Julie - our local project manager - visited Mubende at the end of November and several important issues were discussed. One of them was the development of the leadership roles throughout the year 2014. Leadership responsibility was given to several of the women during the leadership retreat in February when we visited Uganda. These leaders were now challenged by Julie to share their individual progress. An important message that came through was the lack of communication from the leaders to their members in their respective village, and also that information often got distorted. The villages with the best communication are Namuganga and Kyakatebe B. Both of these villages were present at the VSLA start-up workshop in the end of 2013, where the importance of communicating correct information was emphasized through exercises like the chain game and whisper-to-whisper game. Suggestions to cope with these problems was that the consultant (Julie) meet with the leaders of Kyakatebe A - where the problem is most prominent - and that all the leaders arrange meetings at village levels to inform their grassroots members.
Another important topic of the November visit was the VSLA - Village Savings and Loan Association. This group has had an incredible development and is approaching the closing of their first cycle on December 15th this year. The consultant checked all the 32 passbooks, the Annual Balance Sheet, welfare loans ledger, major loans ledger from savings, savings ledger, fines ledger and a summary of expected new share value (total earnings from the scheme) for each individual saver by the time of closing the cycle next month. A total of 20 [out of 32] members [savers] have benefitted from loans in the VSLA scheme this year and most of these have received loans up to four times in the year. This is incredible! Most loan defaulters have paid up and those (one person) who haven’t are also expected to pay back. This implies that all monies are expected to be fully recovered. After the Mid term review that was conducted in June, the EV team adopted the use of a member registry and attendance list for each sitting. This is a very good step!
The members' own reactions were also very positive. They are thankful to EV US and their consultant for the support and effective community transformation. Members suggested that during the next cycle, a team (from within EV) should be sent to inspect the projects of members in which they intend to invest their savings, and possibly make follow up as may be required to catalyze development among the members. The scheme is dominated by members from Namuganga and Kyakatebe B. Other villages should also be supported to get aboard the development vehicle. Whenever this is possible, they should be supported to start schemes in their respective villages, especially in Kiwummulo. In reaction, the consultant advised members who are located far away from the meeting venue to use trusted Mobile Money services to an agreed upon Number so that they can save on transport.
The last thing that was discussed was the development of a label system for the handicraft products. It was mentioned that project has not been so active since the last batch that was ordered by the EV US team. The last two batches were very large and EV US still has a lot of those products in stock for sale. The sale has been slow through this year but is expected to increase during the holiday season. The handicraft team was requested to re-mobilize their energies and start working on the labels as they had been requested. Julie explained to them the importance of labelling in trade as a means of communication by a manufacturer to the end user of a product, with information about the brand, color, make, batch number, etc. Julie showed an example of a handmade label on a product with a superior finishing. She demonstrated to them on how they can use a paper lining on banana leaves and use attractive fonts to develop their labels. They were also shown how they can make decorative twine out of banana leaves or sisal, and these can also be dyed with different colors as needed.