Alex Ongora's story

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The Toshiba CarbonZero Scheme supports the ongoing activities to rehabilitate and maintain boreholes in Uganda. These are mainly boreholes which have fallen into disrepair, denying communities access to safe water and forcing people to boil water to make it safe, thereby contributing to CO2 emissions. Rehabilitation of boreholes removes the time and financial burdens inherent in reliance on unsafe water supplies, thereby unlocking time and funds to be invested in income-generating activities.

The additional household income from these businesses also enables families to guarantee education to their children, thereby supporting their access in the long-term to decent jobs.

Alex Ongora lives in Bung village, which is in Kole district in Northern Uganda. He is 42 years old and he and his wife have 8 children. He recounts how, prior to the rehabilitation of the borehole in 2013, he lacked access to a safe water supply and his family was forced to spend vast amounts of time gathering firewood to boil water to make it safe. This activity would sometimes account for up to 6 hours per day. When responsibilities working in the fields at home didn’t allow time to gather firewood, the family would simply have to drink the unsafe water collected from a local pool, which would constantly cause them to become ill and to spend large amounts of household income on medications. This demonstrates how, in addition to the CO2 caused by the necessity of boiling water, the lack of access to safe water caused immense problems for the family to invest in income-generation, as they would either have to spend large amounts of time that could otherwise be invested in working on gathering firewood, or would have to waste money on medication rather than investing it in productive activities.

Since the repair of the borehole and the arrival of a constant safe water supply, the fortunes of Alex’s family have changed dramatically. The time saved has allowed Alex to begin work on farming chilli peppers on a small scale. This year, he bought several chilli seedlings at 5,000 shillings (£1.06) each, each of which has yielded as much as 2 kilograms of chilli’s, with each kilogram then sold at 12,000 shillings (£2.55). The additional time and money saved from having a safe water supply has therefore allowed Alex to engage in an activity that more than quadruples his money. These funds can be invested in growing the business and supporting the Ongora children’s education. Crucially, it also means that, with the basis of a sustainable micro-business, Alex would be in a position to apply for a micro-loan from one of the providers in Uganda in the coming years, which would allow a substantial growth of his activities and unlock access to training in small business management.

Alex says: “Thank you Toshiba for the ongoing project which is helping us to fight poverty in our family with the time saved from travelling long distances in search of water. My daughter is now also training as a tailor and we feel very positive for the future.”


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