Widespread poverty, gender inequalities, high fertility rates and low literacy levels are just some of the challenges faced in the Kabale community in Uganda. Kabale is also plagued by health problems including high rates of malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality. The average annual per capita income in Kabale District is estimated at US$150, with 86% of the population relying on subsistence farming. Without reliable income, men, women and children are much more vulnerable to become engaged in exploitative labour situations. There are about 2 million child workers in Uganda, who are engaged in labour rather than school attendance, typically due to the impacts of family and community poverty.
ACCI’s on-field partner Victory Micro Enterprise (VIME) aim to increase the standard of living and alleviate poverty in the Kabale District of Uganda through maximising and encouraging personal and community development. The project provides training in business loan management, entrepreneurial skills, and stewardship.
These projects aim to develop business skills and self confidence to operate successful small enterprises. Once trained, participants are then supported with access to credit to start profitable micro-businesses within the community. Training and micro finance loans empower members of the community to actively participate in the socio-economic development of the district, leading to long term change.
More than 150 participants have taken part in the VIME program over the past 6 months alone. The majority of participants have been women, as it is women who are most excluded and/or discriminated against in other labour markets.
The stories of three of these women present a picture of hope for future development through this program:
• One lady used start-up capital through VIME to establish a second hand clothing store. She is successfully repaying her third loan, and each time she has accessed credit she has purchased new stock for the store. She is also the Village Counsellor and has other successful projects happening at the same time, including raising pigs and growing vegetables through which she hires two additional people to assist. Her household includes herself, her husband and her orphaned grandchild.
• Another woman owned a sewing machine, which she previously used to provide alteration and mending services. Using her first VIME loan, she purchased fabric and made school uniforms and clothes to order. With the profits from her first loan she bought a one-year lease on a stall in the market where she goes during the start of school term to sell her uniforms. In the meantime, she sews in her home where people can come and place orders. She replenishes her stock with the profits she makes and reports to be in a much better financial position personally.
• The third example is a woman who used her VIME loan to stock her market stall of fruit and vegetables. She used profits from this venture to purchase some land for herself, which she now cultivates for food for her family, and sells the excess in her stall. She has gone from having a typical monthly profit of 20,000 Ugandan shillings (AU$9) to now having a profit of approximately 65,000 (AU$29) per month.
The training and credit made available through VIME have an incredible impact on the individual business owner, and also have long term impacts on the health and welfare of the children and family members of the program beneficiary as these case studies demonstrate so well.