Members of the Okere City community. Photograph: Katumba Badru Sultan/The Guardian
Ojok Okello is transforming his destroyed village into a green town where social enterprises responsibly harness the shea tree
The village of Okere Mom-Kok was in ruins by the end of more than a decade of war in northern Uganda.
Now, just outside Ojok Okello’s living-room door, final-year pupils at the early childhood centre are noisily breaking for recess and a market is clattering into life, as is the local craft brewery, as what has become Okere City begins a new day.
“I think what I’m doing here is radical,” says Okello, who is behind an ambitious project to transform the destroyed village of 4,000 people into a thriving and sustainable town.
Okere City began in January 2019. Its 200 hectares (500 acres) feature a school, a health clinic, a village bank and a community hall that also serves as a cinema, a church and a nightclub.
Electricity is available to all, generated from solar energy – a rarity in the region – and far from the many outbreaks of cholera which were rampant years ago, there is now clean water from a borehole.
Pupils at the school pay half their fees in cash, and the rest in maize, beans, sugar and firewood. The clinic lets people pay their bills in instalments. The local security man wields a spear, an unusual sight in an area where many men idle around as women shoulder most of the paid and unpaid work.
Okello is funding the project from his own pocket. Last year, it cost 200 million Ugandan shillings (about £39,000). The London School of Economics graduate and development expert had worked for several international charities and NGOs but grew disillusioned seeing projects fail because, he says, communities were not involved in decisions about their own future.
Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/mar/03/its-radical-the-ugandan-city-built-on-solar-shea-butter-and-people-power?fbclid=IwAR3bLR_t49qUn1hNFQwVCYOHd530Le2RTYgQZw7ojGOxrs9My_2siQA00h4