KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
Florence Ninsiima, 40 years old, lives with her husband and children in the village of Nyakiju, Muyumbu, which is located in the Kabale District of southwestern Uganda. Several years ago, Florence and her husband tested HIV+ at KIHEFO’s HIV/AIDS Clinic in Kabale town-centre. Through KIHEFO’s counseling services, they were encouraged to join a support-group (known locally as ngozi groups) in their village, with the goal to help others living with HIV/AIDS, decrease stigma of the epidemic, increase adherence to anti-retroviral medication, and work together to save money and contribute to a revolving micro-loan fund.
Today Florence and her husband host the monthly ngozi meetings at their home in Muyumbu. There are over 25 members in their group. Every month, members bring small savings to add to the group’s overall collective savings. Florence helps to keep track of member’s contributions, and manage the revolving fund. The group serves as a support network, pooling funds to help members pay for health services during times of emergency and family strife – which is often exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS prevalence.
KIHEFO began working with the ngozi group in Muyumbu over three years ago. KIHEFO donated initial capital to the ngozi group, and members, including Florence, received training in managing a revolving fund, and advice on how to make smart investments in agricultural innovations.
Recently, Florence received seed packets for cabbage, cauliflower, and beet roots, along with a watering can, through the ngozi group’s revolving fund. Florence and the group decided to invest their group’s fund to purchase seeds because small-farmers are hungry for accessing capital to help them increase the yield and quality of their crops.
Florence has two daughters attending secondary school, and needs to pay their tuition fees every term (three terms/year). She must pay approximately 600,000 Ugandan Shillings ($240 US) per year for both of her daughters to work towards finishing their education. This amount is not easy for poor families to raise, especially when there are many household expenses, including food, cooking oil, charcoal, soap, clothing, transport, medicine – and so on. As a result, Florence was happy to receive the loan of seeds and a watering can. She was confident the seeds would do well, and help her pay her daughter’s school feeds. Seeds for cabbages, cauliflower, and beet roots were chosen due to high adaptation to warmer temperatures, high yields and good returns from the markets.
Additional to the seeds, Florence also received a watering can. Although it may seem like a simple device, a watering can makes all the difference for a small-farmer, particularly during the dry season (from late May to August in Kabale District).
Before, Florence exhausted herself to water her crops (when there was little, or no rainfall) – using a plastic washing basin to “splash water” onto the plants.
“You can see the difference [in plants] between people who use a watering can, and don’t use a watering can,” Florence commented. “And [in the dry season] if you don’t water, you can’t earn schools fees.”
In six month’s time, after harvesting the vegetable crops, Florence will be expected to pay back the loan for the seeds and watering can to the group’s revolving fund, so other members can also benefit from accessing small capital. The rate of return is high, due to the strong social network and sense of group accountability.
The challenge remains that ngozi group have limited savings, so while one member benefits, another is forced to wait their turn – and as members explained, the costs of living (including paying for their children’s education) never waits, only accumulates.
Small-farmers like Florence need increased support for capital so that they can diversify their crops and livestock (investments in rabbits and goats, for example), improve their tools and resources, increase yields, access new markets, and generate more income from their hard work in the fields. Today, KIHEFO is working closely with ngozi groups in over 50 villages throughout the Kabale District and Kigezi region, to support their goals for increasing capital, and solving their own problems of poverty and disease.
Please help support KIHEFO’s Revolving Micro-Credit Loan and Agro-Innovation Program – to help small-farmers, including Florence and her husband, to work their way out of poverty and provide brighter futures for their children.
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