German Filmmaker Sven Kaemmerer Films Fontes Work

by Michael Pletscher on 17/02/2014 No comments

While we are still in the field to follow up our water and educational projects, we are accompanied by German film-maker Sven Kämmerer. Sven is capturing the work of Fontes Foundation to give an insight into our approach and its impact on the respective communities in Uganda.

Sven also compiled a blog with his reflections on his final days in Kampala (in German) https://www.startnext.de/let-there-be-water/blog/?bid=28598

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Michael PletscherGerman Filmmaker Sven Kaemmerer Films Fontes Work

All Eggs in One Basket

by Lucrezia Biteete on 06/12/2013 No comments

HR Management in Africa requires adaptability but gains on the input of your European egalitarian principles and horizontal management style.

Lucrezia Biteete and Marius Koestler, both involved with Fontes for almost 10 years, have recently ventured into new waters, but have brought with them much of the experience gained through work with Fontes Foundation. For example, they are both advisors with the Norwegian-African Business Association (NABA), a private sector organisation in Norway that promotes business in Africa and provides advice. The Fontes experience has also been vital in their newest project, which is establishing the Norwegian IT consultancy firm Laboremus in East Africa through an office in Kampala. On the 1st of November 2013, they were asked to hold a presentation at the prestigious NABA summit in Oslo, about human resources management in Africa. This article summarises the presentation, which can also be found on www.norwegianafrican.no

Managing staff in Africa can easily cause high levels of frustrations and challenges Norwegians are not used to meet. However, the key is to better understand where the workers come from, what society they live in and what problems they deal with. A good start when trying to get to know somebody, and where they are coming from, is by asking “How are you?”

Once you have a job, all family and friends expect you to help out with all financial matters. The social pressure is immense.

Once you have a job, all family and friends expect you to help out with all financial matters. The social pressure is immense.

In Uganda, you will most likely be baffled by the fact that few people you know well will reply the expected “Good, I’m fine” and you will be surprised to see that many respond, “I’m getting by”, “I’m struggling” , “I’m trying, trying” or they will say; “fair, fair”. So why do they say this? You could of course just blow it off as some linguistic practice. It is not. They are indeed “Struggling, trying and trying to get by”. For example, if all school-age children in Uganda would go to school this would represent 40% of the population, against 12% in Norway. All these children have to be taken care of and school fees must be paid. One of our friends and collaborators, for example, has to come up with at least USD 4,575 three times a year to pay for his own 6 kids as well as 7 others that he is taking care of since he is one of the few in the family with a job. Family in Africa goes well beyond the nuclear family known in the west, and don’t be surprised if your employee tells you that he is expected to pay for his wife’s half brother’s funeral costs.

The large inequalities between rich and poor in Africa cause stress on the entire society.

The large inequalities between rich and poor in Africa cause stress on the entire society.

It is also important to understand that countries like Uganda still have a highly class divided society. As a manager, you need to understand these differences and make sure that people from all social layers work well together and respect each other. For example, when you invite people out for a drink you need to explicitly make sure everyone knows they are invited, not only the upper ranks. And you need to discretely arrange for your female staff’s cab ride home, otherwise she will not afford to come. Most Norwegians are naïve and even in denial about this fact.

Another thing, Norwegians are naïve and in denial about is the hierarchical management structure everyone is used to and which is instilled into them from primary school. Although we love our flat and democratic management style, it is important to step into the leader role and show authority, otherwise you will manage an office of headless chicken. Once that is established you can start breaking down the artificial barriers and encourage your employees to provide their input, first in an institutionalised way. At the same time, it is important to counter-act an arrogant culture of upper management by leading by example, and take sufficient time to explain to employees WHY certain issues are important, instead of lecturing (or even worse, yelling).

The differences between the Ugandan (left) and the Norwegian (right) management structure are substantial. In Norway, the structure is egalitarian, while in Uganda it is clearly hierarchical. The key is be conscious about the differences and to find the right balance.

The differences between the Ugandan (left) and the Norwegian (right) management structure are substantial. In Norway, the structure is egalitarian, while in Uganda it is clearly hierarchical. The key is be conscious about the differences and to find the right balance.

This will motivate your staff, but you should also be sensitive to their problems and concerns when you consider other motivational measures. For example, whereas Norwegians think a Christmas party paid for by the employer is the coolest thing, people in Uganda would equally appreciate a cash bonus or a shopping voucher (for the same value as the staff dinner) that could help them cover some of the additional expenses over the Christmas season. At the same time, all motivation does not have to come from cash, and there are a number of other ways your company can keep staff motivated which are not expensive but means the world to them. For example, make it possible for staff to take low interest salary loans from the company, write a recommendation letter for them to get a loan in a bank or lend them the company car for going to a funeral or wedding out of town.

Your goal is that your employees will eventually trust your business and focus entirely on it.

Your goal is that your employees will eventually trust your business and focus entirely on it.

