Nwoya youth save their way to financial independence

Monday 2 July 2018

Grace, 20, has bought a cow to help pay her daughter's school fees

By Immaculate Nalubyayi

When Opio Piffer Itali, 21, heard about the new savings and loans group in his village, he knew he had to join.  

He was looking for a sustainable income to help him support his family: “I am the breadwinner at home because my parents can no longer work to support themselves.”

After learning about the group at a meeting held by Save the Children, Opio saved up 10,000 Ugandan shillings ($2.6) a week from tilling the land, which enabled him to become a member.   

In June last year, at the group’s annual action audit – where members share out the proceeds of their savings and the interest made from lending – Opio received 600,000 shillings ($155). The next month he rented a grocery shop, from which he now makes 40,000 shillings ($10.3) profit each month, and also set up a chapatti stall where he employs two staff and earns a further 20,000 shillings ($5.2) per day. 

Now, one year later, he’s hired three acres of land on which he’s planted rice, and hires some of the other group members for labour. He has opened a bank account, in which he saves 70,000 ($18) every month. This, he says, will accumulate so that he can build a house. 

Opio’s group – the Ber Kit Aye Lonyo Village Savings Group, in Nwoya district of northern Uganda – was one of the first savings groups set up by the Youth Empowerment Bulgari (YEB) Project. With funding from Italian jewelry company Bulgari, it aims to equip youth with the skills they need to build a future. Its 15 members, who are mostly farmers aged between 15-20, have to commit to a weekly saving of 10,000 shillings. It lends to individual members at a 5% interest rate, for a maximum of three months. The profit is then shared at the end of the year in the action audits. The group also collect 500 shillings per week from each member as a welfare fund, which helps to support members in bereavement, sickness or any emergency situation. 

The project has set up 50 Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) across northern Uganda in its first year.  Youth members also get training in business and entrepreneurial skills and developing viable business plans. 

Piloya Grace, 20, is the chairperson of Opio’s group. She started saving in 2016 and, using the 700,000 shillings ($180) she realized at the first action audit, she decided to open up a roadside canteen. However, it didn’t go well. 

“I was robbed three times,” says Grace. “And there was no way I could ensure I could attend to it all the time, because my home is far off.”

Not to be put off, Grace tried again and this time opted to try piggery. In March this year she bought four piglets and is raising them for breeding and to later sell them for pork. She also bought a cow which has been inseminated and is soon due to give birth. 

“I want to supply milk and yoghurt to the hotels and families as far as Anaka (the main town in Nwoya district),” she says. She is already seeing the dividends and using the profits to give her young daughter an education. 

“My daughter is back to school now. I’m sure that making a pork joint (restaurant) will enable me to pay her annual school fees at once.”

Opio, 21, serves a customer in his new shop

For 18-year-old Patrick Okello, the group has helped him to grow his barbershop business. The shop was small and short of machines, and he relied on an old solar panel that could not give enough power. As a result, he only managed to save 400,000 shillings ($103) at the last action audit. But the small profits helped him to invest: “I bought an extra shaving machine, a bigger solar panel, and then a sewing machine for my wife,” he says. 

Patrick has won the trust of the nearby school to shave and cut the hair of the pupils there, which has helped increase his customers and income. He is now able to save 10,000 shillings per week without fail, as he and his wife save up to build a home for their family.

Patrick at his barber shop