mostly by people from India.

Our digester education continued with a trip to the school farm a
short distance away. There, Vianney Tumwesige, the owner and
mastermind of Green Heat Ltd, was working with his crew on
constructing a 12 cubic meter fixed dome unit almost identical to the
one at the school site. This digester was to take waste from a 3-seat
latrine as well as a piggery and create gas for a future guest house
for tourist/workers interested in the organic practices being used at
the farm. The workmanship was excellent, and Vianney explained that it
is better to build a quality product from the beginning instead of
returning later to make regular repairs. He explained the digester
layout to the full group and answered some of our specific questions
well. A South African man named David joined the tour, and explained
that he was from a group called Shine Africa that was attempting to
promote briquetting technology as a replacement to firewood use.
Sister Rita was interested in his information, as Buseesa villagers
often grow g-nuts (peanuts) and have the dry shells available for
briquetting with a little cassava flour.

Now we had a little time to be tourists. We drove to Lake Nkuruba with
hopes of seeing monkeys, and were rewarded with the antics of a large
troop of Colobus monkeys and a scattering of Vervets. What a noisy
bunch! Even though they are fascinating, maybe we are glad to not live
alongside monkeys, as they would always be into mischief. The lake
itself was one of several local crater lakes formed from an old
volcanic crater. Several others were nearby, and we drove to one strip
of road that meandered along a narrow ridge between two deep lakes.
The sunset pictures were postcard-perfect, and a group of boys proudly
displayed their stringer of tiny fish caught earlier. The road was
crowded with mostly young people filing back and forth carrying jerry
cans for water. Bicycles loaded with matoke bunches were pushed on
foot towards town center where buyers piled the local produce onto
heaping payloads bound for the city.

The evening meal was enjoyed back at the Kasiisi school guest house,
in the company of Lauren Haroff (a Fulbright scholar doing microbial
research with Vianney), her friend Brian from North Carolina, six
volunteers and their leader from West Point, three summer-long
volunteers from Harvard and Grinnell Universities, and Vianney's
Polish fiance, Ankh. A very eclectic crowd that socialized late into
the night.

Our accomodations were at the Rainforest Guest House, above average in
Uganda but still a bit of an eye-opener for our group that has been
enjoying the pseudo-western facilities at the convent. The beds had
mosquito netting but the shower water was off, and the latrines were a
small adventure. Our hosts were wonderful and very happy for our
visit; they announced that because we had come, they could now afford
their childrens' school fees. It looked like this location is a good
kickoff point for tourists to explore western Uganda, go on safari
tours, or climb some high African peaks. However, we were eager to
return tomorrow to Buseesa with Vianney and investigate the biogas
siting questions with him.