By Andrew Masinde
Peace Rukundo was jobless. She depended entirely on her husband for everything. Although he provided for her needs, he disrespected her, calling her names. She endured the abuse since she had no where to go.
One day, Juliet Asasiira approached Rukundo, asking her to join Rwagaju Agribusiness Association (RAA). The group teaches women to fight poverty through agriculture.
Rukundo joined RAA and two years later, she bought land. Additionally, Rukundo has bought two cows that provide milk. The proceeds from milk have enabled her take care of her family. Rukundo also saves money daily with the group. Her husband now respects her.
How RAA began
Born in 1966 in Maseruka, Sheema district, Asasiira got married and settled in Mbarara. She started RAA in Mbarara district in 2010. Her aim was to change the poor farming methods that the residents were practising to fight poverty.
“In Mbarara, I was surprised to see people working on their own. Some were successful, while others were not. I suggested that we form a group so that we would share ideas and move at the same pace,” Asasiira says.
Although the residents welcomed the idea, they were not willing to contribute money to kick-start it. “I suggested that we look for land and plant crops for sale. We would then share the money. The members agreed to the proposal,” Asasiira says.
She gathered women from Rwagaju village, Biharwe sub-county in Mbarara district and they rented over 13 acres of land, where they planted maize and beans.
The women earned sh570,000 from the sale of the crops. But instead of sharing the proceeds among themselves, Asasiira proposed that they rent more land.
The members, however, suggested that they use the money to buy tents and chairs that they would rent to people who had parties to generate income. The group bought 500 plastic chairs and two tents.
Starting a savings scheme
Since the number of members was increasing, Asasiira suggested that they start a savings scheme, where they would collect money and give it to one member after two weeks.
The group ensured that each member who got the money used it to start a business. After all the members had started businesses, the group changed the system to loan money at a 20% interest rate.
“The members also came up with the idea of buying shares in the group,” Asasiira says. “They set the price of each share at sh5,000.
After three months, they suggested that they increase the price of a share to sh50,000. Some members also started buying shares for their families.”
The group has books, where each member registers their savings and number of shares. The group also started projects of a member’s preference at their home.
Some members now have poultry and fruit farms, while others have piggery units, as well as coffee and banana plantations.
Enid Ninsima used to sell tomatoes on a roadside stall on the Mbarara highway until she took a loan from RAA. Today, she has a big stall that is worth millions of shillings.
“I have now bought a large piece of land, where I have planted coffee. I also have two cows and a poultry farm. I also plan to open a shop,” Ninsima says.
Darius Kashaija, the LC chairman, was talked by his wife into joining the group. Thanks to RAA, he has built a house and rental apartments, as well as bought land, where he has established a banana plantation.
He also pays school fees for his children in good schools.
Asasiira has also been advocating vegetable growing at members’ homes. “How can a woman in the village buy vegetables, yet there is a lot of land?
This has a great shame, which is why I began advising the women to grow vegetables. They now have surplus vegetables for sale,” Asasiira says.
She has expanded the group to two other villages of Biharwe and Kabwohe in Mbarara, bringing the total number of members to 195.
The group plans to buy a maize milling machine to produce their own flour. Unprocessed maize fetches low prices The group also wants to acquire land, where they will build a market and houses for rent. Additionally, they also plan to have a large garden were they can grow crops.
The group faces a challenge of lack of electricity to preserve their agricultural products. They also lack a car to transport their produce to the markets.
Nominee: Juliet Asasiira
Innovation: Formed three agricultural groups in Mbarara
Quote: “When I got married in Mbarara, I was surprised to see people working on their own. Some were successful, while others were not. I suggested that we form a group so that we could share ideas”
Contact: 0753264118, 0789194288