Mbarara grape cooperative holds first AGM, members urged on loan payment
MBARARA – Mbarara City Woman Member of Parliament, Rita Atukwasa Bwahika, has challenged cooperative members to always repay their loans on time.
While attending Mbarara Grape Farmers Cooperative Society’s elective annual general meeting [ AGM ] in Ibaare Cell Nyakayojo Ward in Mbarara City South days ago, Bwahika said most cooperatives have collapsed because members do not want to pay back the loans disbursed to them.
She said that for the SACCO or cooperative to thrive, members must pay their loans in time to enable the cooperative to grow its savings and capital base.
“Once members pay their loans, it means the cooperative will have enough liquidity to boost the loan business,” Bwahika said.
Bwahika was pleased with grape farmers who started as an association and later transformed into a fully registered cooperative, which she promised, support to thrive.
“Now that you are united…I will make sure that I lobby for you enough funds and equipment to grow yourselves into a strong wine-making cooperative in the region because you already have raw materials,” the MP noted.
During the elective AGM, members successfully choose the board, the vetting committee, and supervisory committee that will run the cooperative for a four-year term of office.
Among the elected nine board members include; Alex Asiimwe [chairman], Jadress Mwesigye Kasoni [vice chairperson], Charles Mugurura [Gen. Secretary], Sebastian Muzoora as the treasurer among others.
The chairman-elect explained that the cooperative intends to unite all grape farmers in Greater Mbarara. “We realised the association would not take us far, so we decided to transform into a cooperative in November 2022,” he said.
Asiimwe adds that the cooperative will help members to mobilise resources to add value to the grapes produced. “In our future plans we want to establish a winery to start producing wine so that we are not exploited,” he said.
He also encouraged members to increase shares and continue saving. “Let each member inject Shs 100,000 as savings and Shs 100,000 to facilitate the cooperative’s activities,” he noted.
The newly elected treasurer, Sebastian Muzoora cautioned the board and the management to be mindful of members’ savings. “When you are in charge of members’ savings, bear in mind that the money you are keeping is not yours. Make sure you guard it jealously,” Asiimwe emphasised.
Muzoora challenged the government to work on the poor roads so that farmers can transport their products to the market.
Nyakayojo grape farmers association started in 2019 and transformed into Mbarara Grape Farmers’ Cooperative Society Limited in 2022.
Currently, the cooperative has a total of 70 members, a loan portfolio of Shs 18 million, a share capital of Shs 210,000, total savings of Shs 2.4 mln, and a net income of Shs 14mln.
Grape farming was introduced in Nyakayojo ward by the Christian missionaries. However, it has intensified for the last 10 years, attracting over 200 farmers in the villages of Ibaare, Nyamatojo, and Mabira among others.
Currently, the farmers in the area produce about 100 tons of grapes in one rainy season meaning that in a year they produce over 200 tons of grapes. A kilogramme of grapes costs between Shs 2000-3000.
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