The ETC @ GDPU project officer (Musema Faruk) has come back with his June report detailing the very first pilot group Knowledge Sharing meetings, an exciting step forward. In summary, there were two meetings, one in Acet about 30 miles out of Gulu town, with Hairdressers and Sweater Weavers,. The other was in town at GDPU itself, with one electronics group and one electronics individual enterprise.
The purpose of both meetings was to begin to find out what each group thinks they need to sustain and develop their businesses.
In essence what the groups want to do is:
Upgrade their core vocational skills,
Develop their offer to customers
Learn how to plan effectively for that development
Learn better record keeping
Train for better group dynamics
Find out how to work with money/ learn a ‘Savings Culture’
Find out how to pay for the above
Diversify, especially into agriculture, to cover lean times
These training needs imply greater investment, helping each group find the money for that investment is one of the next steps for this project. In his initial audit reports, Faruk noted that group members find it almost impossible to access bank accounts, loans or possible grants, although some have started to use Village Savings and Loan Associations (micro savings and finance). He thinks this is down to a combination of poor self-esteem, lack of knowledge and barriers (physical and cultural) erected by the institutions themselves.
All groups want to acquire new equipment (sweater weaving machines/ sewing machines/ portable generators/ carry wider stock etc) but apart from learning how to use, maintain and repair them well, owning such equipment brings inevitable security problems. Theft by others, by group members or by domineering relatives is a common problem and solutions will need to be found.
Faruk reports that fear of taking risk, poor group dynamics and low self-esteem might well hold all the groups back in taking the next steps, so careful psycho-social support will need to be part of the pilot and subsequent programme.
All in all though, some great steps forward; really pushing on well!