Trapped in extreme poverty, Posiano Kajubi and his wife Alice Nakiwanda were only waiting for their house to collapse but miraculously they received a Shs 160,000 grant in November 3, 2011.
Feeling rejuvenated, the money has consequently proven to be their turning point, ARTHUR MATSIKO writes.
Residents of Kambugu sub-county, Kiboga district, the couple were commercial farmers until 1981 when they were forced to flee their home during a guerilla war that ushered in President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
While taking refuge at a relative’s home in Entebbe, they were attacked by suspected robbers who left Kajubi wounded by gunshots in his chest. Although he got treatment, the 75-year-old was left permanently disabled.
Returning home after Museveni had taken over power in 1986, the duo had to start from square one. This was because all their cattle, goats, sheep, hens and gardens were no more. Besides losing four of their five children, Nakiwanda had to run the family.
“We had nowhere to start from; so, I had to move around villages and dig in other people’s gardens to earn a living,” she says.
“All we had to do was eat and sleep because there was no way I could recover what we lost. Maybe it could take me a lifetime since I didn’t have any source of income.” she said
Meanwhile, salt was added to the family’s healing wound when their semi-permanent house collapsed in 2008. The only option was erecting a tent covered with tarpaulin in their compound.
When the first phase of the Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) was rolled out in 15 districts on a pilot basis in 2010, it was people like Kajubi and his 70-year-old wife that the government had in mind.
Selected persons aged 65 years (60 for Karamoja sub-region) and above get an unconditional monthly grant of Shs 25,000. At least 100 older persons are selected per sub-county in the beneficiary districts.
After receiving their first portion of Shs 160,000 on March 3, 2011, the duo started writing lyrics of a new song about life.
With no formal education, there was no need for a business plan. Thus, a neighbor advised Nakiwanda to buy a pig in the hope it would be a steady source of income.
After buying a mobile phone at Shs 60,000 and Shs 10,000 to register it, she also bought a pig at Shs 40,000 and saved the balance.
“I decided to buy a boar because I feared pigs usually die of swine fever,” she says. “When it matured, people started bringing their pigs for fertilization, and I would also charge them a piglet per fertilized pig.”
Backed by the monthly grant, the couple started saving towards construction of a permanent residential house..
While visiting their home during the International Day of Older Persons on October 1, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Pius Bigirimana, said he was grateful the duo didn’t waste the money.
“The way you [older persons] took care of us when we were young is the same way we want to take care of you when you are old,” said Bigirimana. “[However], we don’t want to empower people only when they are old; that’s why the government also brought the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP).”
The grant intends to enable older persons access basic services and, where they can, invest to improve their livelihood and income security.
Although it is a government programme, SAGE is funded through partnerships. In its second phase, the UK government committed to provide £51 million over a five-year period ending 2020. The Republic of Ireland is also contributing £12 million.
The government has also committed Shs 149 billion for this phase. During his speech at Ssaza grounds in Kiboga district, the ambassador of Ireland to Uganda, Finbar O’Brien, echoed his government’s commitment to maintaining the programme because older persons like Kajubi and Nakiwanda are benefiting from it.
“Our commitment, however, is on the understanding that social protection is a priority for Uganda and social assistance grant will be increasingly financed by government of Uganda over the coming years as set out in the MoU signed between the government of Uganda, the UK and Ireland,” O’Brien said.
The ambassador also commended the government for effectively implementing the programme from the 15 pilot districts to 40, with a target of 179,384 beneficiaries this financial year.
In August 2015, the government announced a plan to add 40 districts over a five-year period. The plan was to add 20 districts in the financial year 2015/16, and subsequently add five districts every financial year until 2019/2020.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, who was the chief guest, said SAGE is directly contributing to socio-economic transformation, to enable government ascend to the middle-income status in accordance with Vision 2040.
The day was commemorated under the theme: ‘Stepping into the future; tapping the talents, contributions and participation of older persons in society.’
“As you are aware, older persons still bear a heavy burden of care of orphans and other vulnerable children. There is need, therefore, to improve the economic situation of older persons through provision of interest-free credit to enable them start viable projects,” Kadaga said.
She added that parliament would support all initiatives aimed at improving the lives of older persons and sufficiently ensure funds for roll-out of the senior citizens grant are appropriated and followed up.
Impressed by Kajubi and Nakiwanda’s accountability and investment, including 10 pigs, seven goats, a water tank and a permanent residential home, O’Brien encouraged all beneficiaries to do the same.
“We are glad to work with the government, and it is very important for us to hear what our money is doing,” he said. “We should always listen to the elderly people because they can often advise us.”
Since 2011, Kajubi and wife have been part of the 4,631 beneficiaries in Kiboga district. As of June 2017, Shs 8.3 billion had been distributed, and more Shs 238 million will be distributed until this October.