Michael Pletscher

Norwegian Expertise for an Additional Safe Water Project

by Michael Pletscher on 09/12/2015 No comments

As part of his bachelor thesis in mechanical engineering, the Norwegian Frank Larsen is designing a new safe water system for a fishing village on Nsadzi Island in Lake Victoria. Thus, Frank was accompanying a Fontes team on an 8-day follow-up field trip to the QENP in South-Western Uganda, where he became acquainted with existing Fontes water projects. Besides inspecting all the different elements of Fontes Foundation’s small piped water schemes, Frank was collecting technical and managerial information about how the systems are run by the local water committees and supported the Fontes team during their follow-up and capacity-building work. Thereafter, Frank joined the Fontes team for a two-day assessment of a prospec- tive water project on Nsadzi Island. On site, he collected data for his thesis (such as the latrine coverage, the number of people living in the village or the lake’s water quality) and he also identified potential locations of the treatment facilities.

Currently, the inhabitants of Nsadzi Island do not have access to any safe water sources and thus have to rely on (potentially contaminated) water from the lake.

Currently, the inhabitants of Nsadzi Island do not have access to any safe water sources and thus have to rely on (potentially contaminated) water from the lake.

With his knowledge as a trained electrician, Frank was a highly valuable addition to the team. Fontes Foundation would like to thank him very much for his efforts towards the organization’s work and is looking forward to the results of his thesis, which will serve as the basis for the planned implementation of the water project on Nsadzi Island. Moreover, Fontes is grateful for the good collaboration with Engineers Without Borders Nor- way, who provided financial and technical support.

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Michael PletscherNorwegian Expertise for an Additional Safe Water Project

Is There A Future for Ugandan Youth Entrepreneurs?

by Michael Pletscher on 09/12/2015 No comments

Since its establishment in early 2012, more than 240 students have graduated from the Potentiam Youth Development Centre (PYC). According to the results of the latest baseline study (cf. PYC Annual Report 2014), the centre is effectively fighting youth unemployment with slightly more than half of the job-seeking core course graduates having been successful within 6 months of graduation. Surprisingly though, the job-seeking students make up the overwhelming majority of the graduates (72%) while the rest is evenly split between students who took up additional educational training (14%) and those that started their own business (14%). Considering that the rationale behind the core course is to specifically prepare the students for entrepreneurial activities and that 90% of the graduates surveyed in an earlier version of the baseline study (cf. PYC Annual Report 2013) stated running their own start-up as a major goal, this leaves one wondering why the share of entrepreneurs among the PYC graduates is so low. In my opinion, this is due to a number of factors.

To start with, one fact to consider is that the target group of the PYC is coming from a disadvantaged and comparatively poor background. Therefore, they lack the initial capital necessary to implement the business plan which they presented as the final examination at the end of the course. Even though it was already suggested in the youth centre assessment study in 2011, Fontes Foundation has so far not been able to directly provide its graduates with funding due to financial constraints of our youth development programme.

Another reason is that even though the young people receive a lot of training in relevant business skills at the youth centre during the six-month core course, this is hardly enough to prepare them for the individual challenges they are inevitably facing once they decide to put their business plans into practice. Those early-stage challenges – as well as the numerous ones coming up further down the line – could have a demotivating effect on the students as they feel ‘left alone’ with their individual problems.

Last but not least, there is a general perception in Ugandan society that becoming employed is preferable to opening up one’s own business. Employment is considered a “safe bet” whereby money is flowing in quickly and regularly. Founding a start-up on the other hand is considered a more risky endeav- our that normally goes in line with limited revenues in the start-up phase and whereby higher revenues only occur in the medium- or long-run. This substantially reduces the attractive- ness for the youth predominantly looking for quick money.

To tackle the first reason of the low self-employment rate of PYC graduates, Fontes Foundation has developed a project proposal for a micro-finance programme at the youth centre. The idea is to provide the graduates with urgently needed start-up capital in the form of a loan at an affordable interest rate, the full amount of which has to be paid back into the scheme within a pre-defined period of time. This will ensure that the micro-finance project can grow over time in order for it to be able to provide funds to more and more youth-run businesses in the future. At a later point in time, it might even develop into an independent micro-finance institution.

