A Journey from Struggle to Triumph Through Cooperative Empowerment: The Story of Alum Scovia

Alum Scovia sorting groundnuts for shelling
Alum Scovia sorting groundnuts for shelling

Encounter with SAA's One Stop Center (OSCAs)
Alum Scovia, is a 42-year-old, resident of Tee-abolo cell village in Eastern ward - A parish, Bala town council, Kole district, shoulders the responsibility of caring for her two orphaned children after the tragic loss of her husband in 2019.  As a single parent facing the harsh realities of providing for her family, she found solace and opportunity within the Bala Women and Youth Cooperative, a pivotal part of the revitalization efforts of the One Stop Center (OSCAs) an approach led by the Sasakawa Africa Association in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA).

Alum vividly recalls the challenges she faced before joining the cooperative."Left with only a small piece of land and a two-roomed mud and wattle house, I felt overwhelmed and uncertain about our family’s future, as a widow, the burden of providing for my family weighed heavily on my shoulders. I resorted to doing odd jobs, combing the village for employment opportunities such as cleaning compounds and fetching water, where I was paid between 3,000-4,000 Ugx (0.8 -1.1 USD) per day. At times, I felt helpless, especially when it came to putting food on the table; we could barely manage one meal a day, and ensuring my children's education seemed like an impossible feat. she shares.

However, one fateful day, while passing by the under-construction OSCA site in search of employment, Alum encountered the chairperson, Aida Abia. Moved by Alum's life story, Aida extended a warm invitation for her to join the cooperative. This moment marked a turning point for Alum as she embraced the opportunity and became involved with BALA OSCA, "I wasn't even sure if I would fit into the BALA OSCA or understand what it was about, but because I needed support, I decided to join the group." she said.

Starting an Agribusiness with Three Bags of Groundnuts
At BALA OSCA, Alum participated in a range of training programs aimed at enhancing her agribusiness skills and acumen. These trainings included sessions on Farming as a Business, which equipped her with the knowledge and tools to approach farming not just as a means of subsistence but as a viable enterprise. "Learning about crop management, post-harvest handling, and value addition empowered me to see the potential in every harvest. It was these trainings that motivated me to envision a business plan, and my plan focused on purchasing groundnuts from farmers across various villages. said Alum.

In 2023, she seized the opportunity to access financial assistance, borrowing 600,000 shillings (154.41 USD) to kickstart her entrepreneurial venture from BALA OSCA saving group. She invested a portion of the loan in purchasing a manual groundnut sheller for 250,000 shillings (64.34 USD). The remaining funds were utilized to procure groundnuts directly from local farmers, tapping into the cooperative's network and fostering mutually beneficial relationships within the community.

Alum began by purchasing three bags of groundnuts. After shelling, she obtained a total of 110 kgs, which she sold for 5,000 shillings (1.29 USD) per kilogram, amounting to a total revenue of 550,000 shillings (141.54 USD). She reinvested her profits back into her venture, facilitating its growth. Remarkably, this entire process, from procurement to sales in various trading centers, unfolds within a week's time frame. Through her diligent efforts, she shelled the groundnuts and brought them to market. The quality of her produce, coupled with her commitment to fair pricing, garnered attention and demand from local consumers in her village and Lira City. As her venture flourished, it not only became a sustainable source of income for Alum but also evolved into a platform for employment.

Achieving the Family Needs and Freedom from the Worry of Meal Provision
Her efforts surpassed mere financial gains, encompassing the fulfillment of vital family needs, boosting her moral to present herself in public. Thanks to the steady income from her entrepreneurial venture, she gained the ability to cater to essential expenses such as clothing and secondary school fees for her children. Freed from the worry of meal provision, Alum happily notes her newfound ability to enjoy more than one meal a day. Formerly limited to a single daily meal, she now cleverly repurposes leftover groundnuts for breakfast, while her increased earnings enable the purchase of additional meals.
"Through the income from my venture, I've been able to provide for my family's essential needs, ensure my children receive an education, and even enjoy the luxury of more than one meal a day.” Additionally, by the end of 2023, the year she acquired the loan, Alum had successfully repaid the borrowed amount, including the interest accrued.

Alum's Future Aspiration for Expansion of Her Business
Even within the OSCA, Alum actively participates in various activities, including tending to the demonstration garden, engaging in planting and harvesting tasks, as well as maintaining cleanliness throughout the OSCA premises. In return for her contributions, she receives a modest stipend and occasionally benefits from the OSCA's vegetable produce, further supplementing her resources.

In the future, Alum envisions expanding her business operations from purchasing three bags to six bags of groundnuts. Additionally, she aspires to save up and buy a motorcycle, which would streamline her operations by facilitating the collection of produce from other farmers. Furthermore, Alum plans to construct a storage facility for her groundnuts, enhancing their preservation and marketability. Looking ahead, she also aims to diversify her agricultural endeavors by hiring land for vegetable production.

OSCAs as a Place to Inspire the Community
Alum's journey exemplifies the transformative power of collective action and innovative approaches to agriculture, empowered by the MOFA-funded project. Her story carries a message of optimism, inspiring others to embrace innovation for positive change. This can only happen when communities are empowered and supported. BALA OSCA is already sowing seeds of progress and prosperity in Kole district inspiring others to embrace change and improve their livelihood.

Retrieved from SAA E-Newsletter, issued in June 2024, titled "Focus on Uganda"

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