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Community banking launched in Pader, Northern Uganda.

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Bernadette Achiro (center) and group members with their solar equipment they acquired through a loan from Pride Micro finance supported by aBi Trust.

Bernadette Achiro is the chairperson of a womens’group in Pader district that is borrowing money from Pride Microfinance. They formed the group in 2014 and have been borrowing school fees and business loans.

“I have powered my kiosk with solar and there I charge mobile phones for people at a fee. My colleagues are selling food items in the market, I started my business through borrowing capital with fellow group members from Pride Microfinance” explained Achiro.

Before joining the village group, they had limited access to credit for capital to start their businesses. The process of borrowing money from existing banks was too long.

“One has to fill in the form which is verified from the bank branch in Agago,5 kilometers away from Pader and then its brought back  after a week, when you are lucky and it is approved then you get the money,’ she explained.

“Apart from that, the security demanded was too high which most women don’t have like land, with land titles, cattle, motorcycles and sometimes houses, with Pride Microfinance members of my group can either borrow money for solar panels and chargers or agribusiness” Achiro further explained.

As a result women could only access school fees loans but cannot go for agribusiness loans due to lack of collateral inform of land. She also added that agriculture doesn’t yield immediate results like business.

Achiro revealed this at the opening of Pride Microfinance Branch in Pader district, supported by aBi Trust. The new branch will promote integrated community banking financed by aBi up to a tune of over 600 million shillings.

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Officials from Bank of Uganda, Pader District, aBi Trust and Pride Microfinance cut a ribbon to signify the launch of Pride Microfinance (MDI) Pader, Northern Uganda.

The service will be extended to women groups starting from 500,000 Uganda Shillings and under this banking model, there is no need for collateral because group members guarantee each other, explained Edward Nkanji, the Executive Director Pride Microfinance.

Why women in Pader do not own land.

According to Achiro, when people returned from the internally displaced people’s camps after the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) Kony war, they grabbed all pieces of land within town which have been used for construction therefore there is not enough land for them to use as surety.

“In my culture women don’t won land and yet most banks want to see the land on which you are growing the crops before they can give the money but we plan  to acquire land as a group for agriculture to sustain our livelihoods,” added Achiro.

Achiro’s testimony is proof that whereas 70% of agricultural work and food production is carried out by women in rural areas of Uganda, many still find it hard to access agricultural financing due to lack of land.

Godfrey Okidi, the Financial Services Officer at aBi adds that opportunities are limited for women farmers to participate in  agribusiness training and receive extension services and also participate in the decision making process in their house holds affairs.

“It’s neither easy for them to obtain women friendly agricultural inputs nor get the necessary loans for agricultural activities due to underlying challenges such as lack of land ownership among others, as aBi we have partnered with Pride to mitigate these constraints’ said Okidi.

Other challenges include low branch network presence especially in remote areas where the majority of the targeted unbaked population resides is a mojor hinderance.

According to Okidi, aBi has been partnering with Pride Microfinance since 2011 to promote integrated community banking and clean energy technologies in remote areas of the country.

“aBi’s interest is to bring financial services closer by promoting institutions such as these to develop products that suit the agriculture portfolio and cross cutting issues of gender, human rights and climate change mitigation measures,” said Okidi.

At the same event, director commercial banking at Bank of Uganda, Benedict Sekabira said that the new branch in Pader supplements central banks call for expansion of financial services to create access for the unbanked rural population in Uganda.

With a smile on her face, Achiro said “having taken a loan from Pride Microfinance, am now able to pay school fees, medical bills and food for my family, I plan on saving my profits so I can buy land in the near future”.

Ends

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