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Local non-profit mentors farmers into entrepreneurs

In a bid to break the cycle of poverty, thousands of farmers in Gulu, Nwoya, and Kitgum district have embraced entrepreneurship, engaging in income generating activities like retailing silver fish, vegetables and other produce.

This after they were mentored by Village Enterprise, a non-profit organization through its Saving With A Purpose(SWAP) scheme that teaches members to first identify their need and then save for it for a particular period.

Participants in the scheme say the practice of targeted saving it encourages has been a life-changer. Last Tuesday, the group members shared their savings after nine months of saving. 

Milly Achola, a 50-year old resident of Kiceke village in Paicho Sub county, Gulu district says that she has belonged to saving groups before, but her experience with SWAP has been different.

“I did not know much about business. I would just save for schools fees and had no money to buy even just household utensils, but now I can proudly host my friends and relatives,” the mother of five said, showing off the household items she had bought through the scheme.

Okot Patrick Obbo, the L.C I General Secretary Kiceke village said the SWAP scheme has reduced gender based violence in the area by involving the entire family.

“In other saving groups, locals sneak to save money; sometimes women will even steal farm produce to sell off in order to get money to save weekly but usually ends in fights between couples. With SWAP, both partners and their children are involved, so it’s a collective effort which discourages secrecy,” he said.

Farmers to entrepreneurs

Village enterprise’s Saving With A Purpose (SWAP) scheme was launched in 2016 in Nwoya district to help individuals and businesses set and achieve specific targets. The non-profit which also operates in Gulu and Nwoya recently extended operations to Kiryandongo and Masindi.

They mostly deal with farmers, retailers, produce dealers and skilled business people like tailors and restaurant operators.

Agnes Aryemo, a business mentor at Village Enterprise, says each group consisting of three members is given a grant of Shs 520,000 to start an enterprise of their choice.

“Being in a group encourages sustainability of the project and safety of the grant. If one person decides to leave the group, the remaining two members can continue,” she said.

“Much as many of the members are farmers, the program encourages them to engage in income generating activities so that they can have a good cash flow,” Aryemo added.

Aryemo trains the group members on skills like writing business plans and record keeping, among others to ensure that the businesses are sustainable and profit making.

“I have seen families transformed. There are families which did not have even cups with which to drink water when the project started.

It’s common for saving groups to spend all their money on clothes, food and unnecessary things because they don’t save with a purpose,” she pointed out.

According to Zita Akwero, the Northern Regional Manager Village Enterprise, a total of 4,075 farmers in Gulu, Nwoya and Kitgum have since 2016 benefited from the project.

In Kiceke village, Paicho Sub County, Gulu district, 30 women-mostly farmers under Rubangatwero Bolicup saving group told Mega FM, a local radio station, that they have been able to acquire household assets after engaging in commercial farming and other income generating activities like retailing vegetables.

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