ACCESS perspective to Community Development
At ACCESS we define development as a step-by-step movement, progressive in nature, from one state of being to a new acceptable state of being ranked by known standards of society that influences one’s life and society perspective to the so many ways they do their things.
It should be noted that development steps are influenced by a change force which is usually accepted or rejected by the community depending on the community penetration style one engages.
Change by nature is a new state to both individuals and societal systems and therefore faces a lot of bottlenecks despite its positive intentions sometimes. Change can also be classified into two folds, that is change that is forceful and change that is mindful, and the first one imposes itself without allowance to evaluation by many and through its adoption, the testing experience becomes a learning point. The latter is very cognizant of the fact that society and individuals already have what they believe in therefore, it comes in slow to allow easy adoption and free acceptance by the majority.
At ACCESS, coming to 20 years now, we have adopted and implemented a mindful change model that can easily accommodate the rigid nature of our African culture and customs, which strongly delays change plans sometimes, however, we have gone slow and sure on community penetration and buy-in for all our organization program activities in Health, Education and Economic Empowerment.
ACCESS since its inception adopted a community Health Work Model (CHW), which puts a Community Health Worker at the pivot of all community engagements, right from community penetration of organization initiatives into the community and thereafter leading the community buy-in to organizational change plans.
It has been our focus for a long time now to influence/ cause change that is owned by the entire community because this way everyone within the community, young or old will have played a part to change which is sustainable in nature.
Change within the community in which we work has not come in so easy, but we can use the observations from the last nineteen years to tell an economic empowerment story within Nakaseke District in Uganda Africa.
By the nature of things in this region following the 1986 war that brought in the current regime in power in Uganda, the Nakaseke region lost many young men and children who were breadwinners in many polygamous families leaving behind a vast number of Orphans and Widows, this escalated the dependence burden and also explains the composition of the majority of the Ugandan population today, which is dominated by mainly the youth.
The organization has struggled to bring in hope and sustainability measures to life, encouragement and need to live amongst the people of Nakaseke, by introducing initiatives to learn the art of income generation for family and community social wellbeing,
We started small, by introducing to families with children supported by the organization through the Orphans and Vulnerable children program, income generation interventions like raring animals, and planting gardens from which they could harvest food for both home consumption and sale to be able to acquire items the children continuously needed.
We ventured into interest-free loaning of about $200 first as a pilot to ten (10) women participants within in the community with struggling small businesses, with the goal to increase their income base, grow and maintain their business, play an exemplary role among other women in the community to admire, accept and adopt the income generation ideology message that was presented by the Community Health Workers as an Economic empowerment strategy in the community.
The Ten Participants were to return the capital invested within eight months, however despite the numerous structured monitoring and evaluation interventions deployed, only 35% of the participants in this interest-free loan model have been able to return some of the money, and only one person has paid up fully.
Learning from this experience, it was noted that extending practical knowledge on how to manage and sustain businesses was more important than the size of capital to invest in a particular business because we discovered that many participants did not return back the loaned money, because they used to eat directly from the business proceeds, without a clear clue that they were eating up the entire capital
From that experience, we partnered with WWK and initiated another interest-free loan model which targeted about fifty to one hundred and fifty women from different sub-counties within Nakaseke District to receive a small interest-free loan of about $10. In this model, the emphasis was put on humble beginnings with relevant practical business knowledge, for the participants to learn business management through a cycle of business journeys from initiation with small capital investment to business growth when the business capital has grown.
Tremendously, over a period of three years from 2019 to date, we have registered gradual but very successful stories, which has taught us a lesson that, to start, run and maintain a business one needs to practically learn from the gradual business growth such that by the time the business capital grows the business owner has mastered the skill of sustainability, and that continuous practical business education is a requirement to rural people to re-echo business management principles from time to time.
Our dedicated team during a loan collections meeting.
We strongly believe that empowering many local women to work and sustain family businesses, will increase the community’s economic performance, and these families will be able to adopt good health-seeking behavior because they will be able to afford to pay for basic medical bills, and at least support their children through basic public education
Ms. Rose in her poultry project.
The bigger vision, is to teach the local women how to maintain sustainable income generation through Village saving groups that they will use to re-invest into their business in order to work with bigger capital after acquiring practical business skills, and have walked through the various business growth cycles and challenges and learned how to bend them.
