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The First Drop

The rain has come! If there’s anything needed more than clean, safe drinking water, it’s a good downpour.

The rainy season in Uganda usually starts in August, but the country has been going through a year-long drought that has ruined crops and driven prices up, causing people to conserve on even their most basic needs.

One kilo of sugar went from 1,500 shillings (around 60 cents) to 4,000 shillings ($1.70) almost overnight. Large families usually use a kilo per day, one person tells me. And when the household income is 275,000 shillings ($100) per month, the increased cost is a huge burden.

“If we don’t use sugar in porridge, children won’t eat it,” says Pauline, a high school agriculture teacher. “So older people have been going without.”

Going without is the norm in the rural countryside. People don’t have cars. They don’t splurge on luxury items, such as shoes that cost 30,000 shillings ($12). They don’t go out to dinner — and some go without eating all day.

Subsistance farming dominates places such as Mulajje, where we have been staying for more than a week. Without rain, these farmers cannot plant their crops.

But with the falling rain comes hope.

“If it keeps raining like this, I’ll be able to plant my seedlings,” says Gonzaga, a seminary student. “Water is life.”

–Laura Watilo Blake