Saturday, November 28, 2009

let the holidays begin!

This year, make some hot chocolate and cuddle up with One Mango Tree - shop all our great new products online!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

santa comes to kampala - one mango tree trunk show!

Special Uganda Event!

You're invited to an exclusive
One Mango Tree Holiday Trunk Show

When? Thursday, 3 December 2009, 7:00 - 10:00 pm

Where? Muyenga (directions provided with RSVP, see below)

Enjoy holiday music, drinks and snacks as you shop One Mango Tree's products (including our new handmade, 100% organic prints) and support artisans in Northern Uganda. We'll also be unveiling a new series of paintings for sale by Ugandan artist Kizito Maria Kasule. All attendees will receive a special holiday gift from One Mango Tree.

Please RSVP for this event no later than 27 November, to and you will receive a detailed map.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CONTEST: help us name our new organic prints!

We need your help! We have four beautiful new prints coming out this holiday season. They're our first run from Chui Arts, a workshop in Kampala. The cloth is 100% organic Ugandan cotton, and each piece is hand-dyed and skillfully printed with our unique designs.

We can't wait to get the new products into your hands, but first we need names for our prints!

Please check out the prints below, and send an email to with your recommended name. Please don't forget to include the Print # (below) with your suggested name. Winners will receive a Weekender Bag in the print they named. Get creative and spread the word!

Print 1

Print 2

Print 3

Print 4

Monday, November 9, 2009

creating opportunities

women at One Mango Tree training at Bobi IDP camp in 2008, left

This past week, International Organization for Migration (IOM) released their Labor Market Analysis for four districts in Northern Uganda. The Analysis illustrates the many challenges facing the region as it tries to rebuild after more than twenty years of conflict. A primary impetus for the report was to address the poverty trap that so often occurs for ex-combatants upon return to civilian life.

One Mango Tree's work is at the very heart of this analysis. The report features a case study on One Mango Tree as an example for turning frustration into opportunity. Northern Uganda is rife with vocational training programs, but IOM's Analysis (and earlier reports) found that there was a serious disconnect between the training and actual employment. Many young men and women would receive months of training in a particular trade, but then no capital or opportunity to translate that skill into a steady and reliable income.

One Mango Tree stepped in to fill that gap, creating jobs and continuous on-the-job training for women in Northern Uganda, many of whom benefited from vocational trainings but were simply lacking work.

We recently received an in-kind grant from IOM as a part of their USAID funding, to take on ten referrals for training and employment. That training will begin later this month, and we plan to partner with IOM as we continue to grow.

IOM's Labor Market Analysis was funded by USAID and UNDP. To learn more, download the full report here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

where'd you get those beads?

Actually, they're seeds. Our Jewelry Collection is an eco-friendly selection of necklaces crafted from natural materials. Our beads are actually seeds collected from the bush surrounding Gulu Municipality. Wawoto Kacel artisans earn extra income by gathering the seeds and bringing them in for production. Like any natural materials, the seeds are seasonal.

After collection, the seeds are inspected and then drilled to make room for the cord used to make our necklaces. Even our necklace closures are crafted form seeds-turned-beads.

Have you heard of the famous Jacaranda trees lining the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa? They shower beautiful purple blooms on the streets during Jacaranda season. Our Jacaranda Blooms Necklace is made from the unique seed pod left behind after the flowers fall.

Other seed varieties include Eucalyptus and Mahogany, and others are known only by their local names - like Kilara - pictured above left (Kilara Spiral) and Lajok Ocol (Ebony Strands). Our Moonlit Nile Necklace (right) combines all different varieties with the sparkle of glass seed beads.

Learn more about the artisans who make our Jewelry Collection here.

artisans: wawoto kacel

kilara spiral necklace, $12 (left)

This fall we added a gorgeous new line of jewelry to One Mango Tree. All of the pieces incorporate seeds, cord and recycled materials, creating a unique look you won't find anywhere else. So, where did we find this beautiful jewelry? In a small shop on a dusty and otherwise empty street in a tucked away corner of Gulu.

