Mar 10, 2021

Coping with COVID

The Sunni VSLA at its annual reckoning
The Sunni VSLA at its annual reckoning

In December 2020 the Village Savings and Loans Associations had their annual "year end" when they reviewed their income and expenditure over the previous 12 months and shared out any dividends. This was the first such review since the arrival of COVID, and so provided a valuable insight into how the VSLAs are coping during the pandemic, and how they were able to continue supporting their members.

Individual members have continued to create or improve businesses by borrowing money from their group savings. Many are small scale enterprises (e.g.) growing and trading in crops such as maize, ground-nuts, vegetables, water melons and sugar cane; selling/hiring farm implements such as hand hoes, ox ploughs, pumps and sprays; running retail shops, vending of cooked foodstuff, livestock rearing especially poultry among others.

During COVID, however, agri-business has slowed down, when agricultural markets and institutions like schools and restaurants were closed. As a result, loan repayment was difficult for some of the borrowers, which affected the other group savers. Some members who took loans could not recover the money invested as business slowed down. Some defaulters had to sell personal property to clear debts. One group sued a big defaulter and the case has been registered in a court of law.

In response some of the associations have altered their practices to better cope with the situation (e.g. by computing interest on loans on a monthly rather than tri-monthly basis, resulting in more returns on savings) and overall the enthusiasm remains for this type of activity as members see the benefits gained from being part of the association. The demand for setting up new VSLAs remains.

As yet we have not raised enough funds to invest in the establishment of more VSLAs, but it is great to see how the existing associations are strong enough and adaptable enough to survive such a major challenge as COVID.

Nov 11, 2020

Building momentum?

A typical meeting of a VSLA
A typical meeting of a VSLA

This has not been an easy year for the communities around Budaka, a rural District about an hour from Mbale, the nearest large town. Although not affected significantly by COVID, people still had to cope with the restrictions on meetings and travel imposed by the national Government, limiting the business and trading opportunities that they usually depend.

Through this time, the Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) have continued to meet, members have continued to contribute and take loans. The extent to which the level of this activity has been affected by the restrictions will become clear in December, when the groups meet to close the year and review their experiences, but the impression so far is that the Associations have continued to function and continued to provide a valuable resource for the community members.

Since our last report we have had a few donations towards our plan to expand the number of groups, so we will renew our efforts over the coming weeks in the hope of raising more funding for work in 2021. Thanks to our donors we hope to be bringing new skills and opportunities to communities and provide them with an additional option for coping with the challenges their daily lives bring 

Jul 15, 2020

A Slow Start

This project is intended to boost the establishment of Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) in Budaka District, Uganda. It will build on the success of the already established Associations which have proven to be a lifeline in community members efforts to improve their livelihoods. Even though the activities of the VSLAs have been constrained by COVID 19 and the businesses they support have been reduced, they continue to play an important social and economic role in the community.

COVID 19 has also put constraints on ICA:UK's activities in the UK, and the small amount donated to this project so far demonstrates how currently people's minds are more focused on coping with the pandemic themselves, or supporting the most vulnerable in their own families and communities.

We intend to keep the project open and to launch a further appeal later in the year.  

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