It is common for most local communities to mobilize and organize themselves in to financial cooperatives as a means of enhancing their socio-economic wellbeing. Similarly, this was adopted by the oil palm farmers in Kalangala who organized themselves and formed the Ssesse Oil Palm Growers Cooperative (SOPGCO) in 2013.
The Ssesse Oil Palm Growers Cooperative (SOPGCO) according to its chairperson Mr. Muwereza George Wilson has for the past nine years offered advisory saving services and affordable loans to its members which has greatly added value to the community evidenced through the improved financial management by its members.
Mr. David Balironda the General Manager of the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust (KOPGT) says they advise the small holder farmers to join the SACCO mainly to help them manage the income earned from the sale of their oil palm harvest and access friendly loans to cater for their financial needs.
“The SACCO currently registers a total of 780 members who have access to free financial counseling and help which has greatly improved the farmers saving culture and financial accessibility,” he said adding that through the SACCO, farmers are shielded from the high interest rates on loans charged by other financial institutions.
As the education sector resumes operations on Monday, Mwesiga Sylivia, a mother to six testifies that a quick loan from the Ssesse Oil Palm Growers Cooperative (SOPGCO) has enabled her to pay for school fees to send her children back to school.
“I have saved with the SACCO for three years now during which I always have the opportunity to get quick loans from the SACCO unlike when I used to borrow from the bank,” she said adding that she would be charged a high interest rate, have to present many requirements and go through a long procedure to acquire the loan from the bank.
Sylivia has five school going children, two are in secondary level whereas the three are in primary level who will all be able to report back to school with the financial help from the SACCO enabled by her membership and saving account.
Muwereza says Sylivia is one of the 120 loan applications they have so far received in this period as children are reporting back to school. He further explains that the SACCO has the ability to help its members due to its strong cooperative presence and active members.
“The SACCO is in position to provide financial help to our members at an interest rate of only 2% per month payable in a period of three months. We already dispatched off money to parents who sent their children to university. We are now handling those whose children are resuming on Monday,” said Muwereza.
He adds that the SACCO management took advantage of the SACCO meetings to mobilize and provide financial advice and counseling to their members on how best they can prepare and solve their financial problems.
“As the festive season approached, we advised our members to avoid reckless spending in preparation of sending children back to school. We also constantly remind our members to fix their money in SACCOs especially from the income earned from their oil palm harvest,” said Muwereza.
Additionally, the SACCO leaders started a campaign to get farmers to open up fixed deposit accounts to prepare them for tough financial situations in the long run. “The campaign was started in November 2021 during which the farmers saved UGX 80 million collectively.” Muwereza said adding that such money will help the farmers during the replanting season as they are not sure if the Government will provide funds like it did the first time.