The Saemaul Undong Movement of Community led development comes to Uganda

Jun 30, 2015

H.E Ambassador PARK Jong-Dae explains the Saemaul Undong Model to development partners, central & local government officials and members of the media during the Saemaul Undong Forum held in Kampala, Uganda.

Kampala - In the 1970s, the Republic of Korea started a movement that changed its rural area. The movement known as the Saemaul Undong was intended to encourage communities in rural areas to take charge of their development.

The country was already industrializing at a first rate, however its benefits were only being realised in the urban areas creating a development gap between the urban and rural areas. To bridge this gap, the government started the Saemaul Undong initiative which transformed the rural areas in the 1970s.

Due to its success in rural development, Republic of Korea (RoK) has been keen on spreading the initiative to other developing countries across the globe. It’s for that reason that the RoK is partnering with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to promote the initiative in Uganda.

Introducing the initiative during the  Saemaul Undong Forum, the RoK Ambassador PARK Jong-Dae described it as a self-help movement very much like bulungi-bwansi which had taken root and expanded all over Uganda.

“It is very gratifying for me that Korea is partnering with Uganda and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Saemaul Undong which is a proven successful model of rural development and national transformation, now beginning to be recognised worldwide,” he said.

He added that Saemaul Undong is all about the right mindset, doing away once and for all with the negativities of self-defeatist, dependent mindedness and moving towards the conviction that people themselves can change their own lives and become prosperous based on the spirit of diligence, self-help and cooperation.

Ambassador Jong-Dae also said that Saemaul Undong was about promoting rural development particularly rural agricultural development which Uganda has full potential for.

“I am convinced that Uganda can realise its full potential and we committed to sharing our experiences and working closely with Uganda in rural agricultural development,” he said.

Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie the UNDP Resident Representative and UN Resident Coordinator pointed out that the success of the movement was premised on empowering the poor and most vulnerable, national leadership and ownership and agriculture, which is the main driver for transformation.

“Saemaul Undong majorly focused on community driven development rather than individualised efforts. Therefore, by targeting the poorest and most vulnerable especially women and youth, the initiative has potential to successfully trigger nationwide transformation to deliver tangible and equal benefits for all,” Ms. Eziakonwa-Onochie stated.  

She said that UNDP recognising the importance of this initiative, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Republic of Korea in 2013 to support local development solutions drawing on the experiences of Saemaul Undong.

Through this partnership, the initiative will be piloted by UNDP in six countries globally including Uganda, Rwanda, Vietnam, Bolivia, Lao PDR and Myanmar.

Ms. Eziakonwa-Onochie added that in Uganda, this initiative would be key in helping achieve the goals of the National Development Plan which the UN is supporting under the UN Country Development Assistance Framework, both of which are tied into the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will be launched the United Nations General Assembly in September.     

Also speaking at the forum, the Minister of Local Government Hon. Adolf Mwesige agreed with Ambassador Jong-Dae that the attributes of Saemaul Undong such as “self-help, volunteerism, and diligence for better life for all” were once cherished virtues in Uganda and popularly known as “bulungi bwansi.”

“In the 1950 and 1960’s, most community roads, spring water sources, wells and bridges in Uganda were maintained by communities.  Whilst this spirit still exists in some communities, it has largely disappeared as people commercialized all activities and started to demand payment in return,” Hon. Mwesige stated.

He added that this had been deepened by cultural erosion and new forms of social dynamics such as individualism which has robbed people of the sense of community and volunteerism.

Government etuyambe, meaning government should help us, has become a common language in Uganda,” he said, adding that “the partnership with RoK and UNDP to promote the Saemaul Undong model is timely and will help deepen government’s efforts to promote and revamp these virtues in a decentralized setting.”

The Saemaul Undong Forum was attended by development partners, local government officials from various districts, Central Government officials from various Ministries and members of the media was intended to educate them on the history and benefits of the model.

Saemaul Undong which translates to New Village Movement will be launched on the 10th of July 2015 as the Inclusive and Sustainable New Communities in Uganda (ISNCU) Project in Kabarole district, one of the districts which the movement will be piloted. It will also be piloted in Luuka district, Eastern Uganda and Maracha district in West Nile.

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