A prominent financial cooperative in Bunyoro is failing to deliver services to its members as a result of ongoing restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to David Katende, the Coordinator Masindi District Farmers Savings and Credit Society (MADFA SACCO), they have been unable to provide extension services to their members, who are farmers, as a result of the suspension of transport and public gatherings by President Museveni in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic.
“It is unfortunate that the presidential directives came at a time we were entering the planting season, which is when our farmers needed our services the most,” Katende said.
He forecasts that this season’s yield might be negatively affected affected since their farmers did not get the needed extension services from the experts. Katende said prior to the lockdown, extension services were offered to more than 300 farmer groups spread out all over Masindi, Hoima, Kiryandongo and Bulisa districts.
“We have now resorted to using phones and radios to reach them whenever we need to to disseminate information, but it is not as effective,” he said.
A SACCO handicapped
Katende also revealed that several of the financial cooperative’s key activities have been affected by the pandemic, with negative implications for its 13,000 active members.
For example, the SACCO was forced to postpone its Annual General Meeting (AGM) which had been slated for March 26 in order to comply with the ban on gatherings of more than five individuals.
“The AGM was supposed to approve this year’s strategic plan. Since it never sat, we are currently operating without a strategic plan,” he noted.
Ali Babyesiza, the Loans Recovery Officer at MADFA said that the SACCO’s services, including loan recovery, savings and business transactions also been hampered by the prevailing restrictions, particularly that on passenger transport.
“In the past, we used to receive between 20-50 clients a day, but we are currently receiving only 5- 10 clients daily,” Babyesiza said.
In a bid to take its services closer to members, MAFDA has introduced mobile banking agents in trading centres to facilitate transactions and loan repayments.
Babyesiza also noted that they are facing a problem of farmers who misinterpreted the president’s directive that, for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, people with loans must be given a grace period, to mean that their debts had been cancelled.
“The misinterpretation of the president’s guidelines has also led to reduction in loan repayment with majority of the people expecting government to clear their loans,” Babyesiza explained.
Masindi district farmers’ SACCO started in 2005 and operates in the four districts of Masindi, Hoima, Kiryandongo and Bulisa with a total number of 13,000 active members.