Kitojo Care SACCO in Kabarole district has held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) this week, after missing out on holding one in 2020.
While cooperatives are required by law to hold an AGM every year, Kitojo Care SACCO, like many others countrywide, was unable to fulfill this obligation last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in a temporary suspension of all manner of public gatherings.
Moreover, the SACCO saw its savings and loan portfolios take a hit as most of its members were constrained in conducting their business as a result of restrictions imposed by the government to limit the spread of the pandemic.
“Last year was a very hard one; the majority of our members are Boda Boda riders and others work at tour sites which were not working during the lockdown, so most of the businesses were on standstill. This affected our savings, loan repayment, and loan portfolio,” said Fortunate Kusemererwa, the SACCO’s Manager.
Consequently, he revealed, by year’s end the loan repayment rate had dropped from 92 to 85 percent, and the loan portfolio reduced from Shs 634m to Shs 464m
Kusemererwa said that Kitojo Care SACCO, which was started in 2007 with the aim of increasing members’ household incomes and improve on their saving culture, has since last year been faced by the challenge of the majority of its members being dormant, “to the extent that they cannot even afford to save Shs 10,000 per month.”
Taking a toll
The slowdown in the SACCO’s momentum has taken its toll on some of the developmental projects that it had recently undertaken.
For instance, Kusemererwa disclosed that the SACCO had in 2019 embarked on a project to construct its own office premises after squatting for several years at those of Kitojo Integrated Development Association (KIDA), its mother organization.
“KIDA has been hosting us for all these years, but in 2019, we decided to start constructing our own offices because members have since increased and cannot fit in the little space we are currently occupying,” he said.
However, due to the financial difficulties from the last year, they have not been able to continue with construction works.
“We had hoped to complete our office last year, but due to the lockdown, we had to halt it. Savings have drastically reduced, loan recovery is still poor and our members no longer take loans,” he explained.
Kusemererwa said this year’s AGM resolved that each member should contribute Shs 1,500 per month towards the completion of their office block, which he believes is the only option that will save them.
The Kabarole District Commercial Officer (DCO), John Kabango, who attended the AGM, advised members to reacquaint themselves with the reasons why they joined cooperatives in the first place so that they can enjoy the most benefits from them.
“Some people just join SACCOs to borrow money and run away without paying back. You need to know that these SACCOs are voluntary and are meant to help people improve their standard of living,” Kabango said.
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