Women Members of Parliament have called for the elevation of Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) groups to increase production with an eye on the export market.
The MPs noted that many of the women groups they have visited are engaged in sectors whose products are popular on the world market.
They made the observation while inspecting UWEP-funded projects in Mbarara district on Thursday. This was part of a wider regional monitoring exercise that span through Kanungu, Rukungiri, Ntungamo, Mbarara and Kamwenge districts.
“Some of these ventures we never imagined the women doing them. Therefore, we should work on expanding quantities for products like the flowers, honey, crafts and processed fruits so that we take advantage of the market opportunities in the United Arab Emirates, Europe and other regions,” Rosette Kajungu Mutambi, the woman MP for Mbarara said.
She noted that Ugandan honey is rated highly on the world market while many of the Ugandan crafts end up in neighbouring countries where they are rebranded and exported.
“These are comparative advantages we need to maximize and UWEP has provided a good opportunity for the women to do so,” Rosette said.
The MPs visited Rwentobo Fruit Drying women group in Rugando sub county in Mbarara district which runs a diversified project incorporating flower growing, fruit processing and fish farming.
The group of 15 (fifteen) members received Shs 12 million from UWEP which they invested into their enterprise. They also grow the fruits on their farm.
Abigail Mwesigwa, the group chairperson, revealed that the fruits including strawberries and bananas are solar dried and supplied as raw materials to a fruit factory in Jinja, which then adds value and exports.
She said their intention is to grow capacity to start processing all their products, eliminate middlemen and bring more rewards to members.
She appealed to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, which implements UWEP, to help them get standards certification to open up the market for their products.
At Upper cell women poultry farmers group in Mbarara municipality, the MPs were impressed to learn that out of the Shs 11.2 million got from UWEP, the group had accumulated profits worth Shs18.7 million and still have a stock of 900 broilers.
The chairperson, Muhumuza Hajara Kyomuhendo, revealed that they had over the last one and half year churned out 9,600 birds, which fetched them a total of Shs 96,090,000.
“Our biggest costs arise from feeding the birds and procuring them but luckily the business is self-sustaining,” Muhumuza said, adding that they had so far paid back Shs6, 580,000 of the money they got from UWEP.
She further revealed that they resolved to give out Shs800,000 to each member every four months as dividends.
“The money goes to supporting members in their personal needs at home. This has supported members to pay fees for their children and also take care of other needs at the household. We are therefore grateful to the Government for initiating UWEP,” She noted.
UWEP has been running for the last three years and to date, over 6,700 women groups have received funding. The programme is fully financed by the Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. Besides the direct interest-free credit, the beneficiaries are equipped with basic financial management and entrepreneurship skills.