To provide the necessary entrepreneurial guidance to the PYC graduates, Fontes Foundation included a Business Advisory Service (BAS) into its proposal for a recruitment hub at the youth centre. This BAS is proposed to be implemented with an office at the centre so that it can advice the students on their individual business plans or on already established business. This should reduce some of the insecurity of opening a business for the youth as they know that they will receive some guidance and that they are not alone in their endeavour to become successful business men or women.

On top of that, further emphasis should be placed on pointing out the advantages and opportunities of being self-employed during the applied business skills and personal development classes at the youth centre. In a rapidly growing developing country like Uganda with a youth unemployment rate of above 60% (“Lost Opportunity? Gaps in Youth Policy and Programming in Uganda”, ActionAid (Ed.), 2012, p. 27) and a very limited job availability in the formal sector, self-employment is a viable and very attractive alternative to formal employment as there are countless business opportunities waiting to be exploited by these young people. In addition, setting up their own business provides the youth with the possibility to grow and to employ additional people, thereby contributing much more profoundly to society than by just going into employment.

Both the planned micro-finance scheme as well as the Business Advisory Service are still in the fundraising phase and therefore not confirmed projects as of now. However, it is Fontes Foundation’s belief that real and sustainable economic development in Uganda can only come from within, spearheaded by a strong private sector. Giving the youth an opportunity to establish their own businesses will have a big and long-lasting impact on the development of the private sector in the country and will benefit the youth and society at large.

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Michael PletscherIs There A Future for Ugandan Youth Entrepreneurs?

Fontes Foundation chosen as WASH Impact Network Partner

by Michael Pletscher on 04/12/2015 No comments

Fontes Foundation is happy to announce that the organization has been selected as a partner of the WASH Impact Network. The network consists of more than 120 organizations from East Africa and India that are considered innovators in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Brought to life in April 2015, the WASH Impact Network is financed by the Washington D.C.-based non-profit Results for Development (R4D), an organization bridging the gap between think-tanks and academia (which develop promising ideas to tackle urgent problems in low- and middle-income countries) as well as the implementers on the ground (which are the organizations dealing with operational issues and the realities of the respective communities).

Convinced that the best solutions to challenges in the developing world are being designed by innovators and entrepreneurs that live within those communities, the WASH Impact Network was initiated to identify common obstacles across the WASH sector, and to find out how organizations can be supported in overcoming them. Following an iterative process of defining barriers to maximum impact, gathering insights from the various partner organizations, sharing solutions and tracking their implementation progress, the WASH Impact Network tries to leverage successful strategies and programmes amongst its member organizations and eventually in the communities affected by poor WASH conditions.

For Fontes Foundation Uganda, being part of the WASH Impact Network is a recognition of our track record within the sector. Moreover, it provides us with valuable opportunities to tap into the collective knowledge of 120 like-minded organizations as well as to share our experiences from operating in Uganda and Mozambique for more than 10 years within the network.

To learn more about Fontes Foundation’s innovative approach in its safe water projects, have a look at the Fontes Safe Water Project profile on the WASH Impact Network homepage or learn more about the network itself under http://washinnovations.r4d.org/.

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Michael PletscherFontes Foundation chosen as WASH Impact Network Partner

Aid in Meeting delegation visits Fontes Foundation in Uganda

by Michael Pletscher on 06/08/2015 No comments

Fontes Foundation Uganda’s Single Mothers Programme (SMP) is funded with generous support from Aid in Meeting (AIM), a bilateral aid programme for student branches in Lions Club International. Between the 29th June and the 17th July 2015, Amalie and Pernille from AIM visited Fontes Foundation Uganda in Kampala to oversee and participate in the activities they support. While here, they took time to visit some of the SMP students in their homes.

Amalie and Pernille from AIM visiting Doreen (26) and her daughter, Liz, in their home in Bukasa, Kampala. In the middle is Stella, the child minder at Potentiam Youth Centre.

