Engineers Without Borders Norway’s (IUG Norway) mission is to alleviate suffering through engineering related assistance. One way in which IUG Norway aims to achieve this is through developing the capacity of engineers in Norway, preparing them to be able to utilise their skills and knowledge in both disaster and development projects worldwide.

This week, 10 IUG members travelled to Uganda to participate in an intensive field training course aimed at giving them some of the skills and knowledge needed to work within the humanitarian and development sector. All of the members have previously completed IUG’s Introduction Course, Security Training and Advanced Field Training prior to being selected to participate in this field component in Uganda. 

If you are interested you can follow along with the training on this blog post. There will be daily updates if the internet connection permits. 

The Humanitarian Engineering in Practice Training has been developed by Fontes Foundation, our Norwegian partner in Uganda. The project has been supported by Rambøll Foundation and will, in addition to training over 40 IUG members, also help rehabilitate a water supply system and install a solar powered pump together with the people of the village of Kashaka.


By IUG participant - Gry Evjen

This day started with packing all of our luggage together with the solar panels into the 4 cars. We said goodbye to Luke (who went by car back to Kampala and Oslo) and drove to Kashaka to start our last working day. The first challenge was that one of the cars got stuck in the muddy road, and with a lot of handcraft and towing we managed to continue.  A bit later than planned we were ready to finish our project.

Solar panel

The frame was finished and put into the ground, and all the 10 panels were mounted with good help from the local people. A group of locals immediately started to use the panel as a shelter for the strong sun. The electrical cable was dug down in the ground and brought into the water treatment house.

The fence around the installation was fixed, and to protect the fence from the hippos, big stones were laid outside the fence. All the locals were engaged carrying the big stones, even the children down to 3 years were eager to help. Children in Kashaka are really strong!

Water intake

The steel structure for water intake was mounted in the water. Three boats and people on the lake were engaged. The challenges were quite a few: An old fence and fishing nets in the water were hindering the work with the steel construction, and the shore was steep and slippery. The PE pipe and the electrical cabel was extended and put into a galvanized protective pipe. The pump was then relocated into the newly made steel structure.

Photo by Synnøve Halle: Monting of steel structure in the water. The hero of the day was Pascal (on the top).

Photo by Synnøve Halle: Monting of steel structure in the water. The hero of the day was Pascal (on the top).

We had an one hour lunch break in the village, and planned to depart at around 16. We made it! Actually we had to leave in a hurry, because of more and more dark clouds on the sky. The time scheme looked like this:

15:50 The solar panel was checked and it worked. The water intake was finished.

15:55 All personal was in the cars ready to leave

16:00 The first raindrops drummed to the ground

 Luckily the rain fall stopped after 10 minutes, and we did not get stuck in the mud on our way back.

 Internet café

On our way to Mweya, some of us had a short stop in Katunguru at the Akacia Internet Café. This is supported by Fontes Foundation, and people can come there to use the internet and print out papers for a small charge. They have two PCs and one printer, and it is looked after by one person. The internet café is an “offspring” from the first water project in Katunguru in 2004 (managed by Fontes), which gave the population an optimistic and enthusiastic drive.

The evening was spent on Mweya Lodge, with a fantastic view over Kazinga Channel and Buffalos and Elephants on the other river side. 



By IUG participant - Rune Hetlelid

Taking cover from the rain in the local kindergarden. 

Taking cover from the rain in the local kindergarden. 


The day started with the usual briefing of the day to lightening the main tasks. Transport to the village of Kashaka. The community was certainly waiting for us to come. Two of the teams cars was driving to the closest city to buy some extra fence and other needed supply. The tower construction for the water-intake got finished, but wind stopped us to put it in place into water. Their team started to finish the fence to secure the solar power. Got served a local dish with goat meet and vegetables in the village.

While we got the most progress in the work we suddenly experienced heavy rain that last for more than an hour. Then we had to stop the generator and run for the closest shelter. Happily this building turned out to be a kindergarden. The children were more than happy to invite us in, to take part of their activity. Pascal was telling how great full himself and other locals are to receive the aid from Fontes. Since we are an international group we split up by nationality and performed our best on the stage, by singing and dancing to get the rain away. The kids was entertaining us rest of the time. 

When the rain slowed down we could finally turn the solar-power frame on the right side, so this part of the project could show some progress. We called it for the day and started driving back to the lodge. The road was muddy and very slippery because of the rain. We progressed continuously, but slowly. There is no reason to make any further comment about the Ugandan road standards. When we came to a junction we had to take the lesser common road since the surface was better even though it was more narrow.

Some of the 4WD cars had issues to keep on the road and turned 90 degree and blocked the road. Our experienced drivers made us through all of the 20km without any damage, except when one of the cars lost its spare wheel, which was placed under the frame. Returned safely back to the camp site just in time before dark.

Everybody met to have dinner. During dessert, Andreas expressed appreciation for the hospitality accorded to us by the staff at Kingfisher Lodge. Our manager Luke, presented a gift to Fontes for giving us this opportunity to take part of there project. Picture from rain shelter in kindergarden.


By IUG participant - Mona Ellingsen

Plan for the day: visit different water projects and make reports of our impressions.

Photo: storage tank at Katwe water treatment plant with major leakages.

Photo: storage tank at Katwe water treatment plant with major leakages.

We departed from the lodge at 08.00. After refilling fuel, checking tire pressure and buying water we continued to a view point of Kyambura gorge. At the site we had a briefing and received a short lecture on the development of human beings and the critically endangered chimpanzees living in the gorge.

The course participants were divided in three groups. We travelled to three different villages, in each village one group was responsible of noting their impressions and later writing a report about it. The main impressions are briefly described below.

