“Our community members used to say we had no direction or future. Today, we are reformed youth who are now engaging in development activities in our community to improve our lives.”
Struggling with anti-social behaviour
A few years ago, the youth of Pur Lonyo Business Saving Group (BSG) were struggling with anti-social behaviour. Their community members, who live in Lalur Onyol Village, Geregere Sub-County in Agago District, said the youth had no respect for anybody else, including their parents. They often became a centre of ridicule, as most people did not see any value in them, casting doubt on their future as they were not involved in any community development initiatives.
“We were very restless, disunited, and lacked basic leadership and opportunities to transform our lives using the resources within us. Whatever amount of money we saved was used for drinking and merry-making because we had no skills on how to engage in any business,” Betty Aciro, the group’s chairperson, said.
Learning to save
Last year, the youth were approached by Village Enterprise (VE), in partnership with GOAL, and registered under the Uganda Youth Engine (UYE) project. The UYE project, with funding from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), aims to empower 3,715 young people to engage in agricultural income-generating activities in the cassava, soybean, or sunflower value chains. 70% of the young people targeted under this project are women.
When VE approached the group, they first started by tackling the underlying causes of poverty, such as inequality and vulnerability in the community. VE trained the youth in financial literacy and business skills, while also teaching them how to save money. “Participating in group saving activities has improved our social lives, and this has enabled us to adopt more positive behaviours. We now save with a purpose, with a good mindset towards various economic activities that we did not take a keen interest in before,” Betty said.
The group members are now able to generate profit from their various businesses to support their family’s dietary needs, which will prevent malnutrition, especially among young infants. The money also caters for medical bills and school requirements.
The group has also learnt good skills in business record keeping, and in tracking profits, losses and interests. At the end of every cycle, the group does not face any difficulties in sharing savings because of this good record-keeping. “We no longer have cases of mismanagement of group savings due to incorrect calculation and poor record keeping as was the case before VE came in to train us,” Betty says. “Our group is now more organised and disciplined because of the rules and regulations that every member must obey, irrespective of their status. Because of that, our group is at the forefront of promoting women’s emancipation and leadership.”
“Our families and businesses are now doing well because our women are at the centre of group leadership and family business. An empowered woman is a blessing to every family and community,” noted Okello Bosco Edmond, the secretary of the group.
Plans for Future Growth
The group now plans to open a bank account to ensure the safety of their savings. Since their training, the savings have grown from 12 million Uganda shillings (approx. $3,205) in 2022 to an estimated amount of 20 million Uganda shillings (approx. $5,342) in 2023.
They also plan to expand their income-generating options by renting 3 hectares of farmland for large-scale sunflower growing. The proceeds from the sunflower sales will be borrowed by members as loans, and the profit shall be shared at the end of the cycle.
The group is very proud of their achievements, as are their community members.