BMCT with funding from CARE International in Uganda implements two projects among the Batwa community. The Health Education and Agriculture Livelihoods (HEAL) has had two phases. The first phase of the project started in 2012 while the 2nd phase started in 2014. Although the project is now run through monitoring of the formulated VSLA groups, it had very enriching results for Batwa especially under the VSLA methodology. Targeting Batwa women and girls aged 14-49 years, the project has helped integrate Batwa with non-Batwa community members as they meet in the saving groups.
In the second phase of the project HEAL II, the housing component was added to benefit of the Batwa communities. This included construction of better housing facilities for Batwa families.
Through the VSLA saving groups, there are majorly two benefits that have accrued to the Batwa.
Empowerment in decision making due to Batwa’s inclusion on VSLA executive committees. This has empowered them to have their voices heard as well as improving their self-esteem. They are now able to contribute to decision making on group matters. 26 groups out of 40 included Batwa on executive committees
Tremendous Improvement in savings: Both the Batwa and the non-Batwa developed a saving culture. Everybody in a group strived to look for money to save on a weekly basis unlike before the introduction of VSLA methodology where nobody bothered to save.
Sofar, we have trained 102 groups that have since birthed other 12 groups. These new groups are not under BMCT supervision but they say they were trained by BCMT CBTs. However, the COVID19 shocks are visible as members have started defaulting on the loans taken. It is a challenging time for the group members who have been united by a saving culture.
The hearts are warm, here is what some VSLA members had to say during our recent visit
“We have for a long time been poor due to lack of a saving culture. In the past we used to work for some little funds to buy food but the surplus would be misused in over drinking. We are now proud and empowered since the introduction of VSLA. Currently I have learnt to save on a weekly basis through our VSLA group. We are happy that our VSLA group is led by a Mutwa as a chairperson. This is a sign of respect and trust from the non- Batwa who have entrusted us to also be among the leaders. I borrowed 20,000 (twenty thousand shillings) from our VSLA group bought chicken which hatched 9 chicks, of which six are ready to lay eggs. I’m going to generate money from sale of eggs and chicken thus improve my household income. Said Norah a member of Nyabaremura Batwa Tukore group
Being a member of VSLA group has helped me to have a saving culture. I have a stead income in my home because I borrow and invest in IGA’s. In December 2013, I borrowed 20,000 from my VSLA group bought a tin of carrot seed planted it. When I harvested and sold the carrots I got 120,000 in a period of three months. I’m proud of being a member of a VSLA group” Said Mebro a member of Abizera group in Nyakabande sub county group
In the model village, the Batwa say they found a home like they used to be due to the fact that they live together as a community. Their Chairperson karimunda Benon says “Everyone had neglected us and we have been living a destitute life, if it wasn’t for BMCT who bought for us land, we would still be slaves to the Bakiga” They currently cultivate their own lands, saving money under the VSLA methodology and thus life is improving
Table showing overall total members trained in VSLA methodology