WMI Staff Inspecting Gombe Construction
WMI is currently building its eighth meeting pavilion, due to be completed in time for loan training and issuance in January 2021. Constructing pavilions, like this one in rural Gombe, Uganda, is just one of the ways that WMI supports its rural lending program. The photos show just how remote Gombe is!
The open-air pavilions provide a space for training sessions, where our borrowers can sit away from the hot sun or pounding rain as they listen to the trainers explain how to run a business, how to save, and how to repay the loans. On loan collection days they provide a secure space for the ladies to undertake financial transactions. Construction of the facilities not only provides local jobs, but the resulting pavilion bestows the village with a venue for community activities such as local government meetings, weddings, and other ceremonies and celebrations.
As we expand further and further afield from our central headquarters in Buyobo, WMI is building at least one of these pavilions annually. Not only is our large 500-seat meeting pavilion at Buyobo becoming insufficient for the growing program on training days (we have 2,200 active borrowers in the Buyobo region alone), but the distances have become too far for the women to easily walk to attend meetings or make their loan payments.
The pavilions have grown in scope from the first totally open-air pavilion we built in 2013. We quickly saw the need to enclose it for security reasons (and to keep roaming roosters out!). Always improving, WMI soon began to include latrines in the building budgets and returned to add three or four-stance latrines to those pavilions that did not originally have them. Having a latrine system is a very big plus for village-level infrastructure, as good sanitation is extremely important in improving health outcomes in the often densely populated villages. Now, we are looking to add another component to our construction budgets – solar power.
Our use of solar power began back in Buyobo, our first village loan program, and now WMI headquarters. We built our office/meeting room in 2009, adding an electrical hook-up the following year. Although there is an electric line into the village, power is not reliable, and we soon added solar panels to the roof of our building. Beyond office needs, solar power extends the use of the meeting spaces into the evening and provides light for night-time security. And, although it wasn’t something we originally planned for, our buildings with solar power have become phone charging stations, enabling the community to power-up while social gathering. Although rural life in Uganda is still quite simple – cooking on open fire, latrines for sanitation -- mobile phones are ubiquitous in East Africa, used not only for communication but for financial transactions. Many of our meeting pavilions are in villages with no access to electric power.
While WMI funds the building construction from donations like yours, the ladies in the remote centers pool their time and funds to find, negotiate and purchase the land. We believe that by investing in the land, borrowers have a stake in maintaining and managing the new buildings (which they have been doing quite assiduously). The pavilions become a source of great pride to the local ladies and their villages, as there are few buildings of this size. In fact, they are so useful that they have become very popular – now there is a waiting list of sub-hub locations where the motivated local members have organized and want us to construct a pavilion.
Each pavilion, with latrines, costs between $25,000 and $30,000, depending upon location. Solar power can add another $5,000 to the cost. It is a major capital expenditure, which we meet through foundation grants, along with the generous contributions we receive from donors like you. Won’t you help us continue to build the meeting pavilions that have become the lifeblood of these rural communities?
Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season!
The Board of Directors
Women’s Microfinance Initiative
Building the Latrine
Dedicating Mutufu Building January 2020