Uganda Ground Level Panel

Restless Development facilitated a ‘Ground Level Panel’ in Uganda in July 2013.  The Panel was composed of twelve people from across Uganda with diverse experiences of poverty and social exclusion. They deliberated over the UN High Level Panel’s (HLP) recommendations for a post- Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda for development and made their own recommendations based on their lived experience. With representatives from the Batwa community, Karamoja sub-region and Kampala slums, the panel was able to offer rich and varied insights into how the post-2015 framework might impact at local level. Please click here to see the profiles of the panel members and learn why they wanted to get involved in the Ground Level Panel work.

Discussions took place over five days, culminating in an outreach day at Parliament in Kampala, where the panelists presented their recommendations to local and national audiences, including decision-makers, the media and civil society organisations. The event was co-hosted by the Parliamentary Forum on the Millennium Development Goals and the Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs and engaged decision-makers from government, civil society and development partners. The event opened with an address by Honourable Paula Turyahikayo MP followed by an introductory presentation by two of the panelists. The audience was then invited to join group discussions facilitated by the panelists focusing on the five transformative shifts outlined in the report. The event was closed by the Parliamentary Forum on the Millennium Development Goals, including appreciation of the panelists and an invitation to continue to help shape and drive forward the post-2015 development agenda in Uganda.

The Ground Level Panel produced a final communiqué of the outcomes of their deliberations.

Read the blog article written by Emmanuel Lubaale and Natalie Newell from Restless Development on the Ground Level Panel in Uganda.

Nava Namutebi, a Ground Level Panel member from Kampala, Uganda reflects on the process after they presented their recommendations for a post-Millennium Development Goals framework to decision-makers at Parliament in Kampala.

Richard Zimbehire from the Batwa community in Kisoro district, Uganda reflects on the process after they presented their recommendations for a post-Millennium Development Goals framework to decision-makers at Parliament in Kampala.

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Panel members

Richard ZimbehireRichard Zimbehire
35 years, Kisoro district

“I grew up and lived in a forest where we lived on honey and bushmeat. However recently my whole community was thrown out of our home by the government.

Although I am still bitter that our land was taken away from us, I do not want to be sent back because I have been enlightened. All I would love is to have part of the forest returned to us so we can till it. Digging is my passion and my main source of survival.

With no education and no land to till life outside the forest is a nightmare. I struggle hard for the wellbeing of my family. Recently I sold my only goat to get medical treatment for my son.

I am glad to be Ground Level Panelist because I know the development of my community and country depend on people like me. In these few days I have already learnt lots of new ideas which I can’t wait to relay to  my community.”

Richard’s vision of the future is a developed Batwa community. His dream is to see a Mutwa president someday, which he believes can only be achieved through education. Luckily for him two Community Based Organisations, Buntu Christian Community Development Initiative and United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda are supporting his children’s education. His greatest fear is what would happen to if they decided to pull out.


Fatuma NamagandaFatuma Namaganda
20 years, Mayuge District

“I was forced into marriage at the age of 17 when my parents discovered I was pregnant and disowned me.

I started dating my husband when I was in Primary 4. My parents pleaded with me to break off the relationship, however their pleas fell on deaf ears. In Primary 7 I had my first child and that was the end of my schooling. Everything was fine until my husband finished Senior 4 and told me he was joining the military. I was left alone to provide for our child.

When my husband returned we had a second child. My husband works with youth to teach them  about sports in the community. I cannot rely on my husband and this has inspired me to work very hard.

It’s a privilege to be a Ground Level Panelist. I have never represented my community in a formal gathering no one can know exactly what goes on in our communities, am happy that am here give you in depth information.”

Fatuma currently runs a small tomato and moon fish business and has invested some of her savings into a tailoring and a hairdressing course.


Lopuwa PeterLopuwa Peter
31 years, Moroto District

”I am a businessman who buys and sells cattle to neighbouring communities like Soroti and Katakwi. Taking care of cattle  is all I have known since my childhood.

My father was a wealthy man with hundreds of cattle. He did not see the value in education and instead preferred that I stay at home and take care of the cattle. Our fate changed when a neighbouring tribe raided our Kraal and we lost all our cows.

