Kwania district launches Teachers’ SACCO

Kwania district officials have launched a teachers’ savings and credit cooperative organization (SACCO).

The SACCO, which will accommodate all 1,074 teachers of primary and secondary public schools in the district, was launched during a recent workshop on financial literacy education organized for headteachers at St. Margaret Primary School in Aduku Town Council.

Members will be required to pay Shs 20,000 in Membership Fee, and also buy shares at Shs 10,000 each.

The SACCO, which was opened with support from Germany NGO, Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC), hopes to inculcate a saving culture among the teachers.

Kwania Resident District Commissioner, Salim Komakech, while presiding over the SACCO’s launch, pledged to support the fledgling society in its growth.

“We are going to do a lot of training to make the SACCO grow, and it will make the district exemplary in the entire Lango,” Komakech pledged.

RDC Komakech also advised the teachers to embrace value addition initiatives and vowed to lobby for funding for such undertakings from donors, ministries, or NGOs.

He encouraged the Teachers’ Union branch officials in the district and the Education Office to work together to popularise the SACCO among teachers in all the schools with the aim of fighting exploitation by financial institutions which he said charge exorbitant interest on loans.

Meanwhile, Andrew Omunu, the Kwania District Education Officer (DEO), urged teachers to decisively implement the resolutions agreed upon in the formation of the SACCO to enable it to expand and succeed.

For his part, Geoffrey Akodo, the Apac district Uganda National Teachers’ Union (UNATU) Chairman, cautioned the newly elected SACCO leadership against personalizing the SACCO.

“You are aware that Apac Teachers’ SACCO had a lot of issues. The headteachers who were elected as SACCO leaders personalized it and swindled all the funds disbursed to it by the government. I ask the Kwania Teachers’ SACCO leaders to be more transparent and accountable; don’t personalize the SACCO,” he said.

Akodo also rallied the SACCO members to embrace commercial farming as an alternative source of livelihoods rather than depending entirely on their salaries.

The interim committee elected to kickstart the SACCO’s operations includes Patrick Odongo, the Headteacher of Aboko Primary School as Chairperson, deputized by Claire Awor, Headteacher of Aporwegi Primary School.

Richard Kenneth Ayo, the Headteacher of Punoatar Primary School was voted Treasurer while James Ojok, the Headteacher of Itekiber Primary School, was elected unopposed as the SACCO Secretary.

Other headteachers elected as members of the interim committee include; Toga Francis, Joy Okello, Molly Ajwang, William Okok, Sylvester Omara, and Robert Odur Okello.

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Advocacy platform needed for Agriculture sector post-COVID- NAAC

The National Alliance of Agricultural Co-operatives (NAAC) has called for the formation of a nationwide agricultural advocacy platform to bridge the gap between the government and the other actors in Uganda’s agricultural sector.

The call was made at a recent consultative meeting organized by the NAAC, which was attended by, among others, representatives from the Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, and Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives.

During the meeting, the national level co-operative union shared the findings of a survey it conducted to describe and analyze the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in the relationships between market actors within selected value chains.

The resulting report identified and measured resilience strategies adopted by different market actors following lockdown measures rolled out by governments across the globe in response to the pandemic.

Connecting actors in the Agric sector

Key among recommendations on how to strengthen the functionality and inclusiveness of markets in the wake of the pandemic was the establishment of a National Agricultural Advocacy Platform.

The platform will provide a permanent space for sector actors to engage the Government of Uganda and other stakeholders with policy proposals to develop resilient Agri-market systems that can mitigate, adapt to and recover from shocks and stresses while facilitating inclusive growth.

One of the participants, Joseo Tegyeza, a Commissioner from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), emphasized the need to adapt pragmatically to the post-pandemic reality without sacrificing service delivery.

“We need to pin COVID-19 squarely by finding ways to work around it because it’s the only way forward. We shouldn’t use it as an excuse not to deliver,” he said.

For his part, Dr. Moki M. Abubaker, Commissioner for Policy Development and Capacity Building at OPM, called for partnerships among the various entities saying, “that it is the only way to reach out to all stakeholders, especially the farmers.”

The survey’s sample comprised of 886 Ugandan farmers (35% female) and 470 businesses, and included traders, transporters, processors, and financiers from Ntugamo, Mubende, Kasese, Bushenyi, Kiruhura, Ibanda, Sembabule, Wakiso, Lira, Gulu, and Tororo, to mention but a few.

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Eastern Kyoga Multipurpose Cooperative members join ACDP two years after launch

Members of Eastern Kyoga Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society (EKMCS) in Serere district are slowly embracing the Agricultural Cluster Development Project (ACDP), two years after its introduction in the region.

