It was not my intent to write so soon about another lending group, but I found a real gem in the Alinyikira Lending Group in the Village of Mutundwe, just on the outskirts of Kampala, Uganda.
To get to Mutundwe, you have to go to Old Taxi Park in the center of Kampala. This could be a story in itself, but in brief, it consists of approximately 10 acres of land jammed with matatoos: converted Toyota vans capable of handling 14 passengers. They all are white and look exactly the same. Thousands of riders are constantly converging on the park as market stands and walking vendors add to the already crowded site. You ask toll collectors and drivers which matatoo to Mutundwe, and they point to an area in the park. You keep moving and asking and soon you find a toll collector who directs you to specific matatoo. You get in and wait until it is full, then the driver hops in and you begin the exit. The van pushes past hundreds of people, marketers move their stands and other vans move forwards and backwards as your matatoo pushes on to exit the park.
Once on the road, you head out of town for almost an hour. Buildings become one story, then the buildings become shacks. You press on. It has rained and the muddy dirt road is closed. We take a different route, past wholesale lumber yards, mechanic shops, etc. We stop. There is a large crowd of people congregating around a very large puddle of water. Two vehicles are stuck in the middle, with water up to their doors. Everyone watches. Our driver waits to see another vehicle make it thru and he guns it and we push thru, creating a wave that rises up and rolls over all the people watching. They laugh and cheer. We’re thru and we press on. We come to a hill, with a muddy rut down the middle that causes us to lean steeply to the left. Bouncing and holding on we reach our destination: Mutundwe.
Susan, the senior credit officer for Pearl is with me. We get out and start walking along a muddy path till we comes to a small store. There I meet Janet. Janet owns the store which almost exclusively sells products for baking: flour, salt, sugar, yeast, cooking oil, etc. I find it odd that she can make a living just selling bakers products. I will soon learn why.
Janet is the chairperson and one of the founding members of the Alinyikira Lending Group. Alinyikira means ‘continue hard work’. Again, I will also soon learn why.
Janet takes us to visit the members at their place of business. First we go to her house. Tied to a tree next to her front door, a calf is resting. We enter and immediately are introduced to Samuel and Resty, two members of the group. Samuel is 58 and raises 600 layers. He has had a lifetime experience managing hens. He recently built a second story on his hen house behind his home to double the number of hens. He is a small, but rugged looking man and very gentle in nature. Resty is a pistol. Filled with energy, she runs a rental catering business.
We leave the house and all go to visit the other members businesses. Each time more join and follow. It soon becomes apparent how close in friendship all the members of the group are. They gain strength from one another. For several hours we wander thru the village. There are no roads only paths. It has rained and it is muddy. If we go to a person’s home, Janet calls out and without hesitation goes in. All are happy to see each other and are excited by my visit. I interview and take a picture of them. There is no problem.
I soon became aware that this community is known for its baking, cooking and catering services, and also its poultry and nut grinding. Odd combination. But often if one person is successful in a business, others follow and all are happy. If the village is close to a large city, like Kampala, their village will become known for specific trades and all competing in that trade will benefit from the recognition. It also helps in distribution of goods. Janet for example can have a business that just sells baking goods to bakers in her community.
To me the most enjoyable part is the people, and the members of the Alinyikira Lending Group all are very hard working people. As Janet told me, the hard work helps to make them happy./>