The organization plans to set up cooperatives for the teams according to the IGA industries that will provide easy markets for the products and produces from the local business, for the local business owners to have a collective business voice to be able to negotiate for better and more competitive prices for their products and produces.
ACCESS ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT CONCEPT
African Community Center for Social Sustainability (ACCESS) is a community-based organization in Nakaseke, Uganda founded on the belief that everyone has a right to a healthy life. The micro-nano project was initiated in January 2019 by ACCESS in collaboration with With Women Kisoboka (WWK) with an aim of empowering women by skilling them financially so that they transform their families and the entire community. The project started with 50 women only but the number has grown to around 150 to date.
To work with vulnerable people in resource-limited settings through provision of medical care, education, and economic empowerment to create long-lasting change that is owned by the entire community.
African Community Centre for Social Sustainability (ACCESS) contributes to community development through education, medical care, and economic empowerment.
The focus of this communication is to highlight one of the key economic empowerment activities undertaken under the leadership of MsEstherloyKatali, the Executive Director of ACCESS Uganda.
The Micro-nano project.
Since its inception. ACCESS has been looking for innovative ways to empower vulnerable members of Nakaseke and beyond out of poverty. Through our work, we have come to note that the drivers of poverty in our community include lack of access to cash, poor access to markets, lack of financial literacy as well as low levels of mentorship. Many of our beneficiaries were working hand to mouth and had very low levels of saving culture. In a survey, we conducted of over 300 households only 30 homes (10%) had a bank account. Of those with a bank account, the majority 20 (66%) were in- formal employment and the majority of these were male. Women had very little involvement in income-generating activities. Based on these daunting findings we partnered With Women Kisoboka an indigenous organization to empower women. The Micro-nano project is an economic empowerment initiative that seeks to address the community poverty gap and the need to advance the social standards of living within the community to the acceptable social well-being standard levels globally. In a bid to address the huge poverty problem in Nakaseke District and Luwero Triangle in Uganda, Africa, ACCESS strongly believes in having the entire community involved in the community development programs such that developmental initiatives are easily embraced and adopted. ACCESS strongly believes that education and good health are supporting factors for community development.
To address the community poverty gap and need to advance the social standards of living within the community to the acceptable social well-being standard levels globally.
Sub – Objectives
- To eradicate poverty in the community.
- To stop disease spread within the community.
- To create a sustainable life for people in the community.
- To create sustainable change that is owned by the entire community.
ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
Our key partners in all our programs at ACCESS are the Community Health Workers (CHWs) or the Village Health Teams (VHTs). A CHW/VHT member is a well-respected personality with adaptable and acceptable levels to change, resident in the community with permanent status. The hardest task with community engagements is community penetration and buy-in, that is why it is very important to have respectable people in the community to first adopt and accept the community development implementation plan such that the extension, maintenance, and monitoring of these plans in the community is done by these very key people.
Our key innovation is giving out interest-free loans to women after empowering them with a comprehensive yet simplified module on pillars of financial growth and development. This module involves community sensitization about the pros and cons of having a sustainable source of income. Following this sensitization, marginalized but willing women are identified through interaction with the local leaders, community health workers, and Women representatives. They must also be citizens of Uganda and residents of Nakaseke district for at least five (5) years and above.
They undergo a full week of training in financial literacy i.e. how to manage and grow their businesses, bookkeeping, and being innovative by creating more income-generating activities.
WWK women beneficiaries during one of their financial training.
Following the training, we offer two (2) categories of interest-free loans to the community women to support their struggling businesses or to start new small businesses, with emphasis put on homestead development measured based on Poverty Probability Index (PPI) Indicators. This has a set of questions that are answered by the women (participants) yearly to assess whether they have achieved some form of development. Different scores are attached to the questions, after this, conclusions are made on whether there has been some impact of the loan given to the women or not. Once the interest-free loans are disbursed, women are followed up and supported to ensure that they use the loan diligently. Once the loan is paid back, ACCESS doubles it and reinforces the saving/investment culture. This cycle of increased amounts loaned out is repeated until the woman attains full capacity to save and invest her funds in the free market.
