Government through its body- The Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) has kicked off a campaign to promote access to affordable credit in the districts of Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo- in the Rwenzori Region. The campaign is targeting various categories of community members, along with District, Cultural and Religious leaders to sensitize them on the affordable funding opportunities available to increase household incomes and improve livelihoods.
Recently, a team from MSC concluded a two-week long sensitization drive of stakeholders and community members- the first of the many sensitization campaigns geared towards creating awareness and building capacity of community groups to access and benefit from government funding.
According to Hellen Petranella Matsika- an official from the MSC, over the past couple of years, government through MSC has extended cheap, affordable credit to entities in this region and more groups are being targeted for funding to alleviate poverty. “We have disbursed 29 Billion Shillings in the 9 districts of Kasese, Bunyagabu, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Ntoroko, Kamwenge, Kyenjojo, Mubende and Kabarole under our Kabarole Zonal Office, but these funds have been to SACCOS, Cooperatives and Companies”, Matsika explains. She however observed that very few community groups of people at different levels have benefited yet these groups have many members and are engaged in many income generating activities.
Out of the 29 Billion Shillings disbursed in the region so far, Kasese District has taken a lion’s share with 27 Billion Shillings going to Corporate bodies, Microfinance Institutions and Cooperatives while Bundibugyo has benefited the least with 160 Million Shillings.
One of the biggest bottlenecks according to MSC is people’s little awareness about the existence of such affordable financing. “Government has this funding opportunity and we offer different credit products at an interest between 9 and 17 percent per annum. This is the cheapest credit in Uganda but people are not aware of this. Government is now committed to improve awareness to spur development”, Matsika confidently told this site.
To drive this, officials from MSC are now training and engaging leaders, stakeholders and people from different groups in the districts of Kasese, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo to popularize this Government program in the region.
According to Belinda Atim, the MSC Public Relations Officer (PRO), bringing Political leaders, district technical leaders,
religious leaders, opinion leaders and cultural leaders on board is key in the sensitization initiatives because these people interact with Ugandans at all levels on a daily basis adding that with them, every person will get information about this affordable funding option from Government.
Key Observations So Far
According to Matsika, apart from little knowledge on the availability of these funds, people in the region though they have groups, a number of these groups are not fully registered with the office of the District Commercial Officer (DCO), many are poor at book keeping but all these can be corrected for these groups to qualify for government funding. On the other hand, Matsika observed that there are many well organized groups like the over 1000 Women Groups under the Rwenzori Catholic Diocese that are ready for funding adding that these will be funded soon to boost their income activities.
Mumbere Bonny Hastings- a Person Living With Disability in Bundibugyo District
People Living With Disability and other vulnerable groups like women, the elderly have for long been neglected. However, with this government funding that takes care of all groups of people, we shall be able to access affordable low-interest funds to boost our economic activities. All we need is more sensitization on how we can organize and strengthen our groups to benefit from these funds.
Mbetegyerize Godfrey- RDC Bundibugyo;
Government has come up with different programs to fight poverty. It has done its job. Now it is time for Ugandans to take advantage of these initiatives to access funds to boost economic activities. However, people who get these funds must know that it is not free money so it should be used for the right purpose to generate income so that groups are able to repay.
Mubulya Wilson- Prime Minister Obudhingiya Bwa Bwamba
The number of people accessing such good programs are still low yet people are still struggling with poverty. With more sensitization as initiated this time, awareness will improve and people will embrace this program and more others. We as cultural leaders appreciate the fact that we have a role to play in mobilising our communities to work towards prosperity.
Vila Nyeisi Muhindo- Chairperson Kasese Parish Women group
Through our different church groups, we have been saving little funds which we have been using in income generating activities like making liquid soap, buying tents and chairs for hire among other ventures. However, our scope of activities has over the years been limited by funds. We believe that with such affordable funding from government through the Microfinance Support Centre, we shall be able to expand our activities and earn more income to support of families and fight poverty.
Affordable financing still remains a very big issue in Uganda. Loans from Commercial Banks are charged a relatively high interest rate which makes them unattainable. What remains puzzling is that many government initiated credit and financing options are affordable but the uptake of these facilities leaves a lot to be desired.
Now that MSC has set the ball in motion, sensitization of Ugandans in different areas on how to access this affordable finance must be scaled up. To achieve this, a sustainable, multi-stakeholder approach must be adopted for effective and efficient mobilization. A cross section of Ugandans think that government financing is like a donation hence no need to bother re-paying. However, with regular monitoring of beneficiaries, the advanced funds can be put to good use and the beneficiaries will be in position to repay.