Amalie and Pernille from AIM visiting Doreen (26) and her daughter, Liz, in their home in Bukasa, Kampala. In the middle is Stella, the child minder at Potentiam Youth Centre.

Doreen (26) and Halima (23) are two of the young mothers Pernille and Amalie got to visit during their stay. Doreen told the two about how she felt particularly inspired during the SMP session when she learnt how to bead. She now has a small beading business that she’s running from her home in Bukasa, Kampala. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the flexibility to sell her items from outside her house, as she has no one to take care of her two children during the day.

Further down the road, and with a total of six children, Halima is a busy housewife. Her sixth child, Rashita, is only six months old. The children’s corner at Potentiam Youth Centre is thus crucial to ensure Halima’s participation in the Single Mothers Programme. The children’s corner is completely supported by AIM and was built by the AIM delegation that visited in 2014.

Halima (23) with her daughter Rashita (6 months), the latest addition to Halima's six children.

Halima (23) with her daughter Rashita (6 months), the latest addition to Halima’s six childrenation in the Single Mothers Programme. The children’s corner is completely supported by AIM and was built by the AIM delegation that visited in 2014.

In addition to these home visits, the AIM delegation of 2015 helped planning the SMP courses and trainings, assisted in the evaluation of the Single Mothers Programme and taught the SMP students how to knit during one of the SMP facilitations.

Fontes Foundation Uganda would like to thank AIM for their continuous support of and their commitment to the Single Mothers Programme! It was a pleasure having your delegation with us here in Kampala.










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Michael PletscherAid in Meeting delegation visits Fontes Foundation in Uganda

Fontes Foundation and the New Era of Development Goals

by Michael Pletscher on 14/05/2015 No comments

During 2015, the Millennium Development Goals meet their deadline. Fontes Foundation Uganda’s Regional Coordinator seizes the opportunity to evaluate Fontes’ contribution within the framework of global development goals.

(Caption above: Inhabitants of Katunguru-Kasese, Uganda filling up their jerry cans with safe drinking water. The inhabitants have to pay a small fee for the water, which will go to the local water committee for managing the water system. Fontes believes that when the beneficiaries have a sense of ownership of the water system, the project will be sustainable in the long run.)

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), defined by the United Nations in year 2000, were an ambitious attempt to reduce poverty in the world. Now, fifteen years later, the MDG-deadline is approaching and while some MDGs have already been met, others have been missed by miles. As the international community has to decide on new development goals for the next 15 years, it is time to evaluate how Fontes Foundation has contributed towards the MDGs and how Fontes’ approach can be implemented within the soon to be defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Fontes Foundation is making a small but reasonable contribution towards several Millennium Development Goals through its water, education and youth projects. What characterizes the Fontes approach is the long-term commitment the organization has towards its projects. For example, instead of establishing as many new safe drinking water projects as possible in order to reach the MDGs, Fontes Foundation is focusing on a limited number of water projects and the provision of technical and managerial training and continuous follow-ups to increase the feeling of ownership among the local population. Studies made by the Rural Water Supply Network and WaterScan Consulting have shown that the average life span of a drinking water project in Africa is 2-3 years due to the lack of locally available resources and technical and managerial knowledge of the beneficiaries. Given the fact that Fontes Foundation’s water projects have been running successfully since 2004, we feel confident that our approach is a successful way to reach sustainable development, meaning to one day achieve the total independence of the water projects from the organization. The current Millennium Development Goals seem to give wrong incentives for development organizations: Instead of a long-term commitment in a limited amount of projects, the focus lies on the installation of new safe water projects on a large scale combined with a short-term exit strategy for the development organization. This leads to an increased safe water coverage in the short run, but will have a very limited – if any at all – effect on the access to drinking water in the middle and long run.

Fontes Foundation’s long-term approach is not only reserved for the organization’s water projects. At Potentiam Youth Development Centre, vulnerable youth is trained in ICT, Business Skills, English and Personal Development. Even though the original idea was to establish a vocational skills training centre, an extensive assessment study including the community, the youth, as well as employers from the neighbouring areas, revealed that it would make more sense to provide the youth with the skills necessary to run their own business or simply being a good and reliable employee. Hence, the programme was adapted accordingly.