Each piece in our Jewelry Collection is made by a local cooperative called Wawoto Kacel. The group is based in Gulu District, and employs about 160 members working on a variety of crafts. Like our tailors, the members of Wawoto Kacel have been negatively affected by the war in Northern Uganda. Many are disabled, single mothers or widows, and many of the members are also HIV+. Wawoto Kacel, which means "walking together" in Acholi, is an income-generating project that is part of a larger effort by Comboni Samaritans, an Italian NGO that has been present in Gulu for over ten years. Wawoto Kacel is now entirely run by Ugandan staff, and its members earn an income for the sale of their craft work, which is sold locally and for export, and also receive complimentary health care at the Comboni clinic.

wawoto kacel artisan working on beading (left)

Comboni Samaritans also offers additional outreach and programs to benefit the members and the surrounding community. The cooperative includes several sections. We currently purchase from their jewelry section, but they also do weaving, banana fiber note cards and nativities, embroidery, and hand-dyed fabrics, and tailoring.

Friday, November 6, 2009

road trip: organic herb farm

It'd been a while since my first visit to Happy Herbs - the 100% organic herb farm on the shores of Lake Victoria where I buy dried herbs for One Mango Tree eye pillows. We were running low on our two scent varieties - energize (lemon balm, lemon grass, spearmint and peppermint) and relax (lavender, lemon balm, marjoram). The farm is on the road to Entebbe, so after dropping Zach and Anna at the airport, I took the bumpy road to meet with Ibrahim, the head gardener, to mix up some bags to carry up to Gulu.

I arrived following a rainy season shower, with deep blue-gray clouds on the horizon, and the overgrown driveway to the garden filled with pools of opaque orange water. The garden's paths wind in and out of tropical foliage, still dripping from the recent shower. I noticed a sprawling vegetable garden, with staked lima beans, beets and lettuces. Several plots filled with weeds - keeping the soil nutrient-rich for the next planting of herbs. I could hear the waves on the shore below - a garden on the lake (rows of herbs under tropical palms, right). When I got to the drying house, Ibrahim was just arriving - riding on a bicycle with his gumboots.

The drying house is lined with brightly colored buckets labeled using masking tape (Ibrahim, below, in the storage room). It reads like a giant-sized, encyclopedic spice rack: lemon basil, sage, cinnamon basil, rosemary, thyme, chamomile, etc. etc. etc. All varieties dried and also powdered for herbal remedies. Four ladies sat at a table with baskets of rosemary, picking the needles from their stems.

Ibrahim and I got down to business spreading out the herbs for our eye pillows on the table, carefully scooping handfuls and bringing them to our noses to measure the scent.

"Ah, the mint is too strong. Add more lemon grass," he suggested.

Happy Herbs was started by Marion Boenders. Her other occupation is running the Wagagai Clinic. Wagagai is a huge greenhouse, exporting cuttings to Europe. The Clinic serves the workers and surrounding community. But really, Marion's pride and joy is the organic herb garden. She showed up while Ibrahim and I were packing the herbs, and we headed off to have some lemon cake and herbal tea (which she sells locally in Kampala). She added chamomile to mine to "chill me out."

...perhaps we should consider adding chamomile to the next round of Relax Eye Pillows. I certainly left Happy Herbs feeling, well...happier.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

what is an IDP camp?

IDP is an acronym - it stands for "internally displaced persons." Most people are familiar with the term "refugee," and IDP is similar. An internally displaced person is someone who is forced to flee their home. Unlike refugees, they remain within their country's borders.

During the conflict in Northern Uganda, two million people were forced to leave their homes and resettle in camps - now called "IDP camps." The idea was that bringing people from their villages to these camps would better enable the government to provide protection and services. The conditions in these camps, which were never adequate, deteriorated drastically over the course of the conflict. At its height, almost the entire Acholi population in Northern Uganda lived in camps - lacking food security, jobs and protection.

After signing a cease fire and years of peace discussions in Juba, people began to feel more confident and move back to their villages. Resettlement is now a large concern in the region, as people return to villages with a lack of water points, roads, schools, and clinics - all destroyed by the war.

Many of One Mango Tree's tailors are from IDP camps - namely Unyama and Bobi, where we held a tailor training program in 2008 (photo, right).

To learn more about IDPs in Uganda, or to learn more about the conflict in Northern Uganda, check out some of these great online resources:

Francis Deng's Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement - outlining the definition of IDPs
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre: Uganda (now estimates 710,000 IDPs remaining)
Resolve Uganda - great for advocacy efforts and updated reporting from the region
Enough Project - another great project raising awareness and advocating to end genocide and crimes against humanity

photos by Glenna Gordon


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