The Microfinance Support Centre, a Government company incorporated in 2001, has since its inception disbursed close to 270b countrywide. The company boasts of a database of 5000 client institutions which have benefited from Government’s vision of prosperity for all. While the initial efforts were geared towards support to Savings and Credit Co-operative Organizations (SACCOs), services were later extended to Village Loans and Savings Associations (VSLAs), which attract more of the rural folk. Piloted in the East and Northern regions of the country, support to groups is now open countrywide with a call for informal business groups to get organized and registered at the district level so as to benefit from the provision.
MSC offers the cheapest micro-credit facility ranging from 9-17 percent and places emphasis on lending to the agricultural sector, the backbone of the economy.
Seeing people smoking in a music video or a movie is a common scene not only in Uganda but globally. These scenes make smoking look fancy and this has far reaching consequences on the people especially the youth who look at musicians and movie stars as role models.
Health activists involved in tobacco control are concerned by this trend and want an end to it.
Andrew Kwizera, the Technical Resource Person in charge of the East African region for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids- a global Organisation on Tobacco Control says that many celebrities show scenes of smoking in music videos and films yet many are seen as role models to the youth. “Many young people who follow these stars have adopted smoking. This is setting a bad image to these innocent young people”, Kwizera observes adding that as a result of smoking, young people have been exposed to various tobacco related diseases which are hard and expensive to treat.
Statistics from the World Health Organization reveal that the average age of debutant smokers is 12-14 years globally.
According to Richard Baguma Tinkasimire, the coordinator Uganda Health Communication Alliance- one of the organizations at the forefront of tobacco control campaign in Uganda, young people are easily lured into smoking mainly by peer pressure and copying those they look at as role models. “Parents, leaders and celebrities must set a good example to the young generation and make children pick the best practices from them. Acts like smoking or tobacco consumption in any form should be discouraged”, he explains.
As part of the efforts to promote a smoking free generation, health activists in Uganda have adopted the use of musicians and other celebrities in the tobacco control campaigns.
Sophie Gombya- a household name in Uganda’s music industry is one of the Tobacco control ambassadors. “It’s true we have a big following, we have power to influence behavior directly or indirectly. As musicians and celebrities must be aware that what we do and show impacts on our followers.
We must therefore be mindful not to encourage bad habits like smoking among the people especially the youth who follow and adore us”, the vibrant Gombya explains.
Apart from Gombya, the Tobacco control fraternity has also used people like the Uganda National Netball Team- the ‘She Cranes’ to rally people against Tobacco- a move that Baguma says is paying off.
The Legal Framework
Uganda is a signatory of to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Article 13 (4a) prohibits all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that promote tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading, or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions.
Uganda’s Tobacco Control Act of 2015 also bans promotion and advertising of tobacco products, open display of tobacco products and selling of tobacco products to minors among others.
Whether showing of smoking scenes in movies and music videos is deliberate to lure people into this act, it is a clear breach of the law and the reality is- it ought to stop.
According to Kokulinda Lutgard, the head of Tanzania Tobacco Control Alliance, musicians and other celebrities have a huge impact on their following and can play a great role in Tobacco control but also everyone has a character to play in this campaign.
The Global Tobacco Burden
According to health experts, Tobacco use is one of the main risk factors for a number of chronic diseases, including cancer, lung diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics show that Tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year worldwide with more than 6 million of those deaths as a result of direct tobacco use while around 890 000 are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
The most worrying fact is that nearly 80 percent of the world’s more than 1 billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest and alarming.
Over the years, significant strides have been made in Tobacco Control but this is more in developed countries than in the developing world.
A 2017 report by WHO on “Monitoring tobacco use and prevention policies” reveal that more countries have implemented tobacco control policies, ranging from graphic pack warnings and advertising bans to no smoking areas. About 4.7 billion people – 63 percent of the world’s population are covered by at least one comprehensive tobacco control measure, which has quadrupled since 2007 when only 1 billion people and 15 percent of the world’s population were covered.
Uganda has an estimated 1.3 Million smokers- according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) report of 2013 with each smoker spending an average of 20, 730 Shillings (about 6 USD) on manufactured cigarettes per month.
By Abenaitwe Cliff
At the mention of Gold presence in an area, wealth expectations justifiably increase and when its mining is on, the area ought to change for the better. However, the story is different in Geita district located in the North Western part of Tanzania where gold mining has been taking place for over 50 years now.
Poor sanitary conditions, shanty dusty towns and trading centres, use of rudimentary tools, high population growth rate, high rate of rural urban migration, high number of idle youth and poor sanitation are a characteristic of Geita district located over 700 kilometres North of the capital Dar es Salaam.
In 1999, Angro-Gold Ashanti(GGM as it is popularly known)- a giant mining company got a license to mine gold the area something that gave the residents most of whom were engaged in small scale mining hope for a brighter future. “When GGM came in, we thought large scale well managed gold production will increase and the whole area will develop,” says Barutwanayo Bernard, a native of Nyakabale in Geita district.
