8 Ugandan Life Hacks

The internet is abuzz with listicles meant to make everyday life a little easier. And boy do we need it. Today’s world is one seriously complicated place. I mean, this showed up on my Facebook feed today:

Pretty apt, I’d say

Here in Uganda, we’ve always been good at efficiently using local resources and resisting the tide of consumerism. I’ve written about it here as regards sustainability, and here in reference to appropriate technology.

Today I’ve got a whole new collection of Ugandan life techniques that are totally sustainable, appropriate, and make everyone’s lives easier and more fun. Here are my 8 Ugandan life hacks. Enjoy!

1. The neighbourhood fruit and veg lady ensures we have fresh produce just steps from our door:

Uganda small business
Look! It’s Mary!

Who needs a fridge? I’d rather have that smile.

2. The ol’ blade wedged in the branch helps us harvest our banana leaves:

Ugandans steam fresh, organic produce in banana leaves to give it a depth of taste you won’t find anywhere else. Not a life hack, but a way of life.

3. Household DIY:

Fred makes his own soap

Why buy liquid soap, when you can listen to a radio program, attend a training, and make 20 litres of it in an afternoon. Collect a few empty mineral water bottles, fill them – and you’ve got stock for retail trade. Instant business.

4. Reusing empty sacs to make baskets:


Baskets like this (and those on the header photo) are used as decoration, to present bride-price, to hold household items, and even as serving dishes for our guests.

5. The plate stand to keep dishes clean and dry:

The sun acts as an extra sanitizing agent

6. Pay as you go airtime and electricity:

No bills. No contract. No debt.

Ugandans buy scratch cards to load minutes onto phones and electrical meters. We only buy what we need. Because of the diversity in our marketplace, consumers can literally buy 10 cents or $100 worth of phone or electrical credit at a time.

7. The baby on the back:

Hands-free quiet baby

Attachment parenting without the consumerism.

8. The hand made toy:

Store bought ain’t got nothing on this

Old coat hangers, some bungee cord, 2 pencils, and a stick. And a heap of Ugandan innovation and motivation! (Local hand made toys deserve a blog post of their own, don’t they?)

There you have it. 8 ways regular Ugandans hack their lives. Could any of these tips make your life just a little sweeter? Ugandans, got anything to add?

Want to learn more about real life in Uganda? Think about volunteering with The Real Uganda. Our volunteers live and work with regular people and learn new ways to approach life. We want volunteers interested in giving their time and stepping out of their ordinary routine.


24 thoughts on “8 Ugandan Life Hacks

  1. I love your photos and a fascinating insight into day to day life. So many people are fed up with the endless consumerism and the waste that goes on in modern life, but (and I include myself here) don’t really know what to do about it. I will look forward to following your story here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sarah. I agree. I’ve been in Uganda for 12 years and cannot believe the waste of some visitors. It’s so easy to change when immersed in it, but so shocking when you realize the whole world isn’t joining in!


  2. This is such an insightful post about life in Uganda. I love love love buying fruits and vegetables from the local market. I am in Thailand at the moment and I prefer supporting the local farmers rather than buying produce from the big supermarkets. And homemade soap? How interesting! I wonder what you would need to make it. Thank you for sharing – this was really insightful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Looks like a great place. People appreciating every little thing they have and making the most of it, so different to the UK. Hopefully one day I can visit šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Such a great post! How awesome to live such a simple life. I love all the fruit in foreign countries, they are truly fresh and not processed by a corporation before coming to you. And those basket! My 4 year old has a collection of baskets from all over the world, she would love these!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just yes. I’m so glad you highlighted the consumerism angle. That’s something I’ve really been hyper aware of since I started nomading. You need so much less stuff than you think you do. Coming from the U.S., I’ve noticed that even Europe (which I thought would be way more similar to America!!!) is way less consumeristic than us. Uganda’s a totally different ballgame. Thanks for providing some insight into life there through this witty article.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love their smiles! Mary just brighten up my day.
    Also, I am super interested what are you making in banana leaves? In Mexico, they also use banana leaves or corn to make tamales, but that’s the only example I am familiar of.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We steam all our food in banana leaves: banana, yams, sweet potatoes, cassava, etc. We steam smoked meat, chicken and a peanut sauce inside (as a separate dish) as well. Banana leaves are central to Ugandan cooking. Which is why we need to harvest even the leaves out of reach.


  7. It always surprises me how efficient people actually can be. We are way too spoiled here in the ‘west’, although I make sure to recycle as much as possible etc, they take it to a whole other level, which I adore to be honest. I love the smile of that lady by the way, she seems like such a real caring person.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A most interesting and informative post. Thank you. Pay as you go electricity is an interesting concept. We take electricity for granted! I visited Uganda once a couple of years ago and was really impressed with the level of education of most of the people I met. Look forward to learning more about Uganda.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really enjoy reading about real, everyday life in Uganda on your blog! It always entertains and inspires me. I think we forget so much, how attached we are to ‘things’. Seeing how resourceful these people are on a daily basis is a great motivator to do more myself! I love those baskets they make too! Beautiful!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much! Happy to hear about your inspiration and motivation. People seriously need to stop buying stuff. It’s killing our environment. And, while manufacturing is creating jobs in developing economies, those jobs are often rather crappy….


  10. Love this post. It shows Uganda how it really is. As you say, for those people these are not life hacks, it’s their reality. It’s amazing how creative people get when they have so little. I think volunteering in a country like that is a real eye-opener for many.

    Liked by 2 people

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