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DRDIP Empowered Us - Kyegegwa Woman

Within one year, Bitaranza was able to build a small commercial house where she currently runs a shop

Things are not the same again for Grace Bitaranza, a 35-year-old mother of four from Iringa village, Mpaala Sub County in Kyegegwa district. She is grateful for the livelihoods support sub project to women in her village through the Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP), an initiative of the Office of the Prime Minister. She narrates her ordeal to Robert Owiny.

Two years ago, Bitaranza was oblivious of how she would raise her children. She had challenges of feeding, she was troubled by her children’s school requirements, she had no business and not any family asset to proudly talk about. “You know, here we are far from town and most projects do not reach us”, she explains, adding that it’s difficult to get any form of work in her village where one can earn from, be it mere casual work.

One day, she recounts, “my children were all sent away from school because of school fees and other requirements”.  This was when Bitaranza and her husband felt entombed and “my husband didn’t sleep that night”, she remembers. “He kept on asking me, Grace, what do we do? What shall we do now? as he changes position on the bed as if he had pain throughout his body”.

Bitaranza surely had no answer to her husband’s painful questions as they couldn’t even get money out of the foodstuff they had harvested for the season from their small garden. “There were no buyers any near by that time”, she reflects.

Her village had no market and it was difficult to get somebody to buy agricultural products. “It was so difficult, but the hardship taught me to start thinking of doing something so as to support my husband in raising our four children”, she ironically appreciates.

In order to implement her decision to support her husband, Bitaranza and a group of other 10 women and one man started a Village Savings and Loaning Association (VSLA) that later benefited from interventions of the DRDIP Livelihoods component.

At the start, theirs was only a loose arrangement of a VSLA group of sort in the village, but they didn’t have proper knowledge of making profits. The group had no investment plan and the group members saved very little amounts of money. Some members could fail to save on weekly basis although the savings were as low as 1,000 Uganda Shillings. This made it difficult to even get a reasonable loan from the group.

Bitaranza recollects that, DRDIP intervened through training their group members on the five VSLA core principles such as; mandatory weekly meetings, weekly savings, inter-loaning, timely repayment and proper records keeping. The training helped the largely women group to maximize savings and discuss investment strategies so as to attract more interest through loaning out huge sums to members.

The group also received training on the four core responsibilities of promoting; housing, health, sanitation and education. This aspect motivated the members to embark on achieving something at individual levels but also as a group.

DRDIP further gave this group start-up capital worth 22,500,000Ush. This amplified Bitaranza’s group. “We decided as a group to acquire a piece of land and build a shelter that could allow members and other farmers to assemble their agricultural products for sale”. Members used the shelter mainly as a selling point for bananas (matoke) since all of them plant matoke but lacked a market for it. 

By putting their matoke together, the group attracted buyers from Kyegegwa town. Trucks started coming every day to buy matoke in bulk from these group shelter (market of sort) located in Iringa village, Mpala Sub County. This allowed the group to earn reasonable amounts of money as individuals and maximize their weekly savings. Other members including non-members started dealing in other items such as; goats, chicken, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes etc. This turned this village spot into a busy trading center attracting many buyers and sellers from far and wide.

Bitaranza on her part got loans several times and within one year, she was able to build a small commercial house where she currently runs a shop. “I relied purely on group loans to also buy land and to complete this house”, she says. “Let me tell you, I took advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown since children are not in school and started up many things that can now earn me money”, Bitaranza proudly adds.

Apart from running a general merchandise shop, Bitaranza also keeps poultry and goats which she uses to raise more money for weekly savings and to continue managing her group loan obligations. Today, Bitaranza feels stable enough to raise her four children and pay their school fees up to university. Looking back today, she feels that things are never the same again. She is grateful to DRDIP project and to the World Bank for supporting vulnerable communities.

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