Rose Mary, 36, is a Ugandan residing in Okujabe village next to Alere refugee settlement in Adjumani district. She is the Secretary for Amaalu Livelihoods Group formed by DRC under the Support Programme to the Refugee Settlements and Host Communities in Northern Uganda (SPRS-NU). This livelihoods group comprises both refugee and host communities’ members.
After Enabling Rural Innovation/Participatory Agroenterprise Development training, she started participating in the Village Savings and Loan Association initiative.
“Before the intervention, we were saving in a group of 20 members called Mary-go Saving Group since the year 2015. A members’ weekly saving was handed over to a member routinely until each member gets his/her share and the cycle continues – nothing like a saving box, no loans, and no interest earned. This was due to a lack of sensitization, lack of Village Savings and Loan Association kits, and lack of knowledge and skills in Village Savings and Loans Association methodology, among the other things that we were struggling with,” Rose Mary says.
“Through Enabling Rural Innovation/Participatory Agroenterprise Development training introduced to us, I gained a lot of knowledge and skills, especially, Participatory Diagnosis – how to get into the desired situation – and Enterprise Development – how to select profitable business enterprise. This was the trigger that sang deep in my mind to become who I am today. Not long after that, we were trained on Village Savings and Loans Association methodology, which we appreciated and adopted right away on the day we received the Village Savings and Loans Association kits,” Rose Mary continues.
“The journey of saving has become interesting as everything changed, ranging from the sitting arrangement, fines, social funds, loaning, and interest-earning. No doubt, this has taken me a step ahead and triggered me to save for the future and fulfill my desire,” says Rose Mary.
Asked about her experience dealing with the COVID-19 lockdown, Rose Mary recounts:
“The 23rd of April 2020 marked the end of our third cycle (end of the third year of saving). In this lockdown, we saved and shared among the group members a tune of 28, 896,500 Ugandan Shillings. I received 2,464,000 Ugandan Shillings which I was saving on 2 accounts (my and my daughter’s accounts). I took a cumulative loan from the Village Savings and Loans Association group worth of 2,576,000 Ugandan Shillings. This has enabled me to establish a grocery business that is worth 5 million (Ugandan Shillings).”
“I am a single mother and the income generated by the business pays my child’s school fees in the Senior 1 class. Next, I constructed a shop and bought 3 cows. It also pays for my health services, facilitates garden works and basic needs,” says Rose Mary.
Overall, Rose Mary believes that the intervention has greatly impacted their livelihoods not only in the group but also on a household and community levels as one of the objectives of their saving was to increase their household’s income.
“The entire community is benefiting greatly from our savings during this trying moment of the COVID-19 lockdown as we bring goods (food) nearer, saving them from the trouble of looking for food items beyond the settlement. This has, therefore, addressed the necessity of meeting emergency needs and investing in small scale businesses as one of our Village Savings and Loan Association group’s goal was,” concludes Rose Mary.
The global COVID-19 spread followed by the country lockdown took refugees and their host communities by surprise. Suddenly, many of them found themselves left with no income generation source and struggling to make their and their families living. Thankfully to DRC programming in the livelihoods sector and its donors' support, persons of concern participating in DRC activities found a way to face the challenges brought by the pandemic with resilience and hope. Currently, DRC continues operating continuously adapting its programming to the coronavirus situation to identify persons of concern needs, provide them with necessary support and assistance, and keep them and the staff safe and informed. All activities comply with the WHO and Ministry of Health of Uganda guidelines.
Danish Refugee Council in consortium with ZOA, Ceford, and Save the Children implements the Support Programme to the Refugee Settlements and Host Communities in Northern Uganda (SPRS-NU). In Adjumani refugee settlements, there were formed 244 livelihoods groups comprising 3,050 refugee and 3,050 host communities’ members. These livelihoods groups receive the Enabling Rural Innovation/Participatory Agroenterprise Development training, quality farm inputs, climate-smart agriculture training, Village Savings and Loans Association training, support to form linkages with the private sector, support to form producers associations, support to income generating activities, as well as learning from experiential establishment.
This programme is funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund.