Continuing with our ‘Vision Trip’ series comes a story from the Village of Kakende in the Bunyoro Region of Uganda. Board member Barbara Bishop brings us this story from her recent trip to Uganda with Village Enterprise.
So how is it possible that two young Ugandan men, Solomon Tumusiine and Shadrach Kakooza, who regularly travel 25 kilometers on unpaved roads to reach Kakende, have been able to transform the lives of over 500 people in just 18 months. How, in such a short period, have fear and an absence of trust been supplanted by joy and hope for the future?
I was able to witness the somewhat magical, if simple, ingredients for these transformations on my recent Vision Trip to Uganda. There is a programmatic seriousness to Village Enterprise’s work. The values of honesty, transparency, and rigor underpin the ‘Business Savings Groups’ – making savings – and emergency loans — possible for often the first time. The values of teamwork, commitment, and customer service appear in the ‘Business Trainings’ conducted by Solomon (Field Coordinator), Shadrach (Business Mentor) and their peers. These all come together after four months of both training and planning in the ‘Disbursement Ceremony’ – where I was personally privileged to hand-deliver the first small grants to a number of three-person business teams. And sing and dance and celebrate.
…But let’s go back a bit.
The Village of Kakende is in the Kitara Kingdom, within the Bunyoro Region of Uganda. Only 1% of the households have electricity, and they live on less than half of the national average income. Kakende has about 175 households, almost all of which are classified as ‘ultra poor’.
Juliet Kobusinge is chair of the Local Council (a delegate from central government), and is also a Village Enterprise business owner. She joined the program in the spring of 2015, at least partly because Village Enterprise has approval as an outside organization from the regional authorities. Since then, she and her Business Group completed their training, started their rice business, and have added pigs to their business. For herself, she feels joy ‘all of the time’, because she is able to provide medical care and other necessities for her 9 children. Her children are also in school, which is very important to her. She has helped identify and recruit other business owners to the Village Enterprise program, and continues to sell the program up into her political chain.
She sees significant changes since Village Enterprise entered the village. For example, her neighbors Leonard Kakeire, Kefe Karubanga, and Raphael Byabazaire have started a joint groundnut (peanut) business. They will sell twenty bags of peanuts this year, retailing for a total of $700. This will allow them to buy a tin roof for one home, which will cost about $160 (depending on the quality of the metal). Since they have just harvested, and it is going into the dry season, they will ‘re-till’ the land and look forward to the second rainy season of the year. They are happy for the learning, appreciate the Village Enterprise structure, and they are all in a better place since they had zero savings before. Two have a ‘save for a purpose’ goal of buying a bicycle and a pig.
Apart from individual successes, it’s clear to Juliet that there is a big change in the entire community – people are working in groups for the first time, and are ‘easy together’. There are still another 75 households that qualify for Village Enterprise’s program, so the work will continue in Kakende. For Juliet herself, she will continue with her business group, since it is profitable, and will pursue a personal rice business as well.
Those are just a few of the many personal stories I was fortunate to witness. The incredible virtuous cycle starts with the Village Enterprise locally focused programmatic seriousness – which is creating trust, fostering participation, creating success and joy, and enabling growth.
Field Coordinator Solomon Tumusiine and Uganda Country Director Winnie Auma in a Business Savings Group Meeting in Kakende
Board Member and author, Barb Bishop, with business owners during a Vision Trip to Uganda