July 2011

  1. 1.     BACKGROUND


Since the overthrow of Dictator Idd Amini in 1979 to the overthrow of Milton Obote in1987 two major phenomena happened: 1. Four post Amin era leaders, in succession were overthrown mostly violently due continued tribal conflict, extra judicial murder and free fall of the economy 2. A lot of aid was given to Uganda at unprecedented scale. Unfortunately there was little impact on national development. The externally dictated programmes were poorly designed and misdirected The human resource base was thin but importantly, the spirit of national building was very weak hence corruption was rampant. The ordinary Ugandan did not experience the expected change.

A small group of Ugandans watched with dissatisfaction In 1987 the Uganda Rural Development and Training programme (URDT) was established conscious of what was not working but with a strong desire and commitment to get out of the box and facilitate self-generating development of the rural communities, using an approach that combines rural development projects with consciousness raising, training, education and information sharing, so that the new awakening is buttressed by skills and knowledge which would remain resident with the people as they organically change the quality of their lives.

The founders talked to the people about the new philosophy for change. In 1989 URDT was invited by the Kibaale community, one of the most neglected and marginalized districts of Uganda to go and start work with them. The African Food and Peace Foundation, based in the Boston area then agreed to give seed fund for this to happen. Since then AFPF has remained one of the major partners in the work of URDT. In Kibaale the team of URDT experienced the same national psyche: development is brought be people from out or it is the responsibility of the government! They did not see it their work to develop themselves. This further confirmed to us how international aid which did not lead to community empowerment did a disservice to the people of Uganda and more especially the rural people.

URDT used two pronged approach:

  1. Consciousness raising: to deal with mind set change first. Members of the community to learn how to form a vision for themselves, their families, communities and at the same time recognize accurately their realities they were in. this helped them to see the gap between what they had and what they aspired for. This created a want “to do something”  to narrow the gap. They were introduced in what they intuitively did but were not conscious about: integrated planning. They were used, by force to segment development disciplines. They got to learn systems thinking to address the interconnectedness of health, education, financial self-sufficiency, civic participation and human/gender rights within their lives – in concert with visionary leadership.
  2. Extension and education in interrelated disciplines. The entry point was health especially water and sanitation and nutrition based agriculture. In due course financial intermediation, natural resources management, appropriate technologies and gender related issues including human rights.

URDT has guiding principles among which are the unyielding belief that the people of Uganda like all the people world over are KEY to their development. Central to our work is a strong philosophy: Lasing change occurs when people shift from reacting to events to being creators of their own circumstances. The communities were introduced to the principles of the creative process whose key elements are: vision, corresponding current reality and the resultant structural tension due to the gap between the two. Working with this principle is what we have called the Visionary Approach.

Another important principle is that education, training and information sharing are key ingredients in the development process. Therefore, URDT with the communities of Kibaale started the first community radio in east Africa. The award winning community radio station (KKCR 91.7 FM) has a listenership of over 2 million people. This gives a voice to the marginalized and is instrumental in raising the people’s consciousness, helps in mind set change as they commit to new ways of living and acting.

To narrow information gap and introduce an education that is linked to development, URDT manages 3 formal unique education institutions that train young people to become catalysts of change and perform transformational roles in their impoverished homes and communities based on the URDT methodology. These are the award winning URDT Girls’ School for primary and secondary education, the URDT Institute for Vocational Training and Youth Leadership development and the Africa Rural University; an all women university. For more details, see appendix 1.


URDT has demonstrated that more sustainable results in improved human well being are achieved when people shift their mind sets and focus on “creating a desired outcome” (vision) rather than on “fixing problems” and nurture feelings of fatalism and powerlessness. URDT’s methodology has transformed its host village, Kagadi, into a ‘boom town’; and is an inspiration for others. URDT’s graduates have created local businesses and move subsistence farmers to join the rural economy and make good income out of agriculture. The people’s health, sanitation, and girls’ education status have all improved remarkably.




