“In Germany people wait for the bus, in Uganda the bus waits for the people”. With this quote, the Ugandan project coordinator of a GESTE-funded project opened a workshop with students at the Schwäbisch Gmünd University of Education to elaborate on essential cultural differences between the two countries.
Economic and social disparities are however evident at a more profound level. While the population growth in Germany is about 0.2% p.a., statistics assume that by 2027, the Ugandan population will have grown by about 20%. Uganda is already the country with the youngest population worldwide, almost 50% is under the age of 15. Creating job prospects for youth and young adults are particularly crucial measures to promote economic development, increasing employment rates and pave the way out of poverty. By the end of 2020, 28% of the Ugandan population had an income per capita per day below USD 1.90. At the same time, the access to loans is considered to be essential in strengthening economic development.
In order to address these topics, two projects, one on craft education of young adults and the other on access to savings and credit products, are implemented by DGRV on behalf of the Foundation GESTE Baden-Württemberg. This Foundation was established on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative Association (BWGV) in 2013. Its sponsors are the BWGV and cooperatives in Baden-Württemberg. The foundation aims at promoting projects with a structural impact in the field of cooperatives in developing and emerging countries and DGRV takes over the coordination on site.
At the end of 2019, the first project was launched in cooperation with the Diocese of Masaka, which aims to train around 30 young adults per year in handicrafts, who in turn pass on their acquired knowledge to other young adults within their community. A cooperative was founded for this purpose. In addition to the manual training, the young people are given “cooperative” knowledge to ease the entry into the business world. Despite COVID-19-related delays, the results are already visible in Masaka. Approximately 300 young adults were able to acquire handicraft skills. In mid-April 2022, the DGRV team, together with the Ugandan project coordinator, visited various workshops and other outlets selling products made by the trainees, such as wood carvings, bed frames, cards and sandals. A first order for the Trainees who were educated in paving, came directly from the diocese. The project is well respected in the diocese and first representatives from other dioceses expressed their interest to learn more about the project.
At the end of 2021, a second cooperation agreement was signed between DGRV and the Catholic Workers Movement (CWM), which supports an existing project to expand a network of savings and loan associations (CW-SLA) that are active in 12 dioceses across the country. Currently, about 3,300 members benefit from this concept. Through capacity building of volunteer trainers of CW-SLAs as well as others involved and the gradual introduction of digital technology for reporting, about 800 new members are expected to join the network. Expected results, amongst others, are the improvement of basic financial education and the realization of small projects.
An interim conclusion at the beginning of the year revealed that more than 60 small projects already could have been created that improved the income situation of their members and families. For example, a rice husking machine was purchased in Gulu and an agro-forestry project was launched in Aruwe. Bricklaying, Tailoring, Shoemaking, a Piggery Projects, Hairdo are some others to mention. Representatives of various dioceses were proud to announce that no further funds were needed for any of the projects.
DGRV Uganda on behalf of GESTE is glad to support Ugandan cooperatives and these two projects that are great examples of the sustainability of such endeavours.
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