Rural banking targets women farmers
Savings and credit organisations are widely established across Africa, encouraging people to save and providing small loans to those who do. But in Uganda, The Hunger Project, an international organisation, is supporting women-led savings and credit groups to set up rural banks. Six such banks have been recognised by the government, and these banks are now empowering women to improve their food security and fight hunger. Wambi Michael visits a rural bank in Wakiso, some 30 kilometres from Kampala, meeting the bank manager Rose Nanyonga and customer Dorothy Kabajungu. He also hears from Daisy Owomugasho, country director of The Hunger Project in Uganda.
Owomugasho The microfinance programme is part of the epicentre strategy. Once people are mobilised and say, We have a vision, for example to plant five acres or to do this or to do that, to be able to do that credit is an essential component of people's lives if they are to get themselves out of poverty. And the microfinance component is supposed to help communities either grow food or access inputs or access improved seeds or any other thing that they might need. So that is why we look at it as a holistic approach to ending people's hunger and poverty.
Wambi So how do you do it?
Owomugasho We start with the trainings. That phase lasts about two years or more, about two years in a community. And they either say, OK, we are ready now, we are ready to start taking charge. And we build what will come to symbolise the epicentre strategy which is an epicentre building, which has also all those components. We have a community hall, we have a bank. We have a space for a health centre and even a village shop for agricultural inputs. But to be able to access for example the agricultural inputs, if somebody is going to plant and they do not have, they need access to what, to financing. And that means after the two years, once we have built that then we also set up a rural bank.
Wambi Do people form groups?
Owomugasho Within the two years of sensitisation people are also encourage to form groups. Usually groups are from 15 upwards, and these are usually, we encourage women groups but we also have men groups. These come together and they are the ones who can access the bank. But after the two years and once the building is in place, then we also put up committees, where women are the ones who run the bank. We have the board, we have a bank manager, we have the credit officers, we have loan officers, all those are women.
Wambi Why do you focus on women and you are dealing here, addressing hunger in a community which has men and women?
Owomugasho Men are free also to borrow, to form groups and also come and borrow from the bank. But we realise that to empower women they also have to be in charge. They are taught leadership skills. They are taught book-keeping skills, banking skills all those, and they are able to manage the rural banks themselves. Currently we have six recognised rural banks, recognised by the Government of Uganda and they are all managed by women and they are making profits. It is something which empowers the women, they feel like I can chair a meeting, I can determine who gets this loan, we can go out and get the people to pay back in time and all that.
Wambi And from here we are heading to Wakiso district where some of the rural banks are thriving. So we are heading to Wakiso and see what is there.
Wambi I am standing at Wakiso epicentre. Among the offices that I am seeing at the epicentre is a health unit constructed by The Hunger Project. We also have a community hall within this L shaped building and over there I can see Wakiso Women Cooperative Savings Society, which is a rural bank run by women which is one of the few banks that have been recognised by Bank of Uganda. We are entering the manager's office.
Nanyonga Welcome please. I am the manager, I am called Rose Nanyonga.
Wambi This looks to be like a unique bank?
Nanyonga Yes, it is unique, it supports women, especially women engaged in agriculture. It began by mobilising members in the communities, encouraging them to fight their own hunger and poverty and they were giving them small loans. So as they saved for a certain period then their savings together with a grant from The Hunger Project Uganda, they were able to open up this bank. All our members save, all our members have shares, all our members have membership.
Wambi So how many do you have?
Nanyonga We have 1536.
Wambi You say they own shares?
Nanyonga Yes, we encourage them to buy shares because it is the only way of them being part of the bank. The share we use it as, let me say when you are building a house. That brick you are adding on, so that is the share; it is to build the bank. And they get dividends for those shares at every end of the year.
Wambi What impact is the bank having on communities?
Nanyonga Many women have been involved in agriculture. And they are able to buy seeds, they are able to buy tools for their gardens. We have those involved in livestock and we have those involved in businesses.
Wambi You give people out money but is it repaid? What is repayment like here?
Nanyonga For every member to get a loan, we emphasise the member should be in the group first. Because the group trains you, and we begin with small monies. So with the process the member goes on learning. We even emphasise the group collateral. If you take a group as a group, you all must pay. If it all fails then you contribute for that. That has really done good for us, and if the member is not paying it is the group responsibility.
Wambi So from here we are heading to a community to see one of the beneficiaries to find out whether this money is turning around lives of people in these communities.
Wambi With me is Kabajungu Dorothy, one of the borrowers from this bank. Good morning.
Kabajungu Good morning sir.
Wambi And now we want you Dorothy to tell us your own story. So have you benefited from this rural bank?
Kabajungu Definitely I have, because I had my projects, they came and saw them, they were happy and impressed. They gave me that 300,000.
Wambi 300,000, that is around $120, yes.
Kabajungu I used it for poultry. I bought some food for them. They grew up, I sold them. I got some profit and I managed even to pay back their loan. Then, second loan I got 500,000. Again I put it in poultry because costs of food, feeds was going high. So I used it also well because I managed to pay. The third cycle I got 700,000. That one I used to buy feeds for sale, to sell to other people, outside people.
Wambi And how is the feeds business running?
Kabajungu Before this time it was running properly because there was scarcity in the food, in the maize bran. So I used to buy wheat bran and people were buying and those for poultry and piggery, they used to come and buy. But these days things have stabilised. They are not coming as many as they used to before.
Wambi But you have your business?
Kabajungu Yes, it is still going on. Those who know me they come and buy. From there again, after seeing that one is not running properly as I wanted I used some profit to buy this firewood.
Wambi The wood that I am seeing on the ground here? A stack of firewood just in the compound, that is for sale?
Kabajungu Yes, for sale because charcoal has gone very high. When these people in The Hunger Project, they came and they taught us that you have to move with something which you see is moving at that particular time. So I also decided to buy some firewood for sale.
Wambi And how is the business of firewood?
Kabajungu Not bad, people have started coming. At least I can sell 2000 every day, sometimes even more.
Wambi And that keeps you moving?
Kabajungu Moving yes.
Wambi Thank you very much Dorothy for your time.
Kabajungu OK, thank you for coming. End of track
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