URDT has 23 years working with the visionary approach and the principles of community learning. This work has been documented and turned into a number of modules for short and long term learning. The methodology has been applied by the school through back home projects and by the ARU research students during the five years of study and experimentation. The results in the communities of Kahunge, Kamwenge District and those in Kibaale Distict are astounding.


Clearly, there is demand for URDT to start work in other parts of the country therefore an emerging need to create a multiplier effect and role out of the URDT methodology to a larger population. It is for this reason that URDT wants to facilitate the establishment of community driven epicentres in the district at the sub-county level supported by graduates from its African Rural University. These centres will demonstrate best practices in designing integrated programmes, and creating conditions for the emergency of new type of leadership in the communities.


In 2002 the idea of the African Rural University (ARU) that was rural based, drawing from the experiences of the rural people and committed to creating an alternative approach by casting grassroots innovators, rather than traditional academics, and educating young women to be catalysts of change won an international recognition by the Ashoka Organization, a movement for Global Innovators. ARU’s core activity is action-oriented higher education, based drawing on  visionary and systems thinking principles, entrepreneurship, 2-generation learning and community action planning within an African development context. As such, ARU is a pathway for disseminating, deepening and broadening URDT’s rural development methodology.


After many years of field study and internal learning of staff and community members, in 2006 ARU with the support of URDT initiated the first course. It started with a small group of faculty and “trailblazer /research students” and a growing infrastructure. The student did a three course programme based on semester arrangement to meet the requirements of the National Council for Higher Education. There was intensive research work and field placement to two months. After three years they were ready to go and live in the communities for two years. In September 2011 the first batch of Researcher Students numbering 17 will be passed out in a commencement ceremony. This is a unique group of young women who have pioneered the curriculum and helped in fine tuning the methodology.


For the first time in the history of extension education in Uganda, ARU is graduating “home-grown Rural Transformation Specialists (RTS)”. The RTS have undergone a Bachelor’s degree course in Technologies for Rural Transformation that included 2 years of field placement. The interns lived in villages in Kibaale District. They carried out participatory action research and facilitated a new thought process that led to the evolution of visionary leadership. As a result, there is improved income and health of particular women and children in the villages where they worked. The evaluation report (available on request) shows that the methodology is effective and that communities are ready to scale up their efforts but need additional support to keep them focussed and gain more competencies to attain their visions.


URDT is committed to continue to invest its human and other resources in grassroots transformative leadership development as a key strategy to improve the living standards of the impoverished population in Kibaale District. Therefore URDT wants to expand its extension services and establish Community Based Epicentres to enable community driven development. Below more details on the vision, purpose, role of the epicentre, main objectives, expected results, management and scope of the project.





Every village in Kibaale District, and ultimately Africa, has at least one female specialist in catalyzing rural transformation from within the communities. She works closely with Community Based Epicentres that enable the people, starting from each individual in that community, to be in the drivers’ seat of their own development.



URDT supports the establishment and management of 17 Community Based Epicentres at sub-county level as a vehicle to improve the quality of life of marginalized people in Kibaale District. Through ARU, URDT has developed a new breed of community development workers whom it wants to deploy in concentrated areas. Through this project, URDT can enable community driven development while at the same time grooming this unique cadre of rural transformation specialists (RTS) for another 2 years. Examples of their work in the communities are given in appendix 2.


Role of the Community Based Epicentre (CBE)

The CBE is a place where people come together to learn, discuss concepts, share ideas, generate energy for focused action, they test, demonstrate and disseminate good practices. Individuals, households and other groups acquire tools of thought and skills to effectively work towards improved well-being. The main thrust is on mind set change: enable people shift from the reactive to the visionary/creative life orientation and take the future in their hands: The suggested CBE constitutes:

  • a resource centre (meeting/ training room; internet café; electronic library; office RTS)
  • demonstration fields for agricultural good practice
  • demonstration sit with appropriate energy saving technologies
  • any other that enhances the role of the CBE


