krma-US PARTNERS HISTORY
Why krma-US Partners?
By Lois Stovall, president, krma-US Partners
It all began in the summer of 2012. I am married to an Africa expert, David Smock, but had never been to the continent myself. “Take me to Africa,” I told him. “You choose which country.” He chose Uganda. The plan was to go on safari and, to satisfy my curiosity, visit a women’s cooperative. I had read how these small savings groups were transforming families and communities all over Africa. Little did I know that this one would transform me!
Our host in Uganda, Veronica Eragu, took us to her home village of Kobulubulu, in a very rural eastern district of the country. There I listened to 20 women share the story of the founding of their collective. They told me how the original seven women met in a prayer group in the refugee camp, where they fled from Joseph Kony’s vigilantes, and how their discovery of community had changed their lives.
As they struggled to find ways to provide for their children and the elderly parents of absent husbands, they discovered the power of community. Together they helped each other carry large jerry cans of water from a local well to sell to a make-shift shop owner. They shared their earnings to provide food for their children and elder kin and, as a result, the women began to feel the power and control over their lives as producers.
When they returned home, the women’s homes had been burned to the ground, and it was necessary to rebuild and begin again. They helped each other and decided to organize as a savings group to help themselves and their children.
These women modeled for me the power of relationships, the power of community, and the power of belonging to something larger than ourselves.
In Kobulubulu, I watched as each woman contributed roughly 50 cents a week into the joint savings. They had lofty aims of income stability and educations for their children. Their goals seemed immense. And yet, immediately after each woman’s weekly dues were paid and recorded and placed in a lockbox, the basket was passed around again. This time, each woman contributed to the welfare fund for women who were without food, became ill and could not tend their garden, or whose child needed a pair of shoes.
I knew then that I would find a way to help these women if they would design a project where they could earn enough profit to meet their goals. They adopted two objectives for a cassava growing project that they could only achieve with a capital investment. The revenues would be divided between paying the school fees of the women’s children and investing in the Cassava Project so that within a few years they would be self-sufficient and could teach another group of women what they had learned.
Returning from that first trip in Uganda, I formed krma-US Partners and we adopted our own goal of working in underserved rural regions of Uganda with women’s collaborative groups similar to KRMA. The Cassava Project would be our prototype, and based on the success of these women, we would expand to other areas of the country. In 2013, we began to raise funds from those similarly touched by the stories of the women farmers. In the summer of 2013 we provided the first installment of funds to pay for oxen and plows and disease-resistant cassava plants. We offered our first training and set up on site monitoring so the women could continue to acquire skills in strategic planning, data collection and accountability.
Since the launch in 2013, the women have expanded to a 40 acre agri-business and have completed their first harvest of 20 acres and cleared and planted a second 20 acres. This is a significant first step towards their dual goals of self-sufficiency and education of their children.
Pictured above: KRMA Village and Savings Group in Kobulubulu, Uganda, with then future krma-USPartners President, Lois Stovall and husband David Smock, 2012