GULU – Wawoto Kacel Cooperative Society in Gulu district has lost 55% of its buyers as a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Wawoto Kacel was formed in 2007 by a group by Comboni Samaritans of Gulu, a Catholic Charity, with the purpose of assisting the vulnerable groups such as those formerly abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), persons living with HIV/AIDS, Persons with Disability (PWDs), orphans and single mothers.
Because of their age, physical strength, limited skills and access to land, the cooperative chose to train the beneficiaries in the sedentary skills such as sweater knitting, decorative winnowing fans, earrings made of grains and seeds, table cloths, necklaces, shawls, blankets, and cards among others.
In the years preceding the pandemic, the cooperative used to sell a greater portion of their products to foreign tourists or ship their products for sale by their parent charity, Good Samaritans Italy.
However, Immaculate Adong, the manager of the cooperative, told theCooperator in an interview that since March 2020, their sales have dropped by 55%, as international travels were canceled.
“Corona has greatly affected the sales department, because ideally, we give work to members and they come to do it every Monday – Friday and it is the only way of empowering them economically,” Adong said.
Since March 2020, the cooperative has continued with production amid high costs and very low sales. This is to enable the members to be busy while accessing some of the fringe benefits such as access to free health services.
“Because most of our members have chronic sicknesses, we let them continue with the production on the assumption that the pandemic would quickly wane,” she said.
However, because of the limited sales, Adong said they have a lot of finished products including those that were ordered for in late 2019 by schools.
“The section for tailoring and sweater knitting schools are also closed. Even the orders we had from schools were canceled and the products that were ready a few days before the first lockdown have not been picked,” she said.
The Art and Craft industry employs many people, world over. The first mapping done by UNESCO National Commission in 2009 on the creative industries in Uganda showed that the sector boosts economic growth, job creation, and export earnings, and human resource development.
A 2018 UNESCO Global Report titled Cultural Policies, Cultural and Creative Industries says the sector employs 30 million people globally.
Because of the pandemic, the cooperative also failed to resettle part of the 50 members of the cooperative to their villages.
Each year, Wawoto Kacel resettles five members of the group to their respective villages.
The resettlement scheme depends on each member’s needs such as buying land, building a house, and giving Shs 1,000,000 start-up capital for an income generating activity of their choice.
“After resettling a few members, we get new members on board, but the Covid-19 pandemic has affected resettlement of 10 members ,” Adong said.
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