In Bwologoma Parish, Busoga Sub-Region, Luuka District Uganda a group of hardworking women and men formed a community group and christened it Gema Kumwino which means hold your friends hand in Luganda. This is symbolic of how the group members have operated for a long time as they are keen on ensuring the development of each member by offering support to ensure each member wins in life.
Annette Bayi a leader in the group says that group cohesion is key as it ensures the members focus on development issues and without which nothing much could be achieved. “My husband Patrick Bayi used to play a lot of poker. I tried talking him out of it in vain. Nevertheless, after seeing how I had been able to transform our farming practices, and how progressive it had been, he eventually reformed. We now run our farm together and many people come to learn from us,” she says.
The group is grateful to the OAIC for the support accorded to them. Through trainings and provision of seeds, the members have been able to expand and improve their farming processes. “OAIC donated some cassava cuttings and a lot of lives were transformed. I am excited about the progress the group is making. The relationships we’ve built over the years have been meaningful and we hope to continue growing,” notes Ruth Liyagoma the chairperson of the group.
Trust is important in groups as it enhances cohesion amongst the group members. “The trust we built over the years enabled the group to work well. We started in 2006 and we have never had differences. We started as 30 members and we’re still 30 as that is the requirement for the savings group which was borne out of a parent group called Bupadeep, ”notes Betty Babigumira, the secretary of the group.
Through OAIC, Bupadeep provided cassava and groundnut seeds to various groups, Bwologoma was one of them. These seeds yielded highly and the group decided to distribute seeds to other districts. “After the harvest, we sold the surplus and had a lot in store to feed our families as well as money to cater for our basic needs. Even non-members benefitted from activities in our group,” noted Mrs. Bayi.
Several trainings have been conducted for the group members and which have enabled them to enhance their farming practices as well as educate their children. The members ensure that the leadership of the group is rotational and this enhances equal participation. The group started working with Bupadeep in 2000 which widened their view on the different genres of development.
OAIC continues to offer relevant trainings to the group which in turn sends its members to the communities to train them on various aspects of farming for improved livelihoods.
Julius Mufumba one of the group’s member notes that he was trained on some of the best methods for saving and he is now responsible for coordinating the group’s saving programme. “Our saving’s group meets weekly. We meet each Friday and contribute Ushs. 10,500 which goes into an annual fund shared at the end of the year amongst members. We also have a loan scheme where members borrow from the existing fund at a 5% interest rate per month. Bupadeep which was our parent organisation linked us to Barclays bank where we keep our savings,” notes Julius.
The group first started with Ugshs 500 which grew to Ugshs2500; Ugshs 5000 and currently they each contribute 10,000 per week.
Nakawoma Margaret, a member of the group and also a councilor notes that land degradation continues to be a great challenge for the farmers in the area. Nevertheless, from the cassava cuttings she was given, the yield was good and the money enabled her to educate her children some of whom are in University, “One of my sons is at Aduku University doing a degree in Business Studies,” she notes.
For Gasuza George, he has been able to plant cassava on his one acre piece of land enabling him to also pay school fees for his children up to A-Level. “Cassava streak had affected the region and we are grateful that when OAIC brought cassava cuttings to us, they got them from Namulonge research station – Nase 14 type – and our crops have been doing well,” he notes.
Gasuza notes the importance of unity of purpose for any group to succeed in its endeavours. He has a vision and intends to put up a Maize mill to serve the community as well as purchase a track to enable the community to easily transport their produce to the market.
Reverend Nicta Lubaale noted that while doing the OAIC work, many people asked if he wanted to vie for a political seat. He knew that God had called him to serve several countries and not just Uganda and was never interested in politics. Nicta who has been OAICs General Secretary since 2007 notes that politicians have a role to play too in ensuring that the livelihoods of their constituents are improved. “I am glad that this group has big dreams. I would like to encourage farmers not to just think of subsistence farming practices but how to end hunger completely. We should not allow hunger in our midst as this often leads to conflicts between husbands and wives. Men need to support their wives in order to eradicate hunger, don’t hire land for sugarcane,” he noted.
Nicta urged the group members to start thinking about agro-processing to add value to their produce. “You need to start working out methodologies on how you can make bread out of sweet potato flour as well as cassava and sell to bakeries and even have your own bakery as a group. We can process the cassava and bread ourselves,” he said.
Nicta further noted that OAIC will continue to build the capacity of small-scale farmers to ensure their capabilities for good farming practices are enhanced for food and nutrition security and enable them earn a decent income from farming.