Fontes follows up every student with a two-year mentorship programme, which continues long after they have completed the Core Course. This follow-up is essential in order to make sure that the youth actually finds employment or successfully starts up a business. Again, Fontes Foundation’s long-term commitment is evident.

As with the MDGs, we at Fontes Foundation are convinced that we can play a small but impactful role in the successful implementation of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals by sticking to our long-term approach. “Help to Self- Help” is the buzzword, including capacity building, constant follow-up and establishing a sense of ownership among the beneficiaries of our projects. The final goal is not to give Fontes Foundation a “raison d’eÌ‚tre”, but to empower the communities supported in a way that they one day can operate the projects independent of the organization. Only like this can a development project be considered truly sustainable. Even though there already is a lot of criticism towards the SDGs, as they seem to be even more ambitious and much broader than the MDGs, we will have to wait until September 2015 to see if those goals are formulated in a way where development really can be considered sustainable.

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Michael PletscherFontes Foundation and the New Era of Development Goals

Session in Personal Branding at Potentiam Youth Centre

by Michael Pletscher on 13/05/2015 No comments

Once every semester, Mr. Larry Holm from People Performance Group pays the Core Course students at Potentiam Youth Development Centre a visit to hold an inspiring session on Personal Branding.

This May, the session focused on how personal goals and definitions of success vary between different people. Mr. Holm encouraged the students to think about what success means to each one of them as individuals. Once they have established this, each student is one step closer to realising their own personal brand.

To visualise his point, Mr. Holm shared his own experience from when he left Denmark for Uganda and started his own business here. For him, having a personal brand helped him in the start up phase of his business, because it made the business stand out. Ultimately, the personal brand has assisted him in achieving his goals – both personally and professionally.


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Michael PletscherSession in Personal Branding at Potentiam Youth Centre

Do all kinds of voluntary work lead to development? The thoughts of an intern

by Michael Pletscher on 11/03/2015 No comments

After being nearly six months in the city of Kampala, my time as an intern with Fontes Foundation Uganda is going towards its end. The impressions and experiences after working in a Sub-Saharan African country for half a year have been many, but the fundamental question is still lurking in the back of my mind: “have I really achieved something, have I made a difference?”

There is an on-going debate on the value of having volunteers and interns from the West working in developing countries. Thousands of people, particularly from Europe, travel to the Global South each year to volunteer. Their incentives and motivation are very diverse. Many have a very strong wish to actually make a difference. Others desire to use this opportunity to improve their CV, to increase their chances to get a job in the development aid industry. An industry more and more people want to work in.  For the most of us it is a combination of the two.

Do all kinds of voluntary work lead to development?

I am the first to acknowledge that it is extremely admirable to see that one goes to the other side of the world to work for free. At the same time we have to ask the question; “do all kinds of voluntary work lead to development?”

There is no doubt that volunteers and interns from the Global North often bring a set of skills that in many cases benefit NGOs, ideal organizations and communities in developing countries. The intention is good, but unfortunately, there is many unserious organizations operating. Many organizations operate in a way that can be described as volunteer-tourism or voluntourism. For an amount of money you can book a stay at a school, kindergarden, or similar institutions, and very often there are no criteria’s and demands for a set of skills or qualifications. The length of the stay varies from a couple of weeks to several months.

How is it possible to create long term change if you teach English at a primary school or work at an orphanage for three weeks, especially if you don’t have formal qualifications? It is very debatable how beneficiary it is for an orphan to get a new caretaker every other week.

Be critical

My intention is not to discourage European youth to travel to the socalled developing world to volunteer, but rather to be a bit more critical to what I would call unhelpful, and even harmful tendencies associated with many volunteer tourism experiences. The cynic in me suspects that these short-timers take home more from their slumming in the Third World than they leave behind for the disadvantaged they are supposed to help.

