As their trip to Uganda continued, our founding team visited the Intercultural Development Agency in Kampala and had a great exchange with the founder and program director, Stella Aikiteng. IDA’s mission is to raise awareness of issues related to child employment and child protection. Your overnight stay at this socialbnb thus supports sustainable community development and education through creative arts. In this interview Stella gives you personal insights into her work, vision and motivation to start working on this great social project to counteract poverty and drive sustainable development in Uganda. Stay tuned!
What’s the vision of Intercultural Development Agency?
Stella: The Intercultural Development Agency, or IDA, envisions a poverty-free citizenry in Uganda. And our mission is basically to preserve the environment. We want to make sure that resources are used sustainably, you know? And we promote climate-smart solutions no matter what we do. If it’s agriculture, for example, which I’m explaining now, we promote issues with a high quality so as not to destroy the soils.
I don’t want to bring up all the things, and yes, that’s basically it. But we tackle this issue on different levels. As I indicated earlier, we are drawing attention to youth employment, food security and child protection. Because all of these together are a holistic approach to a program and contribute to sustainable development.
So, one of the things we encourage is to share intergenerational knowledge. For example, what we learned, one of the lessons we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic when it just broke out, is how it will manipulate our environment. Because when the pandemic had just broken out, you couldn’t import or export. The borders were closed. So it set us back. What did our forefathers do? We never used to import pesticides and fertilizers. How did they manage to maintain that? The food systems, the seed systems.
So we got back to our forefathers times. We learned the knowledge of the indigenous people – organic farming. Of course, we need to be prepared, not to be pessimistic, but in case there are outbreaks or pandemics in the future. So we encourage knowledge sharing between generations and want young people to work with older people. We all want to learn the best practices of modern farming methods.
What motivates you personally to work in this field?
Stella: First, I have a passion for community service. In whatever I do, I can’t find satisfaction if that link isn’t there. But also, when I look at the communities I’ve supported over time, I think I’ve built an emotional connection with them because you can assess the needs and understand what’s happening in the community.
In northern Uganda, for example, I lived for over five years during my work. So I understood what is happening there. You can’t just brush away what you actually know, you know? It needs attention. I’m not saying that I’m the one who can give it all. But we all have a role to play in meeting actual needs, not assumed needs, but actual needs. So when it comes to this region, and I was born, I have seen, I have seen what has happened in my childhood. I’ve seen the problems with child negligence. I know that. I’ve seen poor people hungry.
When you see a child going hungry, you know that people have limited land and cannot grow crops on a large scale. The number of family members is greater than the food production. Hunger strikes. I’ve seen how floods affect people’s food. So I see the effects of climate change, but I’ve also seen children affected by the resistance of the army and the government. I’ve seen abandoned children, I’ve seen families separated. We saw conflict and the impact of conflict in the community. So we identified these areas and saw firsthand the impact of different factors. That contributed to our motivation.
What is your wish for the future when you think about the organization?
Stella: One of my desires is to create an enabling environment for young people to engage in positive development processes that positively impact the communities in and around them. I would like to see more faces at the forefront of the organization.
When people come here and visit you, what can they see or experience?
Stella: One experiences life. Life with us, because I am also part of the community. Experiencing life with us, experiencing the culture, but also experiencing each other. We also learn from our visitors. Because I think when we support each other with knowledge and skills, that’s solidarity, that’s experience. As the saying goes, when two people meet, something new happens, something positive. So it’s about making that positive change and that positive impact from local grassroots – nationally or internationally.
Broadly speaking, this contributes significantly to our community-based tourism, humanitarian tourism. So the first tour would be for the humanitarian programs. So we want you to experience that. And it would be a lasting experience, a memorable experience, because it would inform you enough about your visit with us. How your contribution impacts and adds value to our programs. Community-based tourism, is about experiencing life at the grassroots level, such as community fairs, cultural activities, interaction days, you know? Experience activities like the local festivals, the market days, the communities and benefit from the narratives to see how life used to be and how it is today in terms of community management and different aspects.
If you are as touched by Stella’s project as we are and interested in more such exciting interviews with our Impact Hosts, feel free to check out this blog post and learn about Hope’s work and contribution to women empowerment in Uganda. Don’t miss any more environmental or social projects with a positive impact. Subscribe to our newsletter.