Where We Work

Uganda F.A.Q.

If you are reading this you must be curious about the nation of Uganda.  Maybe some of the answers to common questions people ask about this nation will be found below.  This information should give you a better idea of what Uganda is like, especially if you are interested in coming to Uganda for the first time on a short term mission.

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Where is Uganda?

Uganda became known as the Pearl of Africa because of it’s beauty, water, agriculture, and culture.  It lies on the north shore of Lake Victoria and is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by Sudan, and on the west by Congo and Rwanda.

Jinja is one of the major cities of Uganda.  Above is a map of Jinja, Uganda. Use the zoom out button to see where Uganda fits into the African continent.   Jinja is notable because it contains the source of the River Nile.

How big is Uganda and what is the population?

A landlocked nation in Eastern Africa, west of Kenya and east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire), Uganda has an area of 146,675 square miles and a total land boundary of 1,676 miles. Comparatively, the area occupied by Uganda is slightly smaller than the size of the state of Oregon. Uganda’s capital city, Kampala, is located in the country’s southeast on the shore of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and the source of the river Nile. Lake Victoria is also bordered by Kenya and Tanzania.

The Ugandan population is primarily of African descent, consisting of thirteen principal ethnic groups, although there are actually 49 such groups in total. The rest of the population is made up of Asians and Europeans (around 1 percent) and a fluctuation of refugees escaping from crises in neighboring countries … most recently from Sudan, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is important to note that Uganda had a large number of Asian citizens at independence in 1962; however, the majority of them were forcibly expelled under the regime of General Idi Amin (1971-78) in a racist attempt to “Africanize” the country.

Uganda’s population is very young, with 51 percent below age 14 and just 2 percent of the population at 65 or older. A majority of Ugandans-86 percent-lived in rural areas in 2000. The urban population was 7 percent of the total population in 1965, rising to 14 percent in 2000 (5 percent of the population is centered in and around Kampala).

Reports from various research sites indicates that the population of Uganda is presently just under 37.5 million people.  (July 2013)

What language is spoken in Uganda?

There are 43 languages spoken in Uganda because of the various tribes there. Luganda, a language widespread in central Uganda, has been the official vernacular language in education for central Uganda for a long time. English is the official language of Uganda, even though only a relatively small percentage of the population speaks it. Those who attend school must study English and so it is being spoken in most urban areas while less frequently in villages and in the bush.

What is the climate of Uganda?

The majority of the country has a tropical climate which varies according to altitude. During the year the hottest months are from December to February when the temperature reaches 29 degrees Celsius, which is 84.2 Fahrenheit. The rainy seasons are from April to May and October to November, with the wettest month being April.

Temperatures in some parts of the country can be quite cool owing to the country’s high altitude, despite its position on the equator. The mountain areas become much cooler and the top of Mount Elgon is often covered with snow. Other parts of the country are much warmer. There is heavy rain between March and May and between October and November.

The best times to visit are December-March and June-September. It can be somewhat rainy then, but not as rainy as in the rainy season, March-June. December-February and June-July are the driest times, when things can even be a bit dusty. Although the country lies astride the equator, most of Uganda is on a plateau 3,600-6,000 ft/900-1,830 m above sea level.

What is the normal diet of Uganda?

The cuisine of Uganda consists of traditional cooking with English, Arab and Asian (especially Indian) influences. Like the cuisines of most countries, it varies in complexity, from the most basic, a starchy filler with a sauce of beans or meat, to several-course meals served in upper-class homes and high-end restaurants.

Main dishes are usually centered on a sauce or stew of groundnuts, beans or meat. The starch traditionally comes from posho (maize meal) or matoke (boiled and mashed green banana). Cassava, yam and African sweet potato are also eaten; the more affluent include white (often called “Irish”) potato and rice in their diets. Soybean was promoted as a healthy food staple in the 1970s and this is also used, especially for breakfast. Chapati, an Asian flatbread, is also part of Ugandan cuisine.

Chicken, fish (usually fresh, but there is also a dried variety, reconstituted for stewing), beef, goat and mutton are all commonly eaten, although among the rural poor there would have to be a good reason for slaughtering a large animal such as a goat or a cow and nyama, (Swahili word for “meat”) would not be eaten every day.

Various leafy greens are grown in Uganda. These may be boiled in the stews, or served as side dishes in fancier homes.

Posho is cooked up into a thick porridge for breakfast. For main meals, white flour is added to the saucepan and stirred into the posho until the consistency is firm. It is then turned out onto a serving plate and cut into individual slices (or served onto individual plates in the kitchen).

Fruits are plentiful and regularly eaten, as in the Western World, as snacks or dessert. Europeans introduced cake and this is also popular.

Traditional Food Names

  • Posho – usually from maize but also other starches, regional names include ugali and kwon. Ugandan expatriates make posho from cornmeal, masa harina or grits.
  • Groundnut – peanuts are a vital staple and groundnut sauce is probably the most commonly eaten one.
  • Sim-sim – sesame – used particularly in the north, roasted sesame paste is mixed into a stew of beans or greens and served as a side dish, sesame paste may be served as a condiment; a candy is made from roasted sesame seeds with sugar or honey.

