The Experience Through Serving
A lawyer by training, Evelyn Nassuna has spent the last 20 years advocating on behalf of rural women at local and global forums, where she has testified before the leaders such as the United States Congress. She has worked directly with farmers to increase their participation in the agricultural value chain. However, often the development initiatives designed in collaboration with the smallholders failed to increase their productivity and income. Why? There were few financing options that were customized for farmers to invest in land for production, inputs and value addition equipment for optimal production and marketing.
Understanding Women's Challenges
The situation was worse for women because they face greater barriers to access capital compared to men. With the women's inability to own land, they therefore lack the assets or collateral to access the credit that would inform their rights and decision-making to invest in agriculture. The failure to access capital for investment often brought about low farm productivity and limited crop sales, which further resulted in low incomes from farming.
The Way Forward
It is for these reasons that Evelyn was joined by Priscilla Nambajjwe, and together they founded Shared Action Africa in 2016 to support more women and young, to come together and form Savings Groups with the aim of building wealth. The Savings Groups are modeled using the village savings and loans association (VSLA) methodology, where a group of 30 people, often women and youth are trained how to save, purchase shares and internally lend with one another. This community-led financial development approach was adopted by Shared Action Africa to address the challenges faced by farmers, particularly the lack of collateral and credit history that impedes their access to capital through credit.
As our mission broadened and expanded after listening to the people being served, the Savings Groups have become the platform that Shared Action Africa uses to address in an integrated manner, the interconnected problems faced by women and girls in the rural and refugee areas in Uganda. Since 2017, Shared Action Africa has collaborated with Savings Groups and Community Based Organizations to deliver programs related to financial services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, energy efficient technologies, advocacy, livelihoods, and food security.