How SACCOs are changing lives of rural women, youth

It’s a hot Tuesday afternoon, but Fronille Mukamana is not bothered as she sprays her garden of Irish potatoes.
Mukamana has livestock and potato growing projects. / Joan Mbabazi
Mukamana has livestock and potato growing projects. / Joan Mbabazi

It’s a hot Tuesday afternoon, but Fronille Mukamana is not bothered as she sprays her garden of Irish potatoes. When she notices me, the Musanze District resident welcomes me with a smile and asks one of her children to complete the remaining part of the garden as we settle down for an interview at the farmer’s home in Musanze sector. Mukamana practices both crop and animal production, which have enabled her to educate her four children and also improve her standards of living.

Starting out

Mukamana says the need to provide the children the basic needs of life as a single mother compelled her to think outside the proverbial box.

Mukamana joined a local credit and savings group and started saving some of her earnings from peasant farming to achieve her goals. When the savings grew, she was able to secure funding from Saving and Credit Cooperatives (SACCO) Umutuzo in 2010 to expand her farming activities.

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Dusenge says cooperatives should promote client-centred services. / Joan Mbabazi

Her first loan from the group was Rwf100,000 and she recently secured Rwf1 million credit from the SACCO.

“I used the money to expand my farming projects, especially Irish potato growing and livestock farming,” she explains. Mukamana rears sheep which supplements her commercial potato growing venture.

The enterprising woman is also engaged in timber business. She buys trees and hires people to make timber that she sells to furniture makers and other people undertaking housing projects.

The discarded branches are used to make charcoal which she sells to residents, she says.

Achievements

Most of Mukamana’s income is spent on paying school fees for her children as well as provision of other family needs. However, she has managed to renovate the family home at a cost of Rwf10 million. She has also bought a piece of land that has commercial trees.

“I bought the land at Rwf200,000, but its value has now increased and its worth millions,” she says.

Mukamana urges other women to join SACCOs “because they helps support development initiatives and help one to improve their welfare.”

“I managed to pay school fees for all my children and, recently, one of them received a scholarship to study in China,” she says.

When Diane Iragena completed her secondary education, she thought of ways to create her own job, but lacked capital. That’s when she realised that joining the local SACCO would help her access the money she needed to start her own business.

“I deposited that money from the small jobs I did in the neighbourhood with Umutuzo SACCO. Later, they accepted to give me a Rwf300,000 loan in 2014,” she says.

She used the money to start a small general merchandise shop that also provides other services like photocopying. The also bought a scanner and printing machine when she secure a second loan.

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Iragena used savings to start a small shop. / Joan Mbabazi

Iragena also vends ‘cash power’ and does some knitting, making sweaters. The sweater-making machine cost Rwf200,000, which was part of her profits.

“These ventures have enabled me to repay the loan easily. I am happy that the SACCO supports projects by the youth and provides them toolkits under the loan,” she says.

“If I invest Rwf10,000 per week, I get a profit of between Rwf20,000 and Rwf30,000 after deducting the expenses,” she said adding that besides building a modern house, she has bought a piece land.

She urges other youth to join SACCOs, saying they can easily access investment funding to kick-start their dream projects and become self-reliant.

What SACCOs say

Amandine Dusenge, the manager of the Umutuzo SACCO, says the SACCO supports many projects, including those where agriculture, general business, as well as ventures by persons with disabilities, who received subsidised loans at 10 per cent interest rate.

The co-operative also works with Business Development Fund (BDF) where clients such as women and youth benefit from loan guarantees.

Umutuzo SACCO have won different awards because of working with categories such as youth, women and people with disabilities, among others.

“Although some clients delay to pay the loans, we do not auction their property, we handle it in an appropriate way to enable them service and complete their repayment,” she says.

The co-operative promotes customer-oriented services, according to Dusenge.

“Our products respond to client needs. For example, farmers pay us after harvesting their crop not before,” the SACCO official explains.

She says the SACCO also ensure accountability and transparency in all its activities, adding that this promotes consumer confidence.

Started in 2009, the co-operative boasts 5,700 members currently, including Mukamana and Iragena, up from 400 people when it opened.

Its capital has risen from Rwf34 million to Rwf128 million (equity) and Rwf205 million worth of deposits.

The loan book stands at Rwf211 million, according to Dusenge.

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