We travelled through the Queen Elizabeth National Park on our way back to the lodge and we were able to experience some of Uganda's wildlife.

Arrival back at lodge at 19.00.


Group members: Amita, Anita, Rune

This is a fishing village. There seems to be more business than Kashaka, there are more shops, and the town is larger (1800 inhabitants). Fontes Foundation has installed a water supply system and the general impression is that it is working well, one problem noted was not insulated power cables. Fontes Foundation has installed solar panels for power supply for the water pumps. The fence around the panels has been replaced after damage from hippos.  Business is quite good; there is production of handicrafts for Saturday marked in a different town. The lake is shared with Congo, and there has been some accusing of overfishing from both sides.


Group members: Asbjørn, Aluka, Mona

The population is 4205. There is a better standard of living than at Kashaka parish. The water system is installed by Fontes, and is their largest project. The system and the water committee is working well, based on positive feedbacks form the community. The town is situated by a major road (Kampala/Kasese). The village has public power supply and good mobile phone coverage (three transmitters placed in the village). There can occasionally be power cuts of up to two days.


Group members: Gry, Helene, Milenija

The town is quite large (approximately 10000 inhabitants). Salt harvesting is a source of income. The very advanced water treatment system was installed about 20 years ago. It is in very poor condition and that is why the community is planning to apply for support from Fontes. There is a 70 % leakage according to the technician (from pump house to consumer). Regular maintenance on supply channel to water intake is needed. There is a large leak from the pump by the intake, and storage tank (see photo below).

In addition the automatic chemical injection is out of order and the chemicals need to be added manually. The ownership and management seems disorganized.


By IUG participant - Milenija Helgesen Stojkovic

Mona from IUG and Pascal from Fontes constructing the frame for the solar panels. 

Mona from IUG and Pascal from Fontes constructing the frame for the solar panels. 


The day started with briefing about planned work, technical solution and HSE, by Andreas, Luke and Valentin which was finished by 8:30.

The village Kashaka has a water system that was installed by Fontes Foundation (FF) 4 years ago. The technical assessment identified a need for following improvements:

  • Alternative power supply to the pump because of an unstable generator and the cost and availability of fuel
  • The water intake redesign because of challenges due to rise of the water level, hippos that bite on pipes, etc

We arrived at Kashaka at 9:15 and offloaded materials and tools. It was cloudy and really good to work.

Luke (EWB) started immediately repairing generator as we had only one in order and we needed two.

Our team split into two groups:

  • Construction and installation of solar panels: Mona, Milenija, Gry and Rune
  • Improvement of water intake: Asbjørn, Amita, Anita andAloka

We started with measuring and drawing sketches for the support for solar panels and protection fence for water intake. Cutting wrongly available profiles would compromise our project as we couldn’t waste any material. To buy more beams we would need to drive a long distance.

Only when we were sure about our measurements, and Luke successfully finished work with generator, we started to cut and drill.

It didn’t take too long time before locals got involved. Towards the end of the day they got more and more involved and were lined up to assist with drilling and spanning. The chairman of the Water Committee was very engaged as well as technicians who are normally in charge of maintaining the plant. That showed us how much community appreciated that they have this water supply system. We got lot of attention from kids, and they were very helpful also. They were helping carrying beams, bolts, etc. In the beginning looking at us shy but couldn’t resist the curiosity a young local woman helped us with drilling.

At 13:00 we had a brake and a lunch (fried tilapia and chapatti) prepared by locals. By this time weather changed and it started to be really hot. Valentin form (FF) was very creative and very fast installed a sunshade for us by using some bolts, rope and canvas.

We continued working from 14:00 until 17:00.

Except small bruises and light sunburns we didn’t have any other issues.

On the way back to the hotel we sow some elephants.

We had a debrief at 21:00 and Andreas (FF) introduced some stress management techniques to us.

Agnes from Fontes Foundation commented: "Although everyone was very exhausted at the end of the day, everybody was just smiling all the time."

True :-), it was a wonderful day fulfilled by meaningful work.


DAY 1 - 5TH MAY 

By IUG participant - Amita Khan

Community meeting with IUG members and Fontes Foundation. 

Community meeting with IUG members and Fontes Foundation. 

Fontes Foundation and Engineers Without Borders (EWB) went to Kashaka to undertake an assessment of the social and technical situation in the village. The team was divided into two groups with four and five members. One group looking at the social aspects and the other the more technical. 

Before leaving for the village we had a morning briefing about how to conduct an assessment and how to write a report. In the evening, both teams had a presentation of their results, so that everyone got a general idea of the situation in Kashaka. In addition to the assessments, a community meeting was held to inform the villagers.

The village has a political structure with a board of six members; chairman, vice chairman, secretary, treasurer, defense manager and committee member. The source of income is mainly fishing; nevertheless other businesses such as small shops and a hairdresser can be found. The village has a health center with a motorcycle as an ambulance, if there is need for a hospital. The primary school in Kashaka has many students until fifth grade where many quit. The students quit because of inadequate income and lack of motivation.

Currently the village has a water system that was installed by Fontes a couple of years ago. Today the main problems with the water system are:

  • The temporarily water intake due to the water level rising in the lake by over 2m in 10 years. 
  • Problems with the electrical supply to the pump because of an unstable generator and the availability of fuel

The teams  being put in a situation without knowing what to expect made it difficult to make an exact plan of how to collect the needed data, and the initial plans were changed. People were very helpful and gave the necessary information. However, some of the information given was contradicting and therefore a question had to be asked in many different ways. Many important aspects were found, however more research has to be done to get an even better understanding of the situation.

A collaboration with Fontes Foundation in Uganda.