James in the mill
Photo by: Poul Henningsen

In a dark room full of white powder, we see a man with a stick. James is his name. He is a mill man in Eastern Uganda. Step by step, stone by stone he has built his business. He is disabled, but that is hard to see at once.

James is 52 years old and has 6 kids aged 2 to 14 years old and a wife relying on him. His leg is not functioning well and he walks with the help of a long stick. We do not get the full story of why his foot is not functioning, but we get a feeling that it could have been mended in a developed part of the world. He has had his struggles, but through iSAVE’s inclusive savings and credit groups he now is empowered.

Before James became a member of a savings and credit group, also known as We Can Manage group, he had nothing. No one respected him and he was not trusted to get a loan. By saving a small amount every week over a couple of years his life has changed. In the We Can Manage group he met another man with similar challenges. Together they established a mill. At first people in the neighbourhood came to them to mill their own corn. Slowly their business escalated and today they buy large quantities of corn, then mill and sell the flour far beyond their own local community.

Not only is James self-reliant today. He also has employees. Most of all he is proud, telling us that his children also have a blessed future now. Something he could not dream of just three years ago. By saving 2000 Ugandan shillings once a week, which is about 50 US cent, James became self-reliant. He is once again a proud man who gets the respect he deserves.

Written by Tone Elin Liavaag and Ingrid Ch. Sandnæs
Photo: Poul Henning Nielsen