Group Visit During Mission 2022

With over 149 million stunted children in the world, according to UNICEF, there is little time to waste. GlobalRise works with communities that are passionate about addressing this “human affliction” – extremely poor families who desperately want to rise above generational poverty.

We are focusing on three areas: Subsaharan Africa, the only area in the world where the rate of stunting is growing; India, hosting the largest population of stunted kids on the planet (63 million); and, Guatemala, the only red stunting zone in the Americas per USAID. Building Digital Food Systems in these areas by 2030, as demonstration platforms for government, we want to provide a new vision for helping extremely poor mountainous communities.

Hearing about our work, delegates from HIMSS (Health Information Management Systems Society) and BMS (Bristol Meyers Squibb) decided to visit our site in Kasese, Uganda. For 2 weeks we hosted an amazing group, showing them the mountain jungles where we work and explaining our vision of the power of a digital food system.

Our journey began at Christalis Home, an orphanage, where we held “Digital Health Day”. All of the children’s medical records, and some staff, were reviewed. GlobalRise was already tracking child growth with anthropometrics so this activity helped to ascertain progress. Karen Salazar, RD, oversaw our work, assisted by Sylvia Klinger, DBA, a board member of GlobalRise, and other orphanage personnel. Elen Blochin, MD, provided clinical reviews of the children and this kicked off our process for data collection with personal health records, managed by Dana Castro, Executive Director of HIMSS Institute. Using a computer, she tested PocketPatientMD’s beta offline health record – yes, we were one of the first to use it! And it worked perfectly! (Thank-you Mark Wein!)

While the clinicians were busy, a family traveling within our group provided games and books to the kids. They were so excited! Groups were huddled in different areas learning new games with Alex, Maya and Ian (father, daughter, son). It was a wonderful experience for everyone to share with each other.

The following day the group met with a local peace-maker and institution builder. Dr Nathaniel Walemba founded a secondary school, the 4-story Kasese Better Living Center and the recently licensed Rwenzori International University. He explained how critical it was to have a local university versus traveling by bus for 8 hours on weekends trying to complete a degree. He also showed us an adjacent property, he is angling to purchase if funds come in, that will help the University with space and a new innovation and workforce development center. The story behind the University is truly inspiring – it is a home-grown university where funding is never guaranteed yet they press on. Their motto: together we will!

The next day started early. We had an eight-hour drive ahead of us to visit Kisoro, located near the border of southwest Uganda and DRC. Here, Alex Morozov, MD, (who was with BMS and brought his family), arranged a group meeting with Doctors for Global Health. Working in the area for 20 years, this amazing team of clinicians mentored by Dr Gerald Paccione who leads Doctors for Global Health Uganda from Montefiore Hospital in NYC, are training local doctors using a rigorous, evidence-based community program. The effort scales the impact of Kisoro District Hospital deep into the surrounding hills and is superbly executed with field teams using strong documentation. What if this program was in Kasese?

After a fun-filled weekend our group met with leaders at Kasese Hospital to do a site visit and hear about their current healthcare challenges. We also met with the new Mayor who dropped everything to take us to Kilembi Mines Hospital – a skeleton of what it should be. During the pandemic heavy rains turned to flash floods that swept large boulders into the hospital complex, destroying buildings and human life. The hospital was moved to another location where they lack beds, equipment and supplies.Next day: we took a walk up the mountains to show how Bakonzo live. Children gathered around us with no shoes and clothes that barely fit to play. Arriving at our work site, we showed how we are training the locals, our materials, our soap making program and more. The site, known locally as the Mbalhamia Healing Forest, is located on 2 acres in the Rwenzori foothills and is being prepared to host our drone platform. Here, we are currently conducting Village Trainings in nutrition, soil fertility and financial planning; it was so great to show them where we work and how we operate.

Finally, everyone took a small plane to Kampala, capital of Uganda, to visit Baylor Uganda, a project of Baylor University and BMS. We met with the lead team at Baylor and decided there was so much in common that in 2023, we intend to join hands to apply for a grant…and to potentially engage in other projects too. It was a substantive visit and we look forward to working with the dynamic team at Baylor Uganda!