If I had to describe myself as anything, it would be a small antelope. Where I come from this animal is associated with good luck. There are lots of other livelihood activities like gold mining in my community but I decided to start a small cattle business with the little funds I had left. When the village loan scheme was introduced in my village I joined one of the groups and was fortunate enough to receive government funds. I invested in my business which has now grown.

I am married with two children both of them are in school. I want a better future for my children. If I had gone to school my business would be even bigger but illiteracy makes it difficult to expand to other areas.

I am proud to be one of the Ground Level Panelists. For several years our community has been left out of decision making processes but I am happy that they are starting to take interest in us. I hope our views will be taken seriously.”


Simon LodukSimon Loduk
36 years, Moroto District

“I was born to Mr John Longora and Nachugwe Joyce in 1977; a period when cattle rustling was at its peak. I lost many of our people and animals.

This however did not stop me from pursuing my dreams. I joined primary school in 1988 but dropped out in Senior 5 after the tragic death of my mother in 1999.  I had nowhere to get school fees. Because of my educational background I was employed by Alternative Based Education for Karamoja (ABEK) as a Monitoring Assistant. I earn 100,000 shillings every month. To  supplement my income I decided to start a business.

I married in 1998 and have seven children. I want to be a responsible father to my children like my mother was to me. This makes me work like a donkey, constantly searching for greener pastures and never satisfied with what I have.

I am delighted to be a Ground Level Panelist. It is such a grass roots discussion that will bring about real change in this country.”


Joseph WanzalaJoseph Wanzala
42 years, Kyankwanzi District

“I am a father of six, one of my children is mentally impaired he walks with crutches and faints regularly. My greatest desire to see all my children through university, unlike me.

I was orphaned as a child my guardians educated me  until Senior 1 but because they had many other children to provide for I dropped out of school and joined a small farmers’ association from which I learnt modern farming techniques.

I have been farming on a small piece of land for a long time now using chemicals to ensure higher yields, according to medical reports, my health has been affected by inhaling these chemicals. I fear for my life and would like to stop but who will build a firm foundation for my children?

Representing Busoga as a Ground Level Panelist in such an important dialogue is a privilege.”


Nava NamutebiNava Namutebi
39 years, Kampala

I got married in 1994 however my husband was a drunkard and unfaithful. For fear of catching HIV I opted for a separation.

Being a single mother is not easy, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. What inspired me to take that great step and keep going till today was the counseling and various training I received. I learnt bricket-making and mushroom growing which I am now very passionate about and I now teach others.

I am volunteer with Child Fund International. This has helped me get a lot of exposure, I have facilitated and trained in several workshops. In addition I am a community volunteer with Makerere Women’s Development Association. I offer support to my community members by training about village saving schemes and loans, give advice on health related  issues and mobilization for immunization and counseling and testing services.

Listening to everyone today I have learnt that despite the different challenges, all have managed to forge a source of livelihood. This shows that Uganda is a country rich with opportunities. I am glad to be a Ground Level Panelist because I have a lot of first hand knowledge from interacting with all kinds of people.”


Nyamihanda Alice

Nyamihanda Alice
Kisoro district, 25 years

”I hail from the western district of Kisoro of the Batwa community. I was born and raised as a squatter because our home, the forest was gazetted to protect wild animals in 1991.

I am the first Mutwa to graduate with a university diploma. I can beat the odds to get to where I am today. While at school I was always discriminated against. People regarded me  a poor beggar, some even  considered me a wild animal, I clearly remember having a desk to myself because no one was willing to share with me.

After one term I was forced to halt because I could not afford the fees. Fortunately for me Adventist Development and Relief Agency a community based organization took interest in me and helped me get back to school. I excelled and graduated in 2010.

I am employed as a Tourism Officer at United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda Like a crested crane that walks gracefully, I am not ashamed of my origin. I use my story to inspire children from my community to go to school. I derive my strength from my husband who loves and respects me irrespective of the fact that he is not one of us.

Being selected as a Ground Level Panelist is a chance to share the reality of what we Batwa go through. We have an MP who is not listened to. I am glad my views are taken seriously.”


John Bosco

Yeno John Bosco
Moroto district, 26 years

I am a self employed father of two, Marble quarrying and manure farming are my specialties.

I learnt manure farming from a friend. Each morning I collect and pile goat droppings into sacks. It takes about a month for it to decay. I get 5000 UGX from each sack. It’s not difficult work as my community is blessed with goats.

