Oyam – 21, October 2021: To develop an area or turn your idea into a formidable enterprise, a person urgently needs basic ideas; draw his workable plans, launch it before sourcing for some or more funding support.
Businesses can strive for as long as the owners and those they hire are committed, with all of them everyday thinking of the ideas behind its formation.
Back to Okere City, a suprise to many and yet a reality, TNDQuestions had a brief chat with Ojok Okello, the City’s Founder and CEO. Follow the Q&A below:
Qn: Why should people embrace Okere City, and what is it ready to offer?
Ans: Okere City is a radical rural development project re-imagining how agrarian reformation and rural transformation could be done differently. The idea behind is premised on the fact that rural people should be placed at the centre-stage of shaping their own destinies by creating multiple opportunities for them to become politically, socially and economically empowered.
Since 2019 when we started our operations in Adwari Sub-County, Otuke District, Okere City has quickly emerged as an economic hub, social and cultural spot and capacity building vehicle for the rural people of Okere Parish.
Qn. How has the City transformed the communities, and how difficult has it been to change their mindsets?
Ans: Among other things, Okere City owns and runs a community health center that offers medical services to 30 patients a day, a primary and nursery school with 200 pupils, a community kitchen, artisan and gift shop, a community grocery store; a community library.
Others are boxing and football clubs, village bank with 1,000 members, community hall and community Shea butter cooperative society that successfully launched Okere Shea butter into the marketplace in 2020.
More so, the Okere City also conducts sensitization campaigns against the destruction of shea trees in the village.
Qn. Is Okere City now open to international tourists? If yes, apart from Shea trees, what other attractions exist?
Ans: Okere City is open to all visitors – both domestic and international tourists. Most importantly, we encourage young Ugandans to visit us so they can borrow some ideas of replicating the Okere City model back in their communities.
For tourists, you will enjoy local/traditional music and dance, shea butter massage, being involved in community work, among others.
Qn: How has the pandemic affected City’s daily activities and her future plans?
Ans: The devastating effects of COVID-19 has altered the operations of Okere City in many ways. Among others, the closure of schools meant that our community school which had just started gaining steam had to be closed. 120 children who attend was abruptly stopped. We can only imagine how difficult it shall be when schools finally re-open.
But most importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic enabled us to find a silver lining in the midst of the storm. Initially, we had not set out to start up a community health facility but with total lockdown and with community members finding it difficult to access medical services, we had no choice but to start up a clinic out of necessity.
Qn: How are you and the communities working towards addressing issues related to climate change?
Ans: Whilst the debate on climate change has just recently gained international attention, rural people in Okere have to contend with weather extremes for decades. Prolonged drought, specifically make farmer in Okere to realize less than 20% of agricultural output.
Unfortunately, Otuke district hasn’t been spared from deforestation which has seen more than 80% of Shea trees cover destroyed in the past years. Yet, deforestation means that drought shall only intensify.
To avert this negative trend, we are conducting sensitization campaigns against the cutting down of Shea trees. We are also adding value to Shea butter through Okere Shea Cooperative Society.