Under Kiwani Women Value Addition and Marketing Group found in the eastern district of Kibuku, women are reaping big from processing fresh cassava tubers into high quality cassava flour.
This women group has received funding from the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship programme (UWEP) to implement enterprises of their choice.
The women group started in 2018 with a purpose to empower women economically.
The group chairperson, Ms. Naome Naguti, says that the association has a membership of 10, who established the project with prime objective to process cassava in order to realise high profit turn over.
“We did a feasibility study and discovered that many farmers were benefiting less from cassava but upon acquiring skills, we opted to add value and earn big and lucky enough members have started realizing benefits, and therefore found it fitting to select adding value to cassava milling and packaging enterprises as a viable activity and we [members] don’t regret because of the little profits they we earning,” Ms. Naume Naguti says.
The members were trained in the process of making the product marketable.
“This was a unique enterprise in the district and even the project file was deferred three times until they [ministry] noted that it [project] will definitely push these women out of poverty because majority of farmers were just selling unprocessed cassava and realizing little money,” she said
“The little profit earned from the sale is put to proper save and part of it repaid back to the loan” she said. The Kiwani Women Value addition and marketing group was formed on principles to focus on value addition of cassava. However, according to Ms. Naguti, said that lack of access to adequate and sustainable markets has been a perennial challenge of cassava farmers in eastern Uganda, the country’s largest producing region, but the ministry of gender, gives a glimmer hope for buyers of the products.
Through the cassava, adding value project, led by the district’s focal point, Ms Emily Nanzala, the group has successfully lobbied for cassava chippers [equipment] that help in the processing of their roots into High quality cassava flour.
“The principle of taking farming as a business has definitely paid off its members who are slightly better off than other women around them because they [women] have managed to meet their basic needs and improving on their household incomes,” she explained.
For example, each kilogram of garlic is sold at UShs3000. “This is four times the price they receive from the dried cassava chips. The Association is engaged into various enterprise productions like milling and packaging of cassava, bakings.
Ms. Naume Naguti, the chairperson said that the challenge now is to find sustainable market for the products, and also certification from UNBS in order to reap even bigger from the processed High quality Cassava flour.
Ms. Naguti explained that the group have a signed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] with a Ghanaian investor who intends to buy part of the garlic by supplying 600 tons worthy UShs 6 million this coming March.
She however, applauded government for availing capital to their initiative through Uganda Women Entrepreneurship programme [UWEP].
They said that the capital has enabled them grow their enterprise and make profits which have been given to each individual members in support at their household level and as well re-pay back the loan.
She said the Association pays back UShs 210,000 per month, and which started in November 2018
There are quite a number of achievements registered amongst the women members and among them included, improved income, payment of school fees for their children, face lifting their houses and installation of electricity, procurement of goats and cows.
“The members have made progressive achievements, including education of their children [school fees], constructing small permanent houses and acquiring skills” adding that, “The members have been exposed to the market,” she said
“The association is doing well in terms of repayment despite starting a bit late because the ministry delayed to release the funds but nevertheless, the association is committed to save and also re-pay the loan in accordance with payment schedule,” she said.
The Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) is an initiative by the Government of the Republic Uganda to improve women’s access to financial services, equip them with the skills for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing of their products and services.
The women are availed with interest-free revolving credit to initiate or strengthen their enterprises.
Another Member, Ms Agness Kayendo, said the intervention of the program has pushed women a step forward
“This was a timely intervention from the government and development partners to think about the women persons because many women previously taken as slaves but now the situation has completely changed” she said
Adding that, “Majority of women in these projects have improved in terms of household welfare because they can at least afford to meet some of the essential services like medical bills, funding farming and paying school fees. This is quite commendable”
For Harriet Nankoma resident of Kiwani village, Kiwani parish, Kadama town council said that the earnings from the UWEP program is what has helped in payment of school fees, injected part of it into farming and medical bills.
“This could be enough to sustain my family and urge the government to continue supporting us and also increase,” she said.
However, the district focal person, Ms Emily Nanzala, noted that with the intervention of UWEP to empower women had made them to come to the limelight in general.
“Women are on top compared to the previous years because of women emancipation through some of these projects or programme like UWEP. Majority of women was just abandoned to do house cores but currently they are engaged into income generating enterprises,” she explained.
She challenged the government through various platforms should continue to support women wholly either through setting up more cooperative banks in rural areas to enable them access these funds at no interest.
She said that most of the women groups in the district have overwhelmingly embraced the programme and is positively paying back the loan, which according the recovery records stands at 46%, thus implying that 54% remains not recovered.
She said that the district received UShs156 million, of which only 36 million has been paid back.
“Women have totally embraced the programme and even the repayment mode is so good. I have never had a challenge in the recovery and even if they don’t fully pay the agreed amount as stipulated in the M.O.U, they next repayment schedule they make sure complete that amount. This is quite interesting,” she said.
The communication officer, Ministry of gender, Labour and Social development, Mr Frank Mugabi acknowledged that women are more committed to embrace the programme saying that unlike Youth projects which have faced challenges in recovery of funds, he was impressed with success stories registered by women who have benefited from UWEP.
Women make up 53%of the labour force hence an important target group for economic development of the country.
However; Members asked the ministry more in particular to inject more money in the UWEP program so as to further boost household income
Ms Meble Kadondi, a member said that the government should increase on the amount of money in order to realize better outputs because in their case the group had applied for UShs12 million but was only given 8 million which could not sufficiently boost their project in cassava.
“We got the money in 2018.We thank the NRM government for thinking about women. We look good because of the funds they gave us,” she said as could not hide her joy.