Marble farming on the other hand is a common activity in my village. I  developed the skills as a child. On a daily basis I sell a truck full to an investor at 120,000 UGX. I employ four people—two men and two women who I pay 12000 UGX each per day.

Although I only managed to get to Senior 5, education has been the backbone of my success. I managed to develop a business plan and evaluate profits and losses. At school I met the friend who trained me in manure farming.

I describe myself as a termite. I like living and working as a group. My strength is empowering fellow youth to indulge in developmental activities.

As a Ground Level Panelist I will be able to associate with a vast group of people even those I had never dreamt of meeting, I believe I will leave with more knowledge and great ideas.”


Esther Kirabo

Esther Kirabo
Kyankwanzi, 19 years

“I was born on the 27th of June 1994, one of my parents passed away when I was in Primary 2.  I grew up with an uncle who treated me like one of his biological daughters.

My uncle is a peasant taking care of six other children. He does his best to provide for all of us. I am glad he educated me to Senior 4. I have plans to join college which is why I am doing all kinds of odd jobs including digging for other people to make money, although the season has not been very good.

I am interested in community development. It hurts me to see many people just like me who have failed to develop as a result of the severe water shortage in my community, even though they have resources like land. I hope to venture into profitable business some day. My inspiration to work hard and succeed is from my uncle. He believes in me and always regards me as a role model.

I think I am like a sheep that can mix easily with other animals. I do not find any difficulty socializing with people from different communities and settings. I like it and use it as opportunity to learn. Being part of the Ground Level Panel is just one of those opportunities for me.”

Charles NgobiCharles Ngobi
Mayuge district, 25 years

I completed primary education in 2001 and secondary in 2005. Thereafter I did a certificate in public administration and was in the process of pursuing a diploma in the same field when my parents passed away in 2009.

I had to drop out but since then have not resumed.

I am involved in lots of activities in my community including secretary of Village Saving Loans Association and Agriculture. I can adapt to just about anything. My greatest strength though is mobilization. Unlike many of my colleagues I have had a bit of education. This makes many people look up to me.

What bothers me most is the lack of health facilities and bad conditions of water bodies in my community. Being a Ground Level Panelist is a responsibility and I owe it to my community to expose these challenges.”


Annet NamulindaAnnet Namulinda
Mayuge district, 33 years 

I grew up in a family of 10 – 6 girls and 4 boys, In 1997 I got married to a man who already had two wives.

After the death of the other two women a few years later both me and my husband tested positive for HIV. We were given free nutrition which has helped us to stay healthy.

All my life I have been taking care of children. I compare myself to a mother hen that provides for and protects her chicks. My parents died when I was still in Primary 6. Being the eldest it was my responsibility to take care of my siblings so I dropped out of school. Today I have 7 children who look up to me. Only three of them are biologically mine. Both me and my husband are peasants, we both work very hard  to provide for our family. One of my children is a nurse, the other dropped out of school after Senior 3 and the youngest is 2 years.

I am grateful to the government for providing free ARVs. We no longer receive free nutritious food but are healthy enough to provide for ourselves. I get my strength from my husband. He is a good companion and supporter and we have always been together through the good and tough times.”

Beatrice Uwimana
Beatrice Uwimana
Kisoro district, 30 years

My father was a polygamous man married to 3 sisters. Their marriage hit the rocks when I was still very little. I was raised by my grandfather whom I grew up thinking was my father.

After attempting primary exams three times I gave up on education in 2008 and resorted to digging, particularly Irish potatoes. My minimum daily wage is 3000 Uganda shillings.

When my grandfather died, neighbours stole the only piece of land we had. Since then I have been struggling to make ends meet. I am now married and had two children who both died mysteriously. I still take care of my mother who has become too old to do anything.

My previous experience has taught me to be hardworking. I work tirelessly like a tractor. I set up a womens’ group and we started a saving scheme. Most of the women have been able to buy household items, and I got the group registered.

The hope that I will still have children keep me strong. I am happy to be a Ground Level Panelist. Uganda is a beautiful country with lots of potential. My community is blessed with mountains and crater lakes good for tourism.”

For more information on the Ground Level Panel in Uganda, visit the Restless Development website.