We also visited Kyabirwa Surgical Center that is located in an inconspicuous setting near Jinja – making it a bit hard to find! This actually is done on purpose – the facility is intended to blend in with the fabric of daily life in this jungle location. It appears to be the brain child of Dr Michael Marin, who is head of the surgical department at Mt Sinai Hospital in NYC. The center is located in an internet-enabled location, (they dug a trench to a main internet trunk running through the area). Donning surgical scrubs, our group learned how advanced technology is being used to treat patients; for example, doctors in Uganda can show doctors in NYC what they are doing in real time with a HoloLens supported by Microsoft. Local doctors instantly gain valuable and life-saving expertise during surgery. The building is environmental-friendly, uses solar panels for electricity and made with local materials. Personnel are local including the surgeons

In conclusion, the torrent of activity we experienced in two weeks was simply amazing – our eyes were opened to new resources in the area evenas we opened the group’s eyes to the plight of the poorest! Learning about the work in Kisoro and Jinja invigorated our team and truly amplified our mission.

Check out the hospital in a rural area near Jinja here:

University Inauguration

First of its kind among the Bakonzo of western Uganda

Ugandan Ministers of ICT and Chief of Defense Forces attended the inauguration of the first licensed university in Kasese District – Rwenzori International University. This is a milestone for the community! GlobalRise is on the university’s board of trustees.

Kasese District is situated in the southwestern area of Uganda and is close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s known for safaris at Queen Elizabeth National Park and other nearby parks, as well as for the Rwenzori Mountains where trekking is offered to visit Africa’s only glaciers. It’s steep, hilly terrain makes development hard and thus the area suffers from extreme poverty with farmers making less than $1.90/day.

“Until this time, our people had to go all the way into Kampala to get a university degree,” Dr. Nathaniel Walemba said during opening remarks. Founder of Rwenzori International University, he was recently installed as its Vice Chancellor. “That has now changed,” he added.

“Research, research, research is what this university must produce,” said the Honorable Geoffrey Kabbyanga, Minister of ICT. “Research and innovation are key for this area, to help its development.” He challenged the new University to bring forward ideas and to develop an innovation center of excellence.

As part of the Digital Food System, GlobalRise seeks to build a Center for knowledge transfer and workforce training at the University. This will ensure that local people are trained to manage the food system. Spearheading a university-government-NGO alliance at the Center, GlobalRise hopes to bring ideas that the government of Uganda urgently needs today in food and health improvement and digital equity.

Today, the University is already helping to fulfill the community co-created vision to “Kick Stunting Out of Kasese!” by deploying a “Digital Food System.” GlobalRise is sending one of its trainers for ICT training at the new University. Read more about the University at its new website:

Meet Emmanuel and Michael!

Ever since 1998, Emmanuel has been working for the betterment of his community. He is a champion for saving indigenous knowledge, skill development of smallholder farmers, building a farmer coop with a micro-financing component and so much more.

When we met Emmanuel, he had already built a mountain center on 2 acres of land that had a coffee pilot with plant starts, a jackfruit drying program and a tree farm with a variety of medicinal and other plants. We spoke to him about our Vision and together, we began planning almost automatically…it was like magic!

Mbalhamia Healing Forest

Striving to help the local people, Emmanuel pulled together the people and resources that we needed to implement our survey and CNP. As part of our broader vision to build the areas first Digital Food System, his mountain center will become the site of our first prototype for Village Training, drone crop transport, implementing personal health records that will monitor progress with stunting and more.

Emmanuel, and his younger colleague Michael, were the first to be trained in our CNP and are continuing to roll out the new program.

Welcome on board, Emmanuel and Michael! We are so grateful and honored to be working with an educated field team that are offering unyielding commitment and support to the people of Kasese.

Digital Health Week in the Mountain Jungles

digital health week in mountain jungles

One of the most exciting things about non-profits is working with people who share a similar heart-felt cause. Discussions become so dynamic and meaningful! This is what happened when we started to bring in groups from HIMSS…and then BMS and others.

But what does “digital health” have to do with “digital food systems”? What does it have to do with better nutrition?

At the very foundation of health is good nutrition. Without it, we see health conditions that can take life away from kids. Acute and chronic malnutrition is a health condition. These conditions can be managed with digital health tools. In fact, we see the application of digital health in the mountain jungles as a cornerstone for healthy transformation of malnourished kids.

So when GlobalRise presented the keynote at HIMSS22’s Global Health Equity Symposium and met the VP of Digital Health at Bristol Meyers Squibbs, we got pretty excited! BMS is looking at global health equity, digital health and projects that can help to drive discovery in this emerging arena. Our conversations lead to the convergence of activity between HIMSS Institute, BMS and GlobalRise in a powerful way! In fact, it lead to scoping of a new Digital Health Week with participation by HIMSS, BMS and GlobalRise in Kasese, Uganda, during our Mission2022.