ACDP is a five-year government project that aims to boost on-farm productivity and improve post-harvest handling capabilities for selected agricultural commodities, in chosen areas in the country, by helping farmers acquire agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, tarpaulins and pesticides.

A first-time beneficiary of the scheme is required to contribute 33% of Shs 450,000 in the first season (Shs 148,500) while the government tops up the remaining 67% of the cost of the inputs. In the second season, the beneficiary and government split the cost equally and each pay 50% of the cost of inputs. In the third season, the government pays 33%, and the beneficiary covers the rest.

Once burnt…

However, although the ACDP was introduced in 2018, members of the Eastern Kyoga cooperative only started embracing it in 2020 because of a bad experience many had had with a cryptocurrency venture called E-Coin.

theCooperator has established that, in 2016, the cooperative’s then 20 members were persuaded to invest in E-Coin, with the promise that they would reap Shs 150,000 per week.

“Some members of the cooperative even sold their animals to participate in the E-coin venture and ended up losing millions of shillings,” Stephen Epau, the Manager of EKMCS and Chairperson, Omagara Rice Growers, said in an interview.

“Because of that, members became sceptical of any program requiring them to pay money to benefit,” he said by way of explanation of the initial resistance to ACDP which is premised on partial farmer investment.

Warming to ACDP

Nevertheless, Epau said the cooperative’s members, who have grown to 100 in the past year, started enrolling for ACDP after a series of sensitisation outreaches.

As a result of the sensitisation efforts, two farmers’ groups- Omagara Rice Growers and Agurur Cassava Growers- were formed, with 70 members enrolled for ACDP.

“In a day we can register at least five new members. But I believe that when the information spreads, we shall register more. Currently, more than 70 people have finalized the registration process and are just waiting to be availed with the inputs,” Epau said.

Steven Omilgor, a cassava farmer, disclosed that he was conned of Shs 1.5m through the E-coin project, and it took time for him to believe in ACDP.

” But I am now grateful that I joined ACDP because I was able to plant 5 acres of cassava last season-more than I have ever planted before- because of the inputs received under the project,” he said.

Benjamin Odeke, another cassava farmer who joined the cooperative last year, said joining ACDP has made his work easier.

“Much as I have oxen [for ploughing], they cannot do a lot of work in the shortest time possible. But with ACDP, I can use tractors and plough large acres in a short time. The provision of tarpaulins has also made me give clean produce,” Odeke said.

Jennifer Icodu, the Secretary of Agurur Cassava Growers, told theCooperator that she has received 8 bags of cassava cuttings and a tarpaulin, in addition to having 2 acres of her land ploughed

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Unlicensed SACCOs risk closure, accused of preying on savers

Members of unlicensed Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) are at risk of losing their hard-earned savings, Philip Otim, the Apac District Commercial Officer, has warned.

Available figures indicate that there are at least 14,000 licensed SACCOs in the country, while over 5,000 others are unlicensed and therefore operating illegally, without the knowledge of the regulator.

Otim issued the warning while handing over the ‘Probationary Certificate of Existence’ to Abulomogo Maize Farmers’ and Credit Cooperative Society in Kidiani parish, Chegere Sub County, in Apac district on Thursday.

Abulomogo is one of ten SACCOs that were recently granted restricted licenses by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) and the Registrar of Cooperative Societies to operate for six months ending in June this year.

Otim said that the bureau is in the process of cracking down on illegal SACCOs in order to safeguard savers from unscrupulous individuals.

“Notice is given to public and private entities that engage in any form of deposit-taking or SACCO business transactions with SACCOs that are not licensed: they are doing so at their own peril, and we will not be held accountable if the SACCOs disappear with their money,” he said.

He added that the law regulating the operation of Saccos makes it a criminal offense for any person to engage in SACCO business without a valid license from the authority.

“The has regulator cautioned such SACCOs, saying they face criminal proceedings for operating illegally and endangering members’ money. Those operating illegally face a fine of up to Shs 500, 000 or imprisonment for three years,” he added.

David Odora the Chegere Sub County male Councillor tasked SACCO leaders to ensure that their entities are quickly registered with the Registrar of Cooperatives to avoid risks. He also cautioned the public against saving and borrowing with unregistered SACCOs.

“How would you risk your money with unlicensed Saccos? Don’t throw your money in the rubbish pit by saving with some of these SACCOs that are not known by the government,” he said.

The Apac District Operation Wealth Creation Coordinator Col. Godfrey Okello appealed to Abulomogo’s members to be innovative and identify other income-generating projects to promote the progress of their SACCO.

“Save, borrow, pay, and above all think of other business ventures to develop your SACCO further,” he advised.

He also cautioned them to eschew the mismanagement of public funds and instead embrace transparency and accountability.

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