sherilee harper

EcoHealth Research with Indigenous Communities

Indigenous Maternal Health Research in Uganda

Written by Emma Windfeld, Research Assistant

Kate Patterson, a PhD student at the University of Guelph, is completing her thesis on maternal health among Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. Kate and three research assistants—Julia Bryson, Mackenzie Wilson, and Emma Windfeld—are conducting fieldwork in Buhoma, where they will spend a total of five weeks. When they arrived in Buhoma two weeks ago they were welcomed into the “Monkey House,” which they are very happy to call home for their time here. The Monkey House is a quiet and welcoming accommodation built on a hill above Bwindi Community Hospital. It is named after the mischievous red-tailed monkeys that scamper around the roof and swing through the trees that surround the house, and that occasionally cause a stir by fighting with the chickens that roam the backyard. Kate, Julia, Mackenzie, and Emma often enjoy working on the back porch but have to be careful that the monkeys don’t snatch their pens or phones.

For the past two weeks here in Buhoma, the four researchers have traveled by car or on foot to nearby communities in Uganda’s Kanungu District to gather maternal health data through surveys of the local women. Half of each week is spent in Batwa settlements and half is spent in Bakiga settlements. The Batwa are an Indigenous people who lived as hunter-gatherers in the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest until they were evicted by the government two decades ago. The Bakiga are the local inhabitants of the Kanungu district. Two core Ugandan Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change (IHACC) team members from Makerere University, Grace Asaasira and Phiny Smith, have been instrumental partners. In addition to helping with the community surveys, Grace and Phiny have helped the Canadian researchers get to know the local area and shared a lot of interesting conversations about cultural similarities and differences. Overall, the fieldwork has been progressing successfully so far and everyone is looking forward to the next three weeks of working with the communities.

At the Monkey House, Kate, Julia, Mackenzie, and Emma have enjoyed sharing yummy meals, stimulating conversations, and fun movie nights with the doctors and nurses who work or volunteer at Bwindi Community Hospital. On their days off, the four researchers have gone gorilla trekking and hiking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest with its rolling mountains and lush vegetation. They have also enjoyed a day at one of the many local coffee plantations, where they got to learn about coffee making from picking the beans to drinking the freshly roasted brew.

 

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