Under a mango tree, Ciddy Akullo a 27-year-old mother of three draws money from a cash-box on the floor. She counts it before passing it to a woman seated next to her to double-check.
This is a typical Tuesday afternoon for members of Can noto Waa (Poverty Made Us United) Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). Members have gathered to deposit their weekly savings and make loan requests in Ayel village, Lira, northern Uganda.
Akullo passes record of money counted to the group’s Chairperson, Lincoln Owera, who inputs the information into his phone, equipped with a new financial recording app. This group is one of a hundred that were digitised by the Micro-finance Support Centre (MSC), a local financial services provider and partner of GOAL.
“Through technology, we are saving a lot of time during our meetings, as all the savings processes is captured on the app. Even if we lose written records, the information is safe on the phone. It is more efficient and secure,” Owera says.
Resilience and Recovery
MSC began working with the savings group as part of GOAL’s Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery Programme (CRRP). The project sought to support farmers affected by the economic impacts of Covid-19 with seed loans and asset financing. GOAL and MSC have also strengthened VSLAs capacity through digitised bookkeeping.
With support from the MasterCard Foundation, GOAL worked to connect savings groups with microfinance institutions, technology companies and agricultural experts. The programme reached over 10,000 young farmers in northern Uganda last year, empowering people to bring themselves out of poverty.
Savings scheme members also benefitted from connections with other private-sector organisations like M-Omulimisa – an Information Communications Technology (ICT) company. M-Omilimisa supported savings group members with digital training and information on agricultural practice. They also facilitated business connections for accessing inputs and marketing their produce.
The digital technology also allows farmers to access up-to-date information on crop disease and market prices. This enables members to make timely decisions for their farms.
Eunice Atala, one of the group members, says her life has transformed due to the savings made and training received.
“Because of the achievements in the group, and support from GOAL, I was able to buy a plot of land for my 2 children. I also bought a bicycle so that my daughter can reach school and concentrate on her studies,” she says with a smile.
Akullo, who is also Treasurer of the group, has noticed a steady increase in membership, due to increased trust and the group’s success. Total group savings now stand at Ush 6,040,000 (about $1,670) over the past six months.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many lives and livelihoods were been largely disrupted. There is hope that through groups like Can onoto Waa, more vulnerable young farmers can bring themselves out of poverty by working together.