Eight active veterans’ SACCO groups in West Nile are set to benefit from Shs 150m under the United Nations Women Funds (UNWF).
According to Mike Mabonga Wambi, Commissioner Rehabilitation, Psycho-social Support and Resettlement in the Ministry of Defence, the prospective beneficiary SACCOs will be selected based on how active and vibrant they are.
While the process for selecting the SACCOs set to benefit from the funds is ongoing, Mabonga highlighted some criteria by which beneficiaries would be selected:
“We shall consider the group’s registration status; status of its accounts; its existing business; regularity of members’ savings, plus the ease and frequency with which money is loaned out to members. We shall also look out for the gender component, with a minimum of 10% SACCO members supposed to be women,” he said.
Mabonga adds that each of the eight SACCO groups, all of which should already own existing businesses, will receive an estimated Shs 18.7m to top up on their capital.
He noted that the purpose of the UN Women Funds is to provide modest financial support to enable veterans to kick start their own SACCOs and boost their livelihoods.
Zombo Veterans’ SACCO Associations Chairman, Osbert Kasamba, welcomed the anticipated cash injection for veterans’ SACCOs, saying majority of veterans are living in trying financial circumstances.
He believes that if veterans are empowered to join viable SACCOs, they could access low-interest credit to finance economic ventures that can improve their lives.
“According to the Micro-Finance Support Centre, for a sustainable SACCO to function optimally, group members must raise Shs 50m, a condition that makes it difficult for low-income earners to come up with independent SACCOs,” he said.
Kasamba also highlighted that a persistent challenge that veterans face is the consistent delay in processing their pensions, which severely cripples their ability to engage in viable economic ventures.
Col. Kefa Nangeso, the UPDF Chief of Pensions and Gratuity (COPG) says the Ministry of Defence is working closely with veterans to ensure that they are fully empowered and their pensions are paid in time, in order to bridge the financial gaps in the communities.
”The delays in payment of veterans’ money have been due to late submission of pension documents by the beneficiaries and this has affected the daily lives of the veteran communities,” he said.
Commissioner Mabonga urged veterans to look at other possible sources of income, in addition to their pension, as they seek to improve their livelihoods.
“Pensions alone cannot help our veterans to improve their financial status. Veteran communities must engage themselves in active agro-business enterprises and form cooperative societies for sustainable income,” Mabonga said.
He added that the Ministry of Defence has designed modalities where by veterans will be empowered in various activities like setting up agro-business enterprises and build their capacity to run sustainable income-generating activities like Bee keeping and Cassava processing facilities.
Mabonga also commended Maracha Veteran Bee Keeping Association, famous for its “Maracha Organic Honey”, for being a role model on how veterans can improve their lives.
In addition, Col. Nangeso urged the Veteran communities to enroll in the Presidential Initiative on Wealth and Job Creation, Emyooga, funds as an alternative means to improve their livelihoods.
“We need you to form SACCOs and be empowered to monitor your own business to avoid the issue of saying there is no money. Be creative and generate your own money through agro-business enterprises,” Nangeso said.
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