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Eastern Uganda Loan Program Operations

Established in 2008, WMI's oldest loan hub region is Eastern UgandaEstablished in 2008, WMI's oldest loan hub region is Eastern Uganda. The hub here routinely serves over 2,000 clients on a rotating basis. Each year hundreds of proud businesswomen attend a ceremony to honor those who are graduating from WMI's 24-month village-level program and moving on to independent banking. These are joyous occasions with much singing and dancing and music and marching and speech-making and eating! These annual celebrations, attended by local dignitaries, honor the hard work and achievements of all WMI borrowers and staff in a very public way.

Operating in the Sironko, Mbale and Kapchorwa Districts, which surround the border town of Mbale, WMI's Eastern regional program has led to the improvement of the general economic conditions in the hundreds of villages it serves in the area.

Partnering with the Buyobo Women's Association (BWA)Partnering with the Buyobo Women's Association (BWA), the loan program has expanded from a single loan group of 20 women to over 100 groups throughout the region. WMI's innovative Jumbo Loan Program continues to support the experienced rural businesswomen who have graduated from WMI's basic two-year loan program. WMI works with Postbank Uganda to serve the women's ongoing financial needs. Each year hundreds of women in the area graduate from WMI to financial autonomy.

WMI Impact in Eastern Uganda

Due to the loans and business training WMI provides, borrowers have increased the productivity of their businesses and greatly improved their standard of living as well.

Before joining the WMI loan program:

  • 11% of borrowers were earning less than $250/year
  • Only 19% were earning over $1,000/year

After 24 months in the loan program:

  • 0% of borrowers were earning less than $250/year
  • 100% of borrowers reported annualized income of $250/year

This is an increase in earning power of 526%. This dramatic improvement in income leads to more meals, more mosquito nets, more shoes and school uniforms for children, and healthier families. Review the WMI Factbooks for a comprehensive look at loan program impact.

Meet WMI's Eastern Uganda Coordinators

The BWA staff has built enormous local capacity since the loan program launched. With its 25 coordinators and trainers, it provides support, management and leadership for all WMI loan hubs. Every quarter the women from Buyobo fan out across East Africa to train new borrowers in a peer-to-peer transfer of skills and knowledge. Olive Wolimbwa, Local Director, was born in 1966, and was widowed when the youngest of her 5 children was just a baby...read more

Innovative Community Programs

As the most experienced loan hub in the WMI family, Eastern Uganda has taken the lead on introducing innovative social programs that benefit the whole community.

Cervical cancer and HIV/AIDS screening - in partnership with RAIN Uganda BWA arranged...read more

Seedling planting and conservation training - in partnership with Trees for the Future...read more

Girls Group Program - A self-esteem building and sexuality awareness outreach for teens...read more

High/College Internship Program - Each summer BWA hosts over a dozen foreign students...read more

Children of WMI Borrowers

For over five years, children in Buyobo have seen their mothers empowered through the WMI loan program. Children imitate what they see - the children of Buyobo have seen their mothers proactively taking steps to build businesses and improve their households. See how the children of Buyobo help their mothers with business and household duties for the benefit of the whole family.

Meet Some WMI Borrowers

With WMI staff traveling to Buyobo on a regular basis, we have recorded some wonderful video of the borrowers and their businesses over the years. The ladies speak so enthusiastically about what they have accomplished and their business evolution is fascinating.

Sarah makes the best banana pancakes in Buyobo - so good truckers crowd her shop! Watch Video

Joy went from fish to beer to a motorbike to a chainsaw with her business savings! Watch Video

Robinah has bought real estate; her loan group members helped elect her to local government! Watch Video

The Small Loan, Big Change video presents one Buyobo woman's journey to business success!

Region Background

Eastern Uganda Loan OperationsLocated in the hills of Mt. Elgon, Eastern Uganda is a lush agricultural area near the Kenya border. Sironko District, headquarters for the WMI loan program in East Africa, is about 15 miles from the border town of Mbale and has a large population of about 300,000. Uganda itself is a densely populated country - about the size of Oregon it has a population of nearly 30 million.

The volcanic soil in the area is rich. The main crops that are widely grown include coffee beans, maize, potatoes, cassava, groundnuts and sweet potatoes. This is the traditional home of the Bugisu and the Bugisu Cooperative Union, which represents local coffee societies and growers, is a powerful local organization.

Passion fruit, tomatoes, onions and bogoyas (local bananas) are grown abundantly. There is little food insecurity in the immediate area; however, with changing weather patterns, rainfall is becoming more erratic and the traditional rainy and dry seasons are becoming less reliable.

Because of the favorable climate many women start businesses that are agriculture related. Over time they evolve sidelines that include adding value to raw products, such as making banana pancakes, or leasing out farm tools. Very recently, women have begun to buy land and lease it out to other farmers to grow crops.

Transport is a major issue in the region. The roads are poor and ill-maintained. Gasoline is extremely expensive. Few people have cars, but motorbikes are popular as are bicycles for getting around locally.

Because it is near Mbale, a border town close to Kenya, there is extensive trade in the area. The area also lies on a main route to western Uganda and South Sudan. The ladies in the loan program take advantage of this central location to distribute their goods over long distance. Some have standing agreements with traders going to South Sudan, Kenya and Kampala.

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