According to Baruntwanayo, the residents expected the company to provide them with jobs, contribute to the social welfare of the area through it taxes, fees and loyalties but this is still a dream after over 10 years.
On reaching the district’s main town of Geita, the streets are dusty, the schools along the road are in a poor state, people live in poor houses and a big number of youth can be seen on the streets idle as early as noon. “Our lives have not changed at all. I have tried to get a job in the mines but all in vain and this is the same situation with all my friends. If you do not know anyone in the mines or if you do not have money to bribe, you cannot get a job there”, a visibly worried young man Baraka Butundo noted adding that the mine owners usually get their own laborers from as far as Dar es Salaam.
Authorities in this relatively new district share the same view. Manzie Mangochie the District Commissioner reveals that the mining company pays only 200,000 dollars annually as loyalty fee to the district a figure which is like a drop in the ocean. “This money is little compared to the population, the size of the district and the needs of our people,” Mangochie told a group of journalist under the revenue watch program at his office in Geita town.
According to the jolly Mangochie, much as GGM pays taxes to the government, its direct relevance to the area is still a dream.
Though the situation is not desirable something can be done on the legislative front. “We need to change on the laws concerning the mining sector. There is a need to empower local leaders and communities to have a say in mining contracts because it’s their areas to gain or lose,” he elaborated.
These photos were taken from different areas of Geita district to show the situation on the ground.
Aside Posted on Updated on
Bio-Science key to Achieving MDG1 in Africa
African countries have a long way to go if they are to achieve the
millennium development goal one (MDG1) of halving by 2015 the
proportion of people suffering from extreme hunger and poverty.
Less than 3 years to the deadline, the continent is still synonymous
with millions living below the poverty line and it is still affected
by hunger which seems to be going nowhere.
According to the UN food and agriculture 2010-2011, sub Saharan Africa is home to 26 percent of the world’s undernourished population, has the highest number of countries experiencing food emergencies due to in part, to climate extremes such as drought and exacerbated by civil unrest. The same reports reveals that Sub Saharan African still experiences increased food imports and is very vulnerable to global food price increases.
Experts attribute this trend to the poor performance of the agricultural sector.
The academy of science of South Africa (ASSAF) in its 2012 regulation
of agricultural GM technology in Africa report reveals that the poor
performance of the agricultural sector undermines Africa’s prospects
of attaining the MDGs and sustainable development in general. “The low agricultural productivity is associated with a wider range of
factors, including low investments in education, infrastructure,
research and development and over reliance on convectional technologies”, the report explains.
The solution for Africa is to improve the performance of the
However this report warns that much as the application of the best
conventional agricultural technologies can make significant
contribution to improving food security, it is not sufficient in
itself. “ The expansion of cultivated land through mechanization and provision of fertilizers can make a positive impact on food security in Africa but further benefits can be achieved by the application of modern biotechnology methods to plant improvement programs, principally for the so-called ‘orphan crops’ of particular importance to Africa”, the
According to Doctor Fen Beed, a pathologist from the USA who has worked in Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Ghana, it would be surprising if Africa met the MDG1 by 2015 but according to him, this can be achieved in years to come.“If African countries can adopt bio-technology and other good farming practices, poverty and hunger can be reduced but this will be after 2015,” he added.
Other scientists also agree with Doctor Beed on the role of bio-technology in agricultural improvement in Africa.
In the book Insights; Africa’s future.. can bioscience contribute?, Calestous Juma, a world renown scientist argues that African agriculture will need to intensify the use of science and technology more than would have been the case without the threats of climate change. “Investment in science and technology will be required along the entire agricultural value chain from resource intelligence through production, marketing, storage and ecological rehabilitation,” he explains.
Synonymous with what the researchers are recommending, African countries are making commendable progress in the use of Bio-science.
At Mukono zonal agricultural research and development institute research into improved crop species is under way and the institute has already developed improved fruit varieties. “The breeds we are developing as a result of grafting and cross breeding are disease resistant, quick maturing and high yielding,” Robinah Gafabusa, a fruits and vegetables research technician at this institute explains.
At the National research Organization NARO, researchers are developing different crop varieties to help farmers cope with the problem of diseases and low yields. According to Tendo Sali Lauben, a crop breeder at NARO, they have already developed banana varieties like M20, M9, M21 which mature fast, are disease resistant and they give high yields.
Numerous research institutions and scientists are currently working on developing different Bio- technologies and the African continent is getting itself ready for genetically modified technologies. However, Doctor Charles Lagu from the Mbarara agricultural research and development institute is calling for more sensitization of the farmers to adapt to these technologies if the current efforts are to bear fruits.
It is estimated that by 2050, the world population will increase to 9 billion people and this will increase food demand. The food and agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) is predicting that food production will need to increase by 70 percent.
To me, scientists and researchers, embracing Bio technology and genetically modified technology for agricultural improvement is the way to go and we all have a role to play in this.