Main Objectives of the project

  1. to establish well functioning Epicentres to catalyse Community Driven Development
  2. to grow a movement of rural people who realize that improved living standards is within everyone’s reach
  3. to apply visionary leadership and systems thinking in decision making at village, parish, sub county and district levels
  4. to improve transparency and accountability at all levels


Expected results of the project

The project plans that by September 2013 there are 17 epicentres established and operational. By that time, at least 3400 households (approximately 30.000 people) in 340 villages have improved the quality of their live, in particular in health and income. The project’s indicators for success include:

  1. households participating in the program have a creative (visionary) life orientation. They have moved from the fatalism and helplessness to a life orientation where they work towards their aspirations (e.g. health, prosperity, peace, happiness and freedom)
  2. households apply environmental sanitation measures and have diversified their sources of income
  3. households show citizenship behaviour. Young people transcend tribal, religious and gender barriers and work together to create a society that works for everybody as a way of building a new Uganda
  4. community action plans implemented in identify strategic areas of intervention, commit to work together, transcend traditional gender, religious, tribal barriers and realise collective results and at the end of the day they do it together because of collective efforts.
  5. development agencies in the respective sub counties have capacity in human and civil rights approaches to development. The organisations design and implement programmes based on basic rights rather than on needs.
  6. Youth, women and people with disabilities in the project areas participate in civic and economic development programmes. Their economic and social status has improved.


Project management

URDT is the lead organisation for this project. Through the public/private partnership agreement, formalized in MoUs, it will work closely with local government especially the Community Development Office. The local government is expected to provide office space, demonstration grounds for a number of technologies and a training hall. URDT will also work closely with African Rural University (ARU), the URDT Girls’ school, the Institute for research and human capital development purposes. It will also draw from the experience of the alumni of these institutions.


The project implementation team constitutes the RTS as the project manager at sub-county level, the sub county Community development Officer (CDO) (RTS’s counterpart) and para-extension workers (PEs) trained by the RTS. The RTS will report to the URDT Director of Programmes who is the overall accountable. The PEs will report to the RTS.


The ARU RTS are the project managers at subcounty level. Their key tasks include:

  1. Carry out community survey to identify their aspirations, capacity development needs, benchmarks, identify the 17 sub-counties and sites for the CBEs
  2. Mobilise communities to prepare and implement strategic plans and access resources to achieve their visions
  3. Facilitate Community Action Planning
  4. Facilitate community resource mobilisation
  5. Organise youth, women and people with disabilities for civic and economic participation
  6. Assist to identify and support the various parts of the CBE
  7. Establish and manage a resource centre /office as part of the CBE
  8. Raise funding for the management of the CBE
  9. Manage a mind set change programme for counterparts at sub county and parish level (Consciousness raising)
  10. Organise training of stakeholders in relevant fields[1].
  11. Training of para extension workers with whom RTS will work closely
  12. Participate in local government activities. E.g. sub-county planning and budgeting conferences
  13. Organise radio programmes on the community radio KKCR 91.7 FM
  14. Establish and manage development data base
  15. Continued participatory action research in collaboration with ARU
  16. Networking and maintaining partnerships with other development agents


Scope of the project

Kibaale is administratively organised in 33 sub counties. 211 parishes and 1635 villages. URDT will start with supporting the establishment of 17 Epicentres at sub county level in 2011/12. The remaining 16 Epicentres will be established in the next cycle of graduation from ARU in 2015.


Each RTS will train a group of 10 para-extension workers (PEs) each year. They will impart knowledge and skills to enhance community driven and systems changing development. They will be deployed first at parish level so that by 2013 each parish has one PE. They will have a case load of at least 10 households.


URDT expects that kind of concentration will spark off spontaneous transformation in the district as more and more leadership will emerge. It is expected therefore that in 2014 the number of impacted households will be double the logical progression totalling to at least 10.200. More statistics are given in the table below.