Snacks

  • Roasted groundnuts served in a spill of paper
  • Samosa (samousa, samusa) — Indian samosas have been completely assimilated into the local cuisine, as have chapati and curry
  • Mkate na mayai (bread and eggs). Originally an Arab dish, it’s wheat dough spread into a thin pancake, filled with minced meat and raw egg, and then folded into a neat parcel and fried on a hotplate.
  • Nsenene is an unusual food item: a seasonal delicacy of a type of grasshopper
  • Nswaa served similarly to nsenene but made of white ant

What kind of clothes should I wear in Uganda?

As you read earlier, the weather is usually warm in Uganda. Loose fitting, causal clothes are the best for the climate. Clothes that breathe are better than denim or polyester and cotton seems to be ideal. Females should wear modest clothing and skirts or dresses are cooler than pants. Sandals and flip flops help feet to breathe. Males can wear shorts and tee shirts, but should also bring a shirt or two that is collared.

How safe will I be in Uganda?

The reputation that Africa has for instability, in most countries, cause people of the West to think it is unsafe to move about in politically volatile environments. Uganda has one of the most terrible histories of all African nations. However, the reputation is historical due to the reign of terror of Idi Amin who slaughtered over 300,000 of his own people.

The past 25 years have seen tremendous advance in a democratic government. People do not live in fear and the army doesn’t have free reign anymore. The only people with weapons are those who have them because the government has issued them. Otherwise, it is illegal to have a gun in possession.

The character issues of lying and stealing make it a difficult place to exist. Everyone is security conscious. Our quarters are in a fenced compound. Trust in others is not common and corruption in officials is pervasive.

Having said all of this, anyone coming to Uganda, and existing in the context of the care and knowledge of nationals and others who are familiar in the culture, should be quite safe.

How will I communicate with those back home?

Phone calls can be made from the United States to Uganda for less than 10 cents a minute by using virtual calling cards. We have cell phones in Uganda and our numbers are on the About Jinja page. One of the sites where one can purchase a virtual calling card is www.nobelcom.com.

Wireless internet is available in our guest house. Emails are easy to send and receive from this location. There are Internet Cafes in Jinja, but they are costly due to the slow connection and old equipment and competition with tourist for time on a computer.  Skype also works with our internet service. Some of our returning guest have cell phones they use to call America from Uganda.  A five or ten minute phone call is relatively cheap.

What sustains the economy of Uganda?

The agricultural sector is dominant in Uganda’s economy. The farmers in Uganda’s 2.5 million smallholdings and scattered large commercial farms provide the majority of their own and the rest of the country’s staple food requirements. Uganda is able to rely on agriculture due to the country’s excellent access to waterways, fertile soils, and, (relative to many other African nations) its regular rainfall, although it does still suffer from intermittent droughts.

Uganda’s key agricultural products can be divided into cash crops, food crops, and horticultural produce. The most important cash crops are coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, and cocoa. Uganda is second only to Kenya as Africa’s largest producer of tea. The primary food crops, mainly for domestic consumption, include plantains, cassava, maize, millet, and sorghum. The more recent development of cultivating horticultural produce includes fresh flowers, chilies, vanilla, asparagus, and medicinal plants. At the beginning of 2001 it is unclear how well horticultural production will prosper but it does indicate the economy’s potential diversity. The fact that vanilla production is the third largest in Africa is a success in itself.

The economy of northeast Uganda is dominated by cattle farming. Although agricultural production is apparent in some areas, this is normally a mixture known as “agro-pastoralism” (integrated cattle and crop farming). It should be noted that cattle farming is in decline due to the constant cattle raids by guerrilla group or tribes that believe they are entitled to all the cattle of Uganda, as well as government and aid agency intervention which encourages the fencing off of land to discourage the traditional free-roaming of cattle.

How much money will I need to live in Uganda on a short term basis?

Next Generation Ministries hosts many short term mission teams and does so cheaper than any hotel/restaurant combination around. Currently (2014) NGM collects $50 a day from each person they accommodate in their compound. This daily fee covers food, lodging, and local and airport transportation. The lodging provides good beds for singles and/or couples, linens, pillows, and towels. The daily fee also provides bottled water, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Cross cultural experiences in local area restaurants are sometimes provided with this fee. Laundry service is available through hired help and the compound now had a clothes washer. The compound is equipped with electricity, flush toilets and fans in each bedroom. While not a plush hotel, it is not the bush and quite comfortable, though the bedrooms are small.

Additional trips to the airport in Entebbe (approximately two or three hours away) is $100 regardless of how large or small the group.

In order to obtain the best possible exchange rate, please bring one hundred dollar bills and NO OTHER denominations. Also make sure that the date on the $100 is dated 2003 or later in order to ensure that the banks will accept them.  The banks and Foreign Exchanges also look for marks and tears on the bills and will often refuse them.

Airfare can run all the way from $1,200 to $2,200. We have found that a good fare is anything around and under $1,600.