My main worry is that the culture of voluntourism, where the only thing you are doing is the cleansing of the developed-world middle-class guilt, will take over for the kind of voluntarism which is based on community involvement, where you work with the community, sharing your experiences as equal partners, for a longer period of time. You do not empower disadvantaged communities and promote long term change by lurking around in Africa for three weeks.

What about Fontes?

What about my own internship? Have I saved the world through my engagement with Fontes Foundation? The answer is no. I am no expert in water and sanitation or working with at-risk youth, which are the major fields Fontes Foundation work within. My Ugandan co-workers know so much more about this. On the other hand, I hope, and feel, that I have made some sort of contribution. I have not been teaching or building schools, I have spent most of my time in an office with air-condition and a coffeemaker. I have not been doing any physical labour, but writing reports from the fields, prepared donor relation materials and planning the implementation of new projects. I have been given serious and challenging tasks, and done them according to my abilities.

My time as an intern is going towards its end, and I am still notoriously critical when it comes to volunteer programmes in the Global South. But at the same time I dare to say that I have achieved something. Did I save the world during these six months? The answer is no. The world is too big and complex to be saved in six months. It will at least take a year.

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Michael PletscherDo all kinds of voluntary work lead to development? The thoughts of an intern

Celebrating ten years in Queen Elizabeth National Park

by Michael Pletscher on 11/02/2015 No comments

The implementation of a new solar panel and settlement tank in the village of Kazinga in western Uganda marked the ten year anniversary of Fontes Foundations first water project in Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Ten years with progress and development.

One of the Fountes Foundations`founders, Andreas Koestler, is adressing Kazinga village.

One of the Fountes Foundations`founders, Andreas Koestler, is adressing Kazinga village.

Ten years with safe water

Fontes Foundations first water project in QENP was implemented in 2004 due to dire demand for safe water in the fishing villages inside the park. People were suffering from waterborne diseases and, in addition, fetching water in the lake was dangerous. There are crocodiles and hippos lurching in the water, and along the path down to the lake, several people were attacked by lions. Upon a request from the Uganda Wildlife Authorities (UWA) and the local community, it was decided to install a small surface water treatment plant in the village of Katunguru-Rubirizi in February 2004.

When the project was first installed, the village only had a couple of hundred inhabitants. In the last years, the national park headquarters were moved to Katunguru, a secondary school has opened, and a small hospital has been built. People say all this happened because they have access to safe water. In the long term, the effect of providing safe water has shown to be much larger than only reducing diseases. Since the first water instalment in 2004, Fontes Foundations water projects now cover five villages, and provides clean drinking water for thousands of people on a daily basis.

The new installations

The anniversary was celebrated with a function and the implementation of a new settlement tank and a solar panel in Kazinga village, which will result in lower running costs, and make the water system more sustainable. Fontes Foundation celebrated with the local water committees, political leaders, UWA, donors and the community.

Make a difference!

Through the development of basic infrastructure such as water supply, sanitation and education facilities, Fontes Foundation aims to improve the standard of living and well-being of people in Uganda. Using a participatory approach, appropriate and affordable technology is selected with a long-term perspective and sustainability in mind. All this is made possible through the continued effort from our donors: Support Fontes Foundation today: http://fontes.no/foundation/donate/


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Michael PletscherCelebrating ten years in Queen Elizabeth National Park

10 Years Anniversary of Our First Project

by Michael Pletscher on 30/09/2014 No comments

Fontes Foundation is proud to announce that its first safe water system, installed in 2004 in Katunguru-Rubirizi, is still running, which is not self-evident in Africa. It has now supplied safe water for the community for over 10 years. This deserves a proper celebration!

We cordially invite you to join us on an unforgettable trip through Uganda, which will carry us from the pulsating capital city of Kampala to the breathtaking landscape of the Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda, combining visiting of Fontes projects and tourism activities.

We are inviting friends, colleagues, Lions and Rotary club members, donors and whoever might be interested. This trip will be a unique opportunity to learn about Africa, to learn to know Africa, to understand Africa and at the same time spot some of Africa’s precious wildlife.

Please follow this link to find the invitation and the program for our 10 years celebration trip.


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Michael Pletscher10 Years Anniversary of Our First Project