Tracing our roots: Interview with Alex Ruhunda, the ingenious brain behind KRC formation.
Alex is the founding Director of Kabarole Research and Resource Centre which works with thousands of grassroots families and organisations in Uganda. At the commemoration of KRCs 20 years of doing research, advocacy and community development, John Murungi, KRCs news editor, caught-up with the NGO guru and businessman, turned politician to trace KRCs history. Below are excerpts from the interview
John: Honourable, thank you for accepting to talk to us amidst your tight schedule. The KRC journey that began 20 years ago seems to be getting to fruition. How has the journey been?
Alex: When I look back 20 years ago (1996), I feel humbled that the casual meeting that began in a tiny room at Livingstone Hall, Makerere University, has now epitomised into a fully-fledged NGO operating in tens of districts in Uganda and supporting numerous community interventions in the Rwenzori Region of Western Uganda. It is a dream I harboured after seeing how marginalised our region was.
When I called my other colleagues with whom I was serving in the leadership of Kabarole Students Association, we agreed to start a vocational centre, but when we approached our patron, Fr. Albert Byaruhanga (RIP), he advised us to start a research centre since there was a research gap in our region. My colleagues whom I started with included, John Rwibasira, Judith Bamuturaki, Tracy Kajumba and Sarah Murungi.
John: So, you started just like that?
Alex: Not at all. The journey was not simple. As young students just about to complete our studies, we didn’t even have a cent to our name. But with determination and modest facilitation from Fr Albert (RIP), we managed to come back home (Kabarole) upon completion of our courses and start-from scratch. Our patron (Fr Albert) guaranteed us at Fort Portal Diocese Social Services Department for us to be given rent on credit in one of the Diocesan Houses. We entered the office without furniture! It was until after sometime that we got some few chairs and a desk.
John: But with this kind of back ground how did you manage getting entrusted with bigger assignments?
Alex: As I told you, without Fr Albert, we wouldn’t have made any headway. It is through his vast connections that we got our first major research on girl child education from SNV. This was later followed by the MTN market research. As you know the rest is history. We went on to attract funding from donors like Hivos, DED, DFID, GTZ, GAA, Bread for the World, Obumu, Kwataniza, MC Knight Foundation, Broederlijk Delen, Rabobank. Later on, we got DFID, European Union and many others. On this note I would like to give mention to one Mr. Maurice Barnes whose European connections got us to partner with most of the donors.
John: What would you count as KRC’s biggest achievements during your leadership .
Alex: As KRC, we pioneered the adaptation of Participatory Action Learning Systems and the Poverty Resource Monitoring Tool (PRMT) as sustainable and empowering systems for action learning. We also put emphasis on capacity building and training of grassroots communities for economic, social and environmental sustainability-as well as leadership mobilisation through engagements with leaders at various levels. I can also talk of the empowerment of staff as one of my biggest achievements when I was at KRC. That’s why when I decided to join politics, I was not worried on whom to leave as the director.
John: Your last word.
Alex: I am very happy that KRC is taking seriously the social investment aspect. As the Chairperson of the investment committee of KRC, I want to work with KRC management to make KRC 102 FM, one of the biggest radio stations in the Country. As we celebrate 20 years of KRC, I would also like to salute the KRC Alumni who despite moving on to other institutions they have kept raising the KRC flag high. These include; Mr. Richard Busiinge, Mr. Andrew Bahemuka, Miss Ednah Karamagi, Miss Lydia Muchodo and Mr. Asiimwe Robert. I cannot forget appreciating the KRC Board Members with whom I served both as ED and now a Board Member.
“When we started KRC, we were young without any experience but we had a will to go back home and cause a change where other graduates shunned working upcountry. It was not easy to start from scratch, but we always had the support and encouragement of Fr. Albert Byaruhanga (RIP). To date, KRC is one of the most vibrant research and development institutions in the region, and it’s such a pleasure to see it create solutions to development challenges but also creating employment in the region. The capacity and credibility of KRC should be able to advance its influence to national and international levels”.