60 year old dairy farmer - Wamalugo Sam does not entertain any loan talk around him, having witnessed his friends and relatives being harassed over loans they took from commercial banks, SACCOs and money lenders.
His perception however changed when he attended one of the SNV AgriFinance financial training sessions. Moses Komagum, the SNV Advisor AgriFinance Services shares his field experience teaching the farmers financial literacy.
When we visited Wamalugo village, it was clear from the start that if we were to get his attention we had to devise a different mechanism. Fortunately for us, Wamalugo respects his Dairy Cooperative (Bukasakya Dairy cooperative) Chairman. “When I first told him about the financial literacy training on loan management that you (AgriFinance) were organising for farmers in our community, his first response was, “loan for what?’. Knowing Sam’s stance on loans, the Chairman, was quick to assure Sam that the SNV AgriFinance Program was not out to offer loans but to empower farmers by educating them about loans, more specifically on what they should look out for when applying for loans. For instance, the features of a loan, costs of borrowing, purpose of borrowing, responsibilities as a borrower and borrowing choices.
Wamalugo- left, and his friends learning about loans
It was an eye opener for Wamalugo and his fellow cooperative members. Many had never had access to financial literacy training in their life time. They realised most of their friends, relatives and neighbours had fallen victim because they had not been equipped with the knowledge they needed to make informed decisions before taking up loans.
“My friend kept complaining about a loan he took from a money lender. Everything was done verbally even the repayment schedule and whenever the month came to an end and he went to make the monthly repayments, his interest had increased. Then the money lender changed the schedule from after every 2 months to weekly repayments. This was too much for my friend and this pressure killed him. This experience and the bad experiences I saw my friends and neighbours go through trying to service their loans created a fear in me for loans,” Wamalugo recalled pensively. For Wamalugo a loan would need an act of God and not even his farming business needs would get him to take a loan.
After our one day of intensive training and discussion and being bombarded by questions from Wamalugo and his fellow cooperative members, we could see a new awareness begin to take root in the farmers. Wamalugo who had sworn off even discussing loans is now considering getting an agricultural loan to buy two heifers in order to replace one of his heifers that died during calving. Like his friends, he has realised that loans are not bad if taken for the right reason and if one practices the loan borrowing and management principles.