At the age of 79 Mr Iyasoni Okiria and his wife Mrs Mary Akiteng aged 56, are both living at the side-lines of Uganda’s life expectancy. Unfortunately, the couple has no children, neither have they adopted any. This means they expect no help from anybody except that which comes from their maker. In addition, the couple is visually impaired.
Despite Mary and Iyasoni’s challenges, they still have a smile on their face. You would wonder why under such circumstances the duo still has high hopes for a future. The answer is the inclusive We Can Manage savings and credit groups project, which is part of the iSAVE Programme. The two are both beneficiaries of the project that has proved to be a life changing phenomenon in the lives of many persons with disabilities in Eastern Uganda.
Mary and Iyasoni are members of the inclusive savings and credit group named Enapakinos, in Kabwele village, Kanyum Sub County Kumi district. They are typical subsistence farmers and grow crops like millet, cassava, and ground nuts, but on a very small scale. “We no longer do a lot of work because of old age,” Akiteng says. This means the couple may not be able to access the basic needs given limited sources of income. For this reason the duo engage in a number of petty activities in a bid to improve their living conditions.
“I make ropes as well as burn charcoal. Each rope costs like 4000 Ugandan Shillings, while a basin of charcoal costs 10,000, Ugandan Shillings” he said. 4000 Ugandan Shillings is about one US Dollar. Put together the duos weekly income amounts to 5 US Dollars out of which 2 US Dollars goes to the Enapakinos group, each of them saving one US Dollar per week.
Having joined the iSAVE savings and credit group in 2012, the duo believes their life has since changed. They even have benefitted from the social fund each savings and credit group has and the group members contribute to the fund weekly. Members are expected to pay 1000 Ugandan shillings per week when saving, meaning the duo pays up to 208,000 Ugandan shillings per annum, which is about 57 US Dollars.
Unlike before, Okiria says he now has access to finances and that on average they receive loans six times per year─ ranging from 100,000-150,000 Ugandan shillings (27 – 41 USD). “I have realised being in the group is very good. I am better than when I was not a group member. I now eat, and sleep well. Treatment is no longer a problem. Our next hope now is constructing a permanent house to improve on our accommodation,” Okiria says with a smile.
Text and photos by Joseph Malinga