Saving Shs1,000 every week got each one a cow

Harriet Azirwe 56, of Nyabuhama, Kyandahi in Kagongi never thought that she will turn into a prosperous farmer at a some point in her life.
The kind of farmer who will not only produce for home consumption but also reserve the surplus for sale and improve on her family income.

Inspiration to others
Besides, she had no dream of ever owning a cow. But what she did not even dream about is now a reality thanks to Munyonyi Catholic Women Group (Mucwo), which is based in Kagongi Sub County in Kashari ,Mbarara district.
“We began when other village mates and our husbands used to call us idlers who just meet for rumour mongering. But now we are an inspiration to many people even some from other sub counties who come to learn from our experience,’’ says Azirwe.

How they started
The chairperson Mucwo, Mary Bigirwa, recounts that the group was started in 2008 by seven women with an idea of saving and sharing knowledge of how they can improve incomes and the wellbeing of their families.
She says with the support of Munyonyi Catholic Church which offered them a place where to always meet every month, they began saving Shs1,000 every time they met. With Shs7,000 per meeting, they would loan it out every meeting to one of the members with an interest of Shs500.

Other activities
Following mobilisation and seeing the commitment the members had to grow economically, they started getting involved in other income-generating activities like growing beans, maize, millet, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and vegetables as other members also joined them.
“These savings looked like little money but it would help members to buy seedlings, pesticides and the members yields improved,” she adds.
In addition to these savings, they designated group working days where group members would work in gardens and plantations for one of the members.

Setting targets
Having saved a substantial amount of money, and increased the number of individual household projects, the members, in 2010, resolved to buy for each member a piglet.
At that time, the membership had grown to over 30 women.
Bigirwa explains that they agreed every member contributes Shs10,000 at one of the meetings, once in a month until each of the members had a piglet.
“We bought each piglet at Shs20,000 (the local breed). We did not use our savings but the working spirit, collective ideas and efforts inculcated among members had already bore fruits that their incomes had improved and could afford this contribution,” she explained.
She adds: “In 2012, the membership had risen to 40 so we sat again and brainstormed on what we invest in again, we agreed on buying a cow for each member. We resolved that each member contributes Shs20,000 every month on top of our usual savings of Shs1,000 until we see every member getting a cow.”
With these contributions, they gave each one of the members Shs500,000 and they had agreed that every member will top up with the balance to buy the cow.
“We monitored and followed up every member that we gave the money,” Bigirwa says, adding that this has worked because every member in this group now owns a cow.

Future plans
The chairperson reveals that they plan to buy land where they could carry on their projects, noting that lack of land is one of the big challenges.
She adds that they are also looking to putting up a Savings Cooperative and Credit Society.
Mbarara Woman MP Emma Boona remarks that this group is a clear testimony that given opportunity, women can steer this country ahead in terms of development.
This is the reason she says she wants the government to designate a Women’s Fund, which is specifically meant to support women’s activities.
In this spirit, Boona gave the group Shs500,000 in support of their activities but urged them be mindful of their families’ stability, warning that some women tend to undermine their spouses when they get economically empowered.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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