Mario Mandaric Expands Ugandan Well Project: Aims for 100 a Year

By 23 January 2022

January 24, 2022 - After an incredibly successful start, celebrated Croatian chef Mario Mandaric aims to expand his Ugandan well project to 100 wells a year.

It all started at a car rental counter in Zagreb.

Boy meets girl. 

Within days, he had convinced her to spend the winter with him in Africa. She suspected that he was probably trafficking people under his cover of digging wells in remote villages in Uganda, she had never been to Africa, and she had a fear of grasshoppers, as we have documented previously on TCN, but she decided to join him. Even though it was grasshopper season. 


Together they would work with Water Help Uganda to donate and dig a well in a remote village in rural Uganda. In order to try and have a bigger impact, celebrated chef Mario Mandaric held a series of charity dinners with Zagreb's only Michelin Star chef, Bruno Vokal from Noel, with one dinner alone raising enough for a new well. Check out one of the meals of my time in Croatia in Michelin Starry Nights in Dubrava as Vokal, Mandaric Cook for Uganda. With Matea Kristic the charming hostess and donation collector, the couple soon had enough for three wells. 


And so off they went...  

To be honest, I feared for Matea. As lovely as she was, she seemed a little frail to endure the challenges of rural Africa, especially with that fear of grasshoppers.

How wrong I was! 

Not only did she overcome her fear of grasshoppers by eating a large portion of them, but she more than got her hands dirty, and she certainly taught the locals how to dance. 


The Imotski Shuffle is now going viral around the villages of Uganda. 


And a small investment can have a huge impact on the lives of village residents, who previously have had to walk for miles, often in swampy terrain which has claimed the lives of many of them, just for the most basic necessity of life - clean water.  

As Mario explained to TCN:


"Building a well has the power not only to save lives but to transform them too! Women and children in Africa walk for hours every day to collect water, often from dangerous and unsanitary sources, and must carry heavy loads of water, all just to fulfill their basic needs.
When you build a well in Uganda, you are liberating these women and children can go to school, crops can be watered and women can learn skills or just take the time to enjoy life with their families!" 


"Most of the kids in the villages have fathers who died by trying to get water from the swamps. This is a high-impact, low-cost initiative, with each well directly impacting about 300 people. We have been overwhelmed not only by the hospitality here, but also by the level of support for the project. From the original plan of our well and the ones from the dinners, we have already completed 14 wells, with three more in progress currently. 


"Now the plan is to build 100 a year and by crushing the prices, so more people can afford to donate the well now. By connecting with the company from Kenya we managed to get the prices of the wells down to 1800 euro each. These now are the cheapest wells in Africa and they're the same quality as they were when they were 5000 euro.


"When you donate a well, you get all the info about the village where the well will be, pictures of it being built, pictures of it in use, and stories of the people who benefit directly from it. Plus the 4 years warranty." 


After a few weeks of experiencing Africa at its rawest, a well-earned break for the couple as they headed to Zanzibar to stay with Croatian tourism legend, Toni Raguz, whose luxury 5-star Baraza Resort and Spa Zanzibar Collection was named in the top 20 beachside hotels in the world, as well as the best in Africa. And Mario brought a little luxury cooking to the table, as part of the project awareness.  

17 wells funded, 83 to go. Are you interested in donating to this great project? If yes you can contact Mario by WhatsApp on +255 772 323 468, via Facebook, or via his website. And if you do donate, think of the Croatian cultural promotion - the Imotski Shuffle could become a global thing. 

And when the couple do return to Zagreb, he will be diving into rather a cool new gourmet project - teaser in Local Knowledge with a Foreign Eye: When Gourmet Visions Collide.