Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Farmers Supporting the SACCO's in Uganda

Mpagi Saul -Coffee, Bananas, Livestock, and Fruits
At Nizigo SACCO (Savings and Credit Co-operatives, Credit Unions), we had an opportunity to visit three farms to learn more about how the SACCO helps them and in return how they support the SACCO.

Jack Fruit

Saul was a very well spoken farmer who has a degree in Agriculture from Kenya. He was quite proud of his education and accomplishments. He gave us the grand tour of his huge farm and demonstrated how his education in farming has paid dividends. He hires labourers and harvests his crop with money he borrows from the SACCO.  He very generously shared a Jack Fruit with us. Most North Americans would not have the opportunity to try the Jack Fruit as it only has a shelf life of about 4 days. We were lucky to enjoy one, right off the tree, and it was very tasty. I cannot describe the taste but it was a coarse slimy fruit, similar to a honeydew. It had huge seeds and you could pick the fruit with your hands once it was cracked open. It is the size of a watermelon and it grows high on a tree.

James Kakooza

The next farmer we met was James Kakooza. He had a small garden in front of his house and a large banana plantation. I had to use a interpreter to talk to James as he knew little english. He showed us an impressive farm that he had also been able to build as a result of the SACCO giving him a farm loan. He has used the income from the farm to pay for school fees and keep his home in good shape for his family. You can certainly tell that this man is a hard worker and he is very proud.

The last farmer we visited was Ali Kabanda. He is a youth pineapple farmer. He also took out a loan to plant pineapples in about an acre of land. He had an impressive farm and you can tell it has been a lot of work. He advised that it takes the first harvest of pineapple about 18 months. You can see an interview with Ali in the previous blog.

So what did I learn about Nazigo Credit Union and the farmers we met that day? There is a strong commitment and loyalty to one another. This is not the kind of relationship you get to witness everyday. These relationships are strong and supportive to the point they consider each other partners and family. As coaches, we prepared an in-depth report to the board offering suggestions on how to tackle some of the problems they were facing. They do great things, and although we were there to provide advice and recommendations, I too learned a great deal. The board and management take great pride in the community and supporting their members. They have their loans staff visit their commercial clients regularly to have tea and discuss their business. The farmers were quite proud that the loans staff brought Canadian coaches to their farms and were pleased to show us their farm - once we signed their guest book. I was so impressed by this relationship; it will be something I will never forget and certainly encourage at our Credit Union.

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