By Emmanuel Wodomal Emrow
For many farmers in eastern and sub-Saharan Africa, micro-financing has delivered sustainability and growth. It’s paving the way for agricultural investment in the region, which single-handedly holds the potential to transform the poverty-stricken continent into not just a surplus for food but a huge business arena to better the lives 0f over 22 billlion people, who live below the povery line — earning less than a dollar a day.
In Uganda, Centenary Bank has majored in micro-financing so as to help small-scale farmers achive their dreams. With over 38 local branches spread in over 50 districts, 4 service centres and over 80 ATM machines, the bank offers different types of loans: micro loans which stretch from 100,000 to 500,000 Ugandan shillings, the equivalent of 190 dollars; loans for small and medium-sized businesses, so-called SME loans, and corporate loans, of over 100 million shillings advanced to graduated loan recipients.
The bank believes in the power of these loans to help them meet the daily needs not just in the farms but in their homes for sustainability and growth in an agro-based an yet agri-biased nation, faced with the constant policy conflict that continues to shadow the sector’s snail-paced growth.
Successul business plan
First established in 1983 as a trust fund, the bank has grown eminently through the scheme. Agri-financing for instance, forms 18% of the total portfolio, bringing in a whooping 77 billion shillings in revenue to the bank with a loan recovery rate of 90%. Succcess? No question about it.
Patrick Oyaga, the chief financial officer, is at the helm of this campaign and leads the commitee for assessment and evaluation of these loans — the brains behind the schemes progress.
“Our main business is micro-finance small depositers and the borrowers, but we depend mostly on loan officers for our lending,” he says.
Loan officers are the soul of the project
The soul of this 18-year-old project has been in the hands of its over 300 loan officers, spread far and wide through its branches to make the idea reachable to its growing multitude of customers — especially the rural population, who have been alienated by the remoteness of their farms.
Mr Emmanuel Ngoga is a lead loan officer at their branch in Mukono. He works tirelesly to bridge the gap between the banks faithful, pending loan receipients and the management. At the dawn of every day, he is dedicated to the challenge of balancing bank interests and making the farmer a succesful businessman an yet a loyal customer. His job revolves around appraising, visiting farmers to assess the potential of the farmers to repay the loan.
“We assist the farmers but also as an instituition we have to make a profit,” he says.
Growing a farm with the help of loans
In Mukono, one of his loyal clients is Mr Francis Ssenfuma, a poultry farmer who now rears over 2,400 birds that he was able to purchase with his first loan after he suffered bird flu attacks, which robed him of his first flock.
“The loan helped me to add more to my farm, ” he says. “I bought more birds and now i can repay the loan by selling my birds.”
He has also managed to build new shacks. In them, he plans to rear more animals, especially cattle, grow crops and become one of the most prominent farmers in Mukono.
He is hopeful that his favourite loan officer will help him realise his dream.
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