With HIMSS and BMS, we are conducting consultations with three hospitals in areas of low resources, like Kasese, as well as a unique surgical hospital, supported by Mt Sinai Medical Center in NYC, that offers oncology services and more. As part of this we are consulting with Kisoro District Hospital, a project of Montifore Medical Center. We are also reviewing medical initiatives at Rwenzori International University, Bugema University and Makarere University in the Kampala area.

As we learn, we will make better decisions about how to position our multi-thematic Digital Food System to sustainably lift hundreds of thousands out of disease and poverty in southwestern Uganda…and beyond!

Check Out Our Other Recent Blogs:

Drones or Donkeys?

drones or donkeys

In what could be one of the most significant failures to improve the life of mountainous small holder farmers in Kasese, the use of donkeys was recommended to help farmers move their crops down to formal markets.

Why donkeys?

Today, most of the small holders in the mountains are women. They walk down the mountains with their crops for 3-5 hours, baby on back, to sell whatever they can carry. This is one key reason why mountainous families, over 150,000 households, are locked into poverty today.

The researchers asked: why not send in donkeys? It makes a lot of sense. (By the way, finding this research was hard. It may not get much publicity because the project failed. But with this failure we may find foundational concepts that can ultimately succeed.)

Candidly, we never knew this project existed when we were granted a visit to the Mayor’s office. “Mayor,” we pleaded, “we think a fundamental development issue in the mountains is nutrition and to address this means somehow improving household income.” If you look at the research, improving nutrition and income always go hand in hand. In other words, a nutrition program is typically unsustainable if incomes aren’t improved.

The Mayor agreed. After convening two strategic meetings, his office concluded that steep terrain is one of the deep issues that is blocking socioeconomic development in the mountains. He was aware of the donkey project. “They ended up eating them for food,” he said. The project failed. The people are hungry.

When that failed the group met again and determined that it might be possible to implement “trams” at various points in the Rwenzori mountain range, however, this proposal is very expensive, ecologically insensitive and was off to a slow start. So when we mentioned using drones, the Mayor was intrigued. We explained the platform and our early ideas of how this could work.

Drones…Not Donkeys!

Today we are working with a group of social visionaries to develop a cargo drone platform, linked to mobile payments, that mountain small holders can use. Its sort of like an “uber in the sky” on a “pay as you go” basis. Before onboarding the platform, mountain small holders must go to Village Trainings in nutrition, soil fertility and financial planning…so the link between better income and nutrition improvement is sealed.

GlobalRise is building a Digital Food System that will deploy cargo drones for food, medicine, soil inputs and more. We are also implementing digital health tools that can monitor the journey of children in the mountains from stunted to healthy!

The “system of systems” will be proven and we hope that it will eventually be handed off to the government via a PPP (public private partnership) and scaled. This will require workforce development in UAV aviation, digital health, food and information technology and much more!

To enable this, one of the GlobalRise team is a board member of Rwenzori International University in Kasese, helping them to create a Tech Innovation Center for student training.

Click here to learn more about our program:

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Training in the Mountain Jungles

training in kasese mountain jungles

We are so happy to be back in the field for the first time since the pandemic! The town of Kasese is moving forward…new roads, buildings, a newly licensed university and much more! The resilience of the people is impressive!

But what do we find in the mountains? Its as if we never left…

They live in the same baked mud homes that are falling apart; kids don’t have shoes and wear clothes that don’t fit; water pumps may not work after walking miles to use them; and livestock is secured inside the home, which increases the chances to mix feces with food.

Families are indescribably poor…its tough to live on 82 cents a day!

If kids are to thrive, households must learn about nutrition using foods that grow here; AND, household finances must improve. Most households are women-lead and farm on 1.5 acres. But they need help moving crops across the many steep hills to the market in town.

Imagine walking 3-5 hours to get to the market…one can only carry so much!

This is a big reason they’re locked into poverty…and why GlobalRise is building a Digital Food System! This “system of systems” combines nutrition training with a drone crop transport system, linking mountainous poor to formal markets. Working with the community to “Kick Stunting Out of Kasese!”, the system will raise incomes using a cashless system – an “Uber in the sky” – that automatically credits funds to their mobile phones! What can this do?

Transform life for hundreds of thousands of kids in the Rwenzori Mountains!

Join us!

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