If you look back at what we have claimed so far, you might be confused. In one way we ask you to respect and adhere to the way things are managed in Africa, and at the same time we ask you to stick to your principles and bring in your own values. But that’s exactly the point. You do not want to create a Norwegian enterprise in Africa, nor create yet another African one. Yet your African employees are struggling. As one of our Ugandan employees stated after being in Oslo: imagine the potential that can be unleashed if you reduce the struggle of the everyday life in Africa! As we have seen, many times this can be done at a limited financial cost. But in order to address these concerns you need to understand their realities, and this is what this presentation is all about.

In order to spread the risk in an unpredictable market, it is very common to have multiple professional engagements in order to get by i.e. not putting all your eggs in one basket.

In order to spread the risk in an unpredictable market, it is very common to have multiple professional engagements in order to get by i.e. not putting all your eggs in one basket.

As one of our senior programmers in Uganda told us: Africans literarily live by a proverb you probably have heard before: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. This means that most people will always have more than one professional engagement in order to make ends meet, or cope with an unpredictable employment market.

Therefore, in most cases, a working place is just one of many baskets, and this makes it extremely difficult for us to manage staff, as they will act fundamentally different from what we expect. However, through directed and conscious efforts, and by providing some of the safety net that is lacking elsewhere in society, you might very well get your staff to put all their eggs in ONE basket – and that basket should be yours.

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Lucrezia BiteeteAll Eggs in One Basket

Happy Toilet Day!!

by fontes on 19/11/2013 No comments

For the twelfth time now, the world is celebrating World Toilet Day to call attention to the still unsolved problem of inadequate access to sanitation for every third person in the world. The WHO estimates 2.6 billion people to lack access to adequate sanitation. The lowest sanitation-coverage rate can be found in sub-Saharan Africa with an average of 31 %. The world community is far off track to reach its ambitious goal of 75 % worldwide sanitation coverage by 2015, manifested in the Millennium Development Goals. Lack of sanitation is not only causing a serious threat to the health of those affected, but also to the security, education and of course dignity of the people.

Fontes Foundation is working in the sector of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) for many years. One concept of sustainable sanitation is Ecosan (short for ecological sanitation) in which the material flows and nutrient cycles of the defaecation process are considered. Urine and faeces are separated and recycled by using them as organic fertilizers. Most ecosan-toilets don’t use water, what makes them environmentally friendly and an attractive alternative especially in arid regions. For the mentioned reasons, Fontes Foundation decided to provide the Potentiam Youth Development Centre with an ecosan-toilet in 2012 and is actively promoting the concept to its students through a special “ecosan-talk” during the courses. The excreta are stored in a shed near the compound where they covert into compost. Afterwards they are used as fertilizer for a vegetable growing project which recently kicked off at PYC (see post below).

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fontesHappy Toilet Day!!

Welcome Back Michael!

by fontes on 07/11/2013 No comments

This week the Fontes team was very happy to meet again with its former volunteer Michael Pletscher who supported us for six month until September 2013. Everyone was glad to see him again, especially the staff and students of Potentiam Youth Centre and the associated football team. A highlight of Michael’s stay was the handing over of a brand new set of shirts and shorts to the football team on Wednesday. The jerseys were sponsored by a generous donor from Switzerland and suit the grateful team very well. In addition, Fontes Foundation handed out two new footballs so that the Potentiam Football Team is very well equipped for following training sessions.

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fontesWelcome Back Michael!

Thank You!

by fontes on 27/08/2013 No comments

Thank you Tilman Melzer and Randolf Luttner for the exceptional work you did with the Communication Strategy during your 1 month volunteer stay with Fontes Foundation. We hope you had a rewarding and productive experience as part of the team. We are extremely appreciative of all the work you managed to accomplish in such a short time. Best of luck!

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fontesThank You!

Football Team Equipment Handover

by fontes on 18/07/2013 No comments

On Wednesday, 17th July, the new team equipment has been handed over to the Fontes football team. It was an exciting evening for the players, as they received a complete set of new match uniforms as well as the desperately needed first aid kit. The team and the coach are very thankful for the generous donations made by the Fontes supporters back in Switzerland, especially Jürg and Jean-Pierre Pletscher for the uniforms as well as the unihockey club Red Taurus Wislikofen for the lion share of the first aid box, and send them their warmest regards. After the handover, the team already inaugurated the new uniforms during a friendly match with their friends from Namuwongo area, and the first aid box has already been of good use as well.

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fontesFootball Team Equipment Handover

A Capacity Building Session in the Fields

by fontes on 01/06/2013 No comments

On May 31st, the Fontes team had a staff capacity-building with the field staff from their water and education projects in Southwestern Uganda. The emphasis was on accountability issues like handing in valuable receipts or respecting the deadlines for the hand-in of accountability documents. All of this has been explained to them in a detailed and understandable way, which was very appreciated by the field staff.

The purpose of the capacity-building was to make the communication between the Fontes head office in Kampala and the field staff in the Katunguru area more smoothly. The increased capacities will make the work of both the field and the head office staff easier and more efficient in the future.

