“The best experience of my life”: UWE student reflects on his rainwater harvesting research in Uganda

Josh Rogers is a third-year BA (Hons) Geography student at UWE, who travelled to Uganda in the summer of 2015 as part of the UWE Global Water Security Project.

Conducting interviews in Luweero District

My placement to Uganda has undoubtedly been the best experience of my life, to date. Not only was I able to conduct research for my final year dissertation but I was also given the opportunity to observe new cultures and have new, challenging and thought provoking experiences over the three month period. My dissertation, which aims to assess adoption trends of domestic rainwater harvesting in rural central Uganda and thereafter examine hygiene and sanitation practices, was able to develop significantly during the placement and it was thoroughly satisfying to gain invaluable field experience and develop my research techniques before the start of my final year. Moreover, knowing that the work produced could be beneficial to NGOs in Uganda was decidedly humbling and focused my research accordingly.

Uganda was chosen for this research primarily for its climatic conditions and its level of development. I was based in Kampala, the capital city, and travelled into rural areas where possible to conduct research. Coming to Uganda as an individual, as opposed to with an organised trip, provided the placement with an intensive learning experience and a sense of urgency. With no itinerary or structured guide in place, I was required to use my initiative to find contacts, which would ultimately help my research. I do not claim to have become a part of the ‘Ugandan experience’ (nor do I believe in a singular definition of the ‘Ugandan experience’) in such a short time, however, the bonds of friendship and exposure to completely new cultures are what defined the placement. It was the people that I met along the way that allowed my research to flourish and allowed me to feel completely at home in Kampala that made my time special.

P1010492I strongly feel that, due to the empirical nature of my research, I have a greater and more realistic understanding of what field research entails, and I appreciate the challenges and problems that are inevitable in the planning process and in the field.

At this point I must also acknowledge the excellent support given by all involved with the placement at UWE, the Uganda Rainwater Association (URWA), the Busoga Trust, Katosi Women Development Trust and the National Association of Professional Environmentalists. Without the support of these organisations this research would simply not have been possible. In particular, I would like to thank Lorraine De Souza and Dr. Alan Terry at UWE, who were always available to take enquires and to give reassurance and guidance. It would have been nigh impossible to complete this placement without this support and I am incredibly grateful.

The experience that I gained in Uganda has changed my outlook as a human being and as a geographer, whilst playing an integral part in my degree. I would strongly urge any student to take up this opportunity so they can share the wonderful experience. I am so grateful to have been a part of this Programme and I hope my research will have a positive impact on central Uganda’s water security for the future.