Ms. Aidah in her piggery project
The organization also has initiated the establishment of Village Saving Schemes for the women with an aim of creating a continuous flow of income for their businesses. We currently have about five village saving groups that don’t exceed 30 members. Women contribute between two thousand shillings UGX.2000 to five thousand shillings UGX. 5000 weekly and once enough money has been collected, it is loaned to the members at a small interest of 5%. This is returned on a weekly basis according to the amount one was given as a loan.
Ms. Margaret demonstrates how to cut a book.
CATEGORY ONE INTEREST-FREE LOANS
The first category of Interest-free loans was given to only ten (10) participants with already running businesses to a magnitude of $200 (Two hundred dollars) with a return limit of 8 (eight) months as a pilot for interest-free loaning community development initiatives. The organization’s motive was to boost the struggling small businesses of community members with work enthusiasm. The plan was to monitor and evaluate their performance for 8 (eight) months to ensure that the organization’s injection is measured on household performance using the Poverty Probability Index (PPI) indicators and then recruit another team of 10(ten) and take them through the same process. The ultimate goal was to ensure that these households measure up to sustainable development reflected by the Poverty Probability Index (PPI) indicator measure.
Lessons learned from CATEGORY ONE INTEREST-FREE LOANS
Unfortunately, this model was discontinued due to the following;
- Failure of the participants to return the loan during the projected period of time.
- Only 35% of the participants had contributed to half of the loan payment by the end of 2019, the year in which the project was initiated.
- The participants’ households measured so low against the Poverty Probability Index (PPI) indicator measure.
- The interest-free loan model requires full engagement of the participant and commitment to the program which lacked because of the reduced pressure to pay back.
CATEGORY TWO INTEREST-FREE LOANS- the micro nano finance project
ACCESS re-strategized based on the learning experience from category one interest-free loans in big quantities (sums) given to the community. In collaboration with (WWK), the organization extended practical business training rich enough to inspire participants to start their own businesses or maintain their struggling small businesses. We put emphasis on the knowledge to run and sustain businesses other than big capital to start and run businesses. Our target was to enroll about 50 – 150 women into the program and extend to them small amounts of interest-free loans to a tune of 10 dollars ($10). The funds would help them to start up or inject into their struggling small businesses with a motivation to use the proceeds to support their households in the areas in which they see the need. The women are expected to have a monthly contribution as a return on the total interest-free loan acquired determined by themselves according to their monthly business proceeds and the wellbeing of the family they support. At any given time, a participant honors the full payment of the interest-free loan awarded; the participant is evaluated against the Poverty Probability Index (PPI) measure to establish if there is some level of improvement in the households’ wellbeing from the time of the last evaluation when a participant was awarded a sum which they have fully returned. In the event that a slight improvement is established; the participant is awarded double or triple of the first or second loan amount awarded initially.
Lessons learned from CATEGORY TWO INTEREST-FREE LOANS (Micro-nano project)
- In a period of three and a half years, it has been observed that the greatest motivation to work is built-in someone’s inner motive and once it’s awakened, a person can perform beyond expectations.
- We have also observed that a vast number of people require constant monitoring and supervision in other wards being under the leadership of others to be able to work as expected.
- We established that willingness to work isn’t dependent on the amount of money one injects into a business as capital rather the skill and knowledge on how to manage the business one has started.
- We further observed that women are more patient with small beginnings and adapt easily to new challenges.
- We have appreciated that humble beginnings, with little capital, are very important in the growth of a business because people learn how to survive through business challenges when the capital is still small and also work through alternatives to ensure that the business grows against all odds.
ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT DEVELOPMENT FUTURE PLANS
- ACCESS plans to increase the participation base number by increasing participation from different regions/sub-counties/villages within Nakaseke district.
- To empower them with good practical business orientation and skilling.
- To group the women in mentorship teams and provide leaders for the teams.
- To introduce Village Saving Schemes according to teams created above with full leadership.
- To ensure a recurrent and sustainable income generation amongst members.
- To empower these teams to start investing using their savings aided by the additional small interest-free loans given based on the profound conditions aligned to household and community development.
- To include the group’s performance in government development projects in order to seek additional support from the government.
- To contribute towards informing policy in the government economic sector using the progressive evaluation reports on community development.