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fontesA Capacity Building Session in the Fields

Monitoring as the Key to Sustainable Development

by Lucrezia Biteete on 15/04/2013 No comments

In April, the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium took place in Addis Ababa, with participation of Fontes Foundation staff.

Monitoring of development initiatives is a controversial issue. Some say organizations are spending too much on useless, one-off exercises that are not updated, relevant or even used by anyone. Others say organizations do not have sufficient knowledge of the programmes they are carrying out in order to make good decisions, such as information on functionality, cost, impact and demand. How to strike a balance between using a minimum of resources and having access to sufficient information, at all levels, at all times, to make informed decisions which contribute towards improved service delivery and sustainability? From the 9th to the 11th April 2013, Lucrezia Biteete, Regional Coordinator of Fontes Foundation, participated at the Monitoring Sustainable WASH Service Delivery Symposium, organised by IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Based on the cost analysis in Kabarole district, the expenditure per capita for the different technologies in 2013 Uganda shillings, broken down by categories.

Based on the cost analysis in Kabarole district, the expenditure per capita for the different technologies in 2013 Uganda shillings, broken down by categories.

Fontes Foundation has been at the forefront on monitoring for many years. In 2008, a paper was presented at the WEDC conference in Accra, Ghana, outlining the different flows of information from community water projects such as daily water quantity information, monthly incomes and expenditures and annual numbers of beneficiaries. Already in this paper it is highlighted how important it is to ask the following questions: Who is the monitoring for? What information are those agents primarily interested in? The purpose of the monitoring should always be prioritized when developing a monitoring and evaluation framework; will the information be used to make management decisions? To report to donors? To improve a certain programme or approach? Most approaches presented at the conference showed a one-time survey and its results, but did not mention how the effort is going to be continued, who is going to pay for it and how the information will actually be used in a practical way.

Fontes has been part of an informal working group on monitoring sustainability since 2010, together with representatives from Water for People/Improve International, WASH Advocates and WASHCost/WaterAid. The team came together in Addis Ababa.

Fontes Foundation has continued its work on monitoring by developing a new indicator, Water-Person-Years, in 2009. Since then, Fontes Foundation has also participated in an informal working group, together with practitioners from WaterAid, Improve International and WASH Advocates, in order to develop a better indicator for sustainability in water projects than the most commonly used “coverage” indicator. In addition, Fontes Foundation has an established monitoring and evaluation framework in all projects. In the water projects, monthly reports are collected by the organization from the water committees, with information on quality, use and finances. The GSM monitoring system is operating in two villages, sending real-time information by SMS on water quantity, incomes and expenditures. The youth project has an elaborated monitoring and evaluation framework with a number of tools in order to improve the courses, evaluate facilitators, follow up the progress on students and provide motivation for time-keeping.

During the conference in Addis Ababa, the use of ICT in monitoring was thoroughly discussed. A number of new technologies such as smart phones and internet platforms are used to share information quicker, to a broader audience. Fontes Foundation built such a system already in 2007. Many ICT solutions encounter challenges in the implementation phase because the human aspect has not been sufficiently taken into account; people will only use something if they are motivated and have the capacity to do so.

Lucrezia Biteete also presented a paper which is based on a study which collected information on all expenditures related to rural water supply delivery in an entire district in Uganda (Kabarole) for the last 3 years. This is part of a drive to make stakeholders aware of the Life-Cycle Cost Approach in Uganda, in order to improve planning and budgeting in the sector. All publications mentioned in this article can be found on our website.

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Lucrezia BiteeteMonitoring as the Key to Sustainable Development

Construction of Second Well in Quissanga

by fontes on 27/10/2010 No comments

The water source of the small piped water system of Quissanga is an island reservoir with a thin layer of fresh water being surrounded by salty sea water. In order to increase the capacity of the system and at the same time reduce the risk of saltwater intrusion, a second well was constructed on Mecute Island. The construction was carried out by Agua Rural and supervised by a Fiscal (Independent Construction Supervisor) and Fontes Foundation local staff. The well is a large-diameter well (3m), about 4m deep. The first phase of the construction was completed on time, and in a second phase, horizontal filter pipes will be inserted in order to increase the capture of fresh water to a maximum.

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fontesConstruction of Second Well in Quissanga

Quissanga – Second Phase

by fontes on 01/05/2010 No comments

After the initial installation of two temporary taps in Quissanga in 2009, the work of making the structures permanent started in November 2009 until May 2010. Permanent collection points with a water meter and four taps were constructed in four locations. In addition, the colonial water tower was rehabilitated and filled with water by a new pump installed at the reservoirs. The water from the tower will be able to supply the upper taps, as well as the houses and institutions at the district headquarters. In order to protect the generator running the pump near the reservoirs, a small house was constructed. Fontes Foundation local staff supervised the work which was carried out by “Associação Irmãos Unidos de Quissanga”, an association of local masons and bricklayers. This made it possible to ensure quality, and at the same time it created work and built important capacity in the community.

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fontesQuissanga – Second Phase