2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
RTS at sub-county level 17 33 33 33 33
RTS at district level 14
Para extensionists 170 340 510 810 1100 1410 1710
Villages reached 170 340 510 810 1100 1410 1635
Households reached 1.700 3.400 10.200 16.200 22.000 28.200 34.200



After 4 years (2015) new graduates will be coming out of ARU, now 30 annually. The new group will be posted at the sub-counties level. The pioneers (2011/12) will then be posted at the districts level. This rollout will continue as more students will graduate. After the evaluation in 2013, it will be decided whether the roll out will be at Parish level or upwards. In 2015, the RTS will have contributed to the transformation of at least 16.200 individuals and their households.





The project will run for 2 years as a pilot after which lessons learned will be incorporated into the next phase. It is envisaged that by 2018 the majority of households in Kibaale District will have been reached. That implies a total population of 500.000?


The pilot project has 3 stages of which details are given below.


Project phase Date Focus
1 – 6 month 1st of September 2011- 28 February 2012: Establishment of Community Based Epicentres at sub county level
2 – 6 months 1st of March – 31 August 2012: Implementation and further strategy development
3 – 12 months 1st of September – 31 August 2013. Consolidation and preparation for expansion to other households and villages in Kibaale



The project activities for each phase are as follows:




  1. a.     Preparation of RTS to manage the project
  • Organise workshop to discuss the project description and work out the operational plans with the RTS
  • Organise training[2] to fully equip the RTS for their role


  1. b.     Establishment of CBEs and deployment of 17 RTS in 17 sub counties to do the following:


  1. 1.     Community survey to identify the 17 sub-counties and locations for epicentres

This includes:

  • Benchmarking Poverty levels
  • Benchmarking Gender inequality levels
  • Establish willingness and readiness to develop the Epicentres
  •  Prepare and sign MoUs for collaboration with local government, ARU and others


  1. 2.     Establish resource centre /office at part of CBE at sub-county level
  • Open offices
  • Procurement of supplies and office equipment
  • Establish themselves in the system/orientation – office
  • Desk study – study files and work plans of local actors
  • Participate in sub county planning and budgeting conferences
  • Prepare preliminary action plan
  • Resource mobilisation, including fundraising for the resource centre and identification of potential para-extension workers[3] and funding sources for management of the CBE


  1. 3.     Consciousness raising programme for counterparts at sub county and parish level (Consciousness raising)


  1. Organise training in the principles and applications of the creative process to trigger mind set change amongst partners (e.g.. Community Development Officer, para extensionists
  2. Organise training in community action planning
  3. Conduct radio programmes




Programmatic planning and Implementation

  1. Mobilise communities to prepare and implement strategic plans and access resources
  2. Facilitate Community Action Planning and resource mobilisation
  3. Organise training of stakeholders in relevant fields.
  4. Assist with demonstrations
  5. Assist with dialogues and networking
  6. Mobilise youth, women and people with disabilities for civic and economic participation
  7. Organise radio programmes on the community radio
  8. Manage resource centre / office at sub-county level

a)     Continued participatory action research in collaboration with ARU

b)    Networking

c)     HR management (para extension workers)

d)    Financial management

e)     M&E, including reporting




  1. Deeping the above
  2. Self evaluation, review of strategies and assumptions
  3. Organise training where necessary to address implementation skills gaps
  4. Preparing for expansion  to other households and villages in same concentration area
  5. Development sustainability strategies


Training for example in: i) social organisations; ii) peace building; iii)application of the principles of the creative process to evolve visionary leadership; iv) democracy and good governance; v) theory and application of gender, technology and development; vi) Human right based approach to programming; vii) application of rural development strategies; viii) citizenry and patriotism; ix) HIV/AIDs and family planning; x) farming as a business and sustainable agriculture

[2] This includes sharpening their management competencies and fundraising skills

[3] This will be done in collaboration with the URDT Institute, URDT Girls’ school and ARU as former students could be potentially interested to play that role

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Comment (1)

  • Andrew Kaahwa

    Thanks for the good work done.

    October 23, 2016 at 4:17 pm

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