Long-dormant sacco in Masindi bounces back

A long-dormant savings and cooperative credit society has been revived.

The Masindi Savings and Cooperative Credit Society Limited has been revived by members after a two-year lull.

The SACCO membership comprises mainly active and retired civil servants of the Masindi district local government.

On April 1, Moses Kalyegira, the Masindi district commercial officer, convened a special general meeting that elected a new board.

Addressing the meeting at the council chambers, Kalyegira said the SACCO had been dormant for two years because the board chairperson resigned under unclear circumstances. After her resignation other board and SACCO members lost interest in the association, Kalyegira said.

“This is a special meeting because the board has failed to perform its duties. I have engaged the former chairperson Ruth Kisakye three times to convene a meeting so she could hand it over officially but in vain. I have decided that I chair this meeting so that the SACCO can put in place a new board to start conducting business because the business couldn’t go on without signatories,” he explained.

Kalyegira said he convened the meeting because he couldn’t just sit and let the SACCO collapse. He wondered why SACCOs of people with little financial knowledge were thriving and theirs full of professionals in finance was limping.

“People have been unable to access services and yet they have money on the SACCO account because board members lost interest. Let’s forget that and start a new chapter today. I have been receiving many complaints from members about their money being idle in the bank and being deducted,” Kalyegira said.

The outgoing board treasurer, Charles Musinguzi, and the vice-chairperson Godfrey Baharagate attended the meeting.

According to Kalyegira, the SACCO, which started in 2003, at one time had about 300 members before those numbers dropped to just 100 active members currently.

“The purpose of its formation was to enhance a saving culture amongst members and to offer loans at a low-interest rate to civil servants,” he noted.

Charles Musinguzi, the outgoing treasurer told members that Shs 20 million was loaned out. He said the SACCO has Shs 6.5 million on the account. He also said there’s a time savings totaled Shs 70 million.

“Some people are willing to pay back our money but they have not done so because we have not been active. This is the time to forget the past and set a new agenda,” Musinguzi said.

He said some monies may be difficult to recover.

“The mode of recovery and saving was an automatic deduction from the salaries. Recovering this money might also be a challenge because some civil servants no longer work with us,” he said.

Elections

During the elections presided over by Moses Kalyegira, Ibrahim Nasur, the senior assistant secretary for the Kyatiri town council, was elected as the board chairperson, Charles Musinguzi, the retired personnel officer, is the new secretary and Patrick Okise, the principal internal auditor, is the treasurer.

Other board members include; Prudence Alituha, the principal fisheries officer, Godfrey Bahemuka, the district community development officer, James Mugoya, the lands officer, and Oliver Mabeho, a teacher.

The supervisory committee has David Baguma, the chief finance officer, as its chairperson while Joseph Kabubi and Mary Birungi were elected as members.

In his inaugural speech, Ibrahim Nasur said, “I am one of the people who had lost interest. This is a SACCO for technocrats. How can it fail?”

“My first agenda is to ensure that people’s money is recovered. I will also follow up to see whether the money deducted automatically for saving and repayment is remitted to the SACCO,” he stressed.

Patrick Okise, the new treasurer, urged people who had lost interest to come back.

“We need to wake up now and revive this SACCO because it can give us loans at a low interest. Every day we are exploited by banks and other financial institutions who give us loans at over 40% interest and yet we can do it ourselves at a low interest. We need to wake up now.”Okise said.

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Cooperative slashes fees to attract new members

To shore up its numbers, Lira Diocese Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited has slashed its membership fee from Shs 50,000 to Shs 30,000 to encourage registration of new members with minimal fees.

In a speech at the recent annual general meeting (AGM) held at the Apostolic Social Centre in Lira City, Cyprian Okello, the cooperative’s vice-chairperson, said many people had failed to register because they couldn’t afford the registration fee of Shs 50,000.

“We are forming the central mobilization committee. We shall ensure that each and every parish forms a mobilization committee that will include the catechist, parish priest, and the key people to strengthen mobilization, we want people everybody to understand the benefit of joining a cooperative,” he said.

So far the cooperative has 150 members. It was formed by Sanctus Lino Wanok, the Bishop of Lira Diocese in 2019, to improve the livelihoods of Christians in the nine districts of the Lango sub-region.

Patrick Vincent Muge, a member of the cooperative, said to succeed, the cooperative should engage only able and willing people to carry out Sacco activities.

Muge also urged the leadership to carry out more mobilization of Sacco members.

Father John Bosco Oryema, a member of Alito Catholic parish was excited by the reduction of the membership fees, saying it will encourage women to participate in the cooperative.

“The reduction will give avenues for women to join the cooperative, most women spend their money on running the day-to-day family affairs but now the fee reduction is an open chance for them to join the cooperate and save money to grow,” he noted.

Rt. Rev. Sanctus Lino Wanok, the founder of the cooperative, rallied the public to join the cooperative to alleviate poverty.

“Due to the coronavirus pandemic that negatively affected businesses, the time is now for people to head towards a direction that will make them easily assist one another, cooperate in business enterprises and alleviate poverty,” he said.

The man of God nudged the clergy to mobilize the community to join the cooperative to increase household income and improve their livelihoods.

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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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Napak flash floods carry away Shs 2 million worth of village savings

Members of a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) in Lorengechora town council in Napak district are counting double losses after flash floods carried away the association’s savings box containing about Shs 2 million, in addition to destroying their homes.
The floods, which hit several parts of Napak following heavy rains last Wednesday, swept away several houses including one in which a local VSLA’s savings box was stored.

John Longok, Chairperson of Kituroi VSLA said that the flood carried away a savings box containing up to Shs 2m that members had hoped to share on the weekend.
“We had sat on Monday this week and we resolved to share out the money within the members to help feed their children amidst the current country lockdown but now water has carried away the box with the money. We hope we shall get it back,” he said.
According to Mr. Longok the flood swept away the mud and wattle house where the box was kept. However, no one was harmed.
“Thank God by the time it was raining all the members of that household were in the trading centre, otherwise it [the house’s collapse] would have killed people,” he said.
Grace Nakiru, a member of another savings group, Amorican Village Savings and Loans Association, said the floods also swept away cards that elderly group members were using to access the Senior Citizens Grants (SCGs).

The SCGs are a form of social pension aimed at reducing poverty among the elderly and their families, and administered by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Andrew Loucho the Mayor of Lorengechora Town Council, one of the worst-hit areas, said the floods have worsened the already harsh conditions under which the people of Lorengechora have been living.
“Several birds have been killed by the floods, and traditional granaries where people kept food destroyed,” he said.
He appealed to the Office of the Prime Minister to come to their aid, saying the community is now helpless.

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