Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Getting to know Bujenje SACCO

Bujenje SACCO Road Sign
The day spent with 8 members of the Board of Directors and the staff a Bujenje SACCO was both exhilarating and enlightening.

This organization has about 1,000 members who live within a 20 kilometer radius of the SACCO.  Many of the members are farmers: sugar cane; honey bees; maize.  Others are vendors at market stalls; another is a 'boda boda' driver (motorcycle taxi).
Farming is a common practice here

We heard stories from several of the board members about the change that having access to credit has made to their lives.  One man talked of borrowing the money to purchase a motorcycle to start a boda boda business.  He was able to pay back the loan and then left that line of work -- which, everyone acknowledges, is a sure way for them to get to heaven quickly! (Whether they meant the line of work, as driving here can be dangerous, or paying back the loan quickly, we can't be sure) A woman on the board of directors spoke of originally borrowing money to pay school fees for the youngest four of her seven children.  She served tea in a village restaurant to earn the funds to pay the loan back.  She then applied for a loan to purchase a maize grinder so she can sell the flour.  And, she has also borrowed to purchase bees to produce honey!  She is one of 54 women that work in a production co-operative and this has allowed all of them to raise their family lifestyle above the poverty line.  Oh! And by the way, one of the children she put through school is now working for the United Nations in the middle east.  

These are just some of the powerful stories of success that have been realized in the six years the SACCO has been in existence.

We worked with the Board to complete an analysis of the strengths and opportunities this SACCO needs to build upon.We also worked with the manager and cashier to review and address some operational weaknesses and threats.

Both Dixie and I agree this is indeed work, but very rewarding work!

Bev meeting with Board of Directors
Dixie working with the cashier

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Tuesday, January 22

With two days of discussion and resource materials in hand, the Canadian coaching team departed this afternoon for our northern posts wishing each other safe travels and a productive work experience.   Through our discussion this morning on mobilizing members to save more money, capital management, lending management and human resource development, we conclude that the credit unions in Uganda have a great deal of potential to benefit rom the knowledge transfer that is about to occur.

My coaching partner, Dixie, and I have arrived at our destination in Masindi.  We are settled into a smaller hotel in a quiet corner of this small community.  The only sound we are hearing outside tonight is crickets chirping which is a refreshing change from the constant noise there is in Kampala.

Our host for the next 8 days is David, a field officer for the Uganda Co-operative Alliance.  He is a great source of information about Uganda and the socio-economic realities for the people living here .  During the drive to Masindi this afternoon, we discussed the average wages for various jobs in the country.  Doctors are paid very little at about $230 Canadian dollars per month;  teachers are paid less at about $150 per month; and police officers are paid the least at about $75 per month.  Working Canadians should all feel very lucky with the compensation levels that have been achieved!
Another friend, Rosemary from the Women's Mentoring program, shared with me that many Ugandans are living below the poverty line which is defined here as not able to get at least one meal per day. 

The need for a viable, sustainable solution is great.  Credit unions and co-ops are making inroads in meeting those needs.  I am so happy to be a part of the solution!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013   - Kampala, Uganda

Arrival in Uganda was completed early Sunday morning (3:30 a.m.) with only a little hiccup - we missed our connection in Brussels so ended up being routed through Cairo, Egypt.  I have always wanted to go there, but next time it will be in the daylight so I can actually see something! 

Sunday afternoon was the appointed time for my reunion with four of the women from Uganda that manage credit unions.  What a great day it was for all of us.  :)    Now to get some sleep....

Monday, January 21, 2013

The nine person Canadian team has completed our first day of discussion and training with our colleagues at the Uganda Co-operative Alliance in Kampala.  It was a great day of sharing and exploring how we credit unions in Uganda are the same as those in Canada, and also how we are different.   We will continue with the training on Tuesday morning and then we will depart for our assignments in the northern region so that we are there to begin work Wednesday morning.  I will be working at two different SACCO's